posts tagged with 'outdoors'

often barefoot, sometimes balanaced

One of the many books I took on our camping trip was Balanced and Barefoot, by Angela J. Hanscom. Super appropriate, since camping is all about the ways which, per the subtitle, "unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children." Among many other worthwhile points, the author notes that "going barefoot in nature helps develop normal gait patterns, balance, and tolerance of touch in the feet, all of which provide a strong foundation for confident and fluid movement." Check.

three boys barefoot atop a mountain

they're doing it

That is to say, they had plenty of time barefoot in nature—like they do. I actually made the two who were doing their own walking put on shoes to start both hikes, but both times they quickly decided they were too hot, and the footwear became cargo. The book suggests that outdoor play builds core strength and endurance; I don't know about the former, but over the two days of hiking we covered about six and a half miles, with something like 1800 feet of elevation gain. (Now that's a vacation!) Zion actually did more like six and a quarter miles—Leah carried him a couple times, for encouragement—but either way it was an impressive effort.

Since we've been back, they've dived right back into playing with their friends in the neighborhood. Lots of that play is outside—none of us parents wants a gang of eight kids filling up the house for long (of course, video games, pokemon cards, and play sets all exert a powerful indoor pull...). I do wonder, though, if the outdoor play that's happening on Beacon Street fulfills all the requirements Hanscom would look for in proper therapeutic play. For one thing, I think it might involve a few too many plastic weapons.

One of the things she talks about in the book is how using natural materials in play spurs kids' imagination and social-emotional development. Store-bought toys, the argument goes, have specific and limited modes of play—a toy car is a car and it's only supposed to drive one direction. To say nothing of a Batman Batcave play set. The problem is all those toys exist, and they exist in the houses of our lovely neighbors (and, yes, in our house too). How can sticks and pinecones ever hope to compete? There's a question of space, too; our woodsy play area is pretty small, here on our suburban lot. Most of the kids are old enough now they should be playing in the town forest less than a quarter mile away, but they aren't allowed to on their own.

I don't know what to do about it. Certainly, I have no worries our boys aren't spending enough time outside, and in nature. But I think they need more time to play in the woods. On my adult schedule, we do hikes—which they love!—but the limited play times available in hiking pauses isn't enough to start to develop complex interpersonal games. Although, now that I think about it... the last time we went to Fawn Lake on a summer camp outing the rocks above the pond turned into a spaceship and a pirate ship and I don't know what else during the half-hour post-lunch play time. We're going there again today, and play time will definitely be on the schedule. Maybe we're doing alright after all.

Harvey's feet, dipped in the spring

how beautiful are the feet...


rainy day fun

It's been raining here for days, seems like, which is keeping us indoors a little more than we'd like. Not entirely, though! Tuesday was warm enough that when the rain lightened up and the sun threatened to break through the clouds for a moment, we were ready to jump into action. And there are good things about rain, too!

Harvey riding his scooter into a giant puddle

we love this puddle

Yes, besides several damp walks we enjoyed some time riding scooters into a giant puddle. Again. Because why wouldn't you?! And when I say we, I mean we; there are plenty of activities that, as a parent, I consider beneath my dignity—but riding a scooter at top speed into a mud puddle is emphatically not one of them. In fact, I can imaging nothing more dignified. Especially since I, unlike both of my older children, managed not to fall completely into the water.

muddy clothes scattered on the front porch

the aftermath

Actually, I think Harvey just sat down in the water on purpose after Zion fell, but the effect was the same. That put an end to the outdoor time, but they were happy enough to jump into the tub—where they stayed for the next hour or so. Water water everywhere; and obviously it continues to appeal!


spring of the mind

Zion's and Harvey's bare feet in the yellow winter grass

brave pioneers

The weather report tells us that today saw a return to bitter winter cold, and indeed, it "felt like" 6°F when we got up this morning (a breezy 16° or so). But when it's spring and sunny, it's hard to keep shoes on the boys! Never mind that, above their bare feet, they had on lined pants, two shirts, sweatshirts, and winter coats—the spirit of the day demanded that snow boots be kicked off so that feet could feel the sweetness of the sun-warmed grass.

Well, actually, it didn't demand it to me, and probably not to Zion either, but it did to Harvey. And with him running around exclaiming gleefully about how wonderful each bit of ground felt under his feet it was hard not to join him in his revels. So I did. And it did feel nice; and also pretty cold.

Zion walking past the chickens and Rascal

everybody enjoying the sunshine

But not so cold that we didn't stay out for a long time—even Zion, who has not been the most hardy in the past was happy outside the whole time, including more than an hour shoeless. The air may have been—read, was—below freezing, but the late March sun is incomparably warmer than what we had a month or two ago. As you can see above, our animal population was also very happy to take the air.

I don't put much stock in the calendar or the equinox as a marker of spring: in many ways it still feels pretty late-wintery around here, and the planting is delayed accordingly. But clearly even on this chilly afternoon there was something irresistibly springlike in the air, and besides fixing the fences we took plenty of time to run and wrestle and roll in the grass.

Harvey and Zion wrestling in the grass, bare-footed and winter-coated

spring energy

They kept their boots off until the end—past 4:00—though that did mean I had to carry them inside, because between the sunny spot where we were playing and the house is still a considerable patch of snow and ice. Oh well. Our feet tell us it'll be gone soon.


and outside!

a pile of coats and sweatshirts on a snowy lawn chair


After we got back from the museum Mama and Elijah took a rest while me and the big boys headed out to spend some time in the yard. How could we not: it was positively springlike! Coats didn't last long.

Our museum trip also included a stop and the feed store to pick up some straw for the chickens, and when we brought it back to them we saw that they really needed it: melting snow combined with the ice dams all around their run had turned it into kind of a toxic swamp. Several pounds of straw gave them some drier footing, and while the boys spread it I did my best to get the snow off the roof of the run to stop it melting and pouring down. Then we set ourselves to draining the swamp.

Zion and Harvey chipping ice around a muddy puddle

drainage digging

Besides the yuck factor and the fact that an inch or two of water on top of ice outside the run door made it very tricky to get in and out of the coop, Harvey and I realized that we'd be even more trouble when it turned cold again: the door would be frozen in solid! But we were able to chop a channel down towards the raspberry bushes, and had fun pushing the water along it.

It wasn't all hard work, though: we had some time to play in the woods.

Zion and Harvey playing in the woods

you can see the ground!

And to just be silly!

Zion with his shirt over his face showing off his tummy

funny tummy!

Our work paid off, too: our channel took the puddle outside the coop from this:

a pool of brown water around the door to the chicken coop

kind of a mess

to this, the next morning:

the same spot, drained and icy

better. right?

At that point the door could also open wider than at any point in the last couple months! Of course, this morning we woke up to steadily falling snow, so winter's got a couple more good days in her, but we very much enjoyed the spring preview.


outside day

morning sun on the snowy chicken coop

bright morning

The sun rose bright and warm this morning, and when I stepped outside to bring the chickens their water I was astounded at how warm it was already, before 8:00.

Rascal walking in the snowy yard

he made the first tracks

My enthusiasm was enough to get Harvey right outside with me (Leah and Zion were still abed), and we spent a happy half hour tromping and playing with Rascal. After a bit the sleepers awoke and opened the bedroom window to say hi to us; so pleasant was the day that it was a few hours later when we noticed the window was still open.

Harvey venturing into the snow in snowpants and mittens

more "deep deep snow"

We do get outside plenty in the winter, but it's a cramped sort of experience—we're ever conscious of the need to fit in as much enjoyment as we can before someone breaks down and needs to recover inside. Today didn't feel that way at all; aside from our pre-breakfast adventures Harvey and I also managed some bicycling in front of the house, a snowball fight, splashing in puddles, and sitting on the front steps, and Leah and Zion joined us for a long relaxed walk.

The soundtrack for the whole day was the steady patter of snow melting off the roofs at a pretty impressive rate. I said yesterday that March snow doesn't stick around for long, but I wasn't prepared for it to go this quickly! Good thing we had fun with it while we still could.

water dripping from the melting snow on the chicken coop, close-up

drip drip


puddle jumping

When I have my own school, playing in puddles will be a key part of the curriculum for the spring—or indeed, for any time when we have a completely bizarre sudden thaw, like we had yesterday and today. This morning the first-graders were outside with us teachers rather than the recess aides, and they took advantage of our good natures to get significantly more involved with the water on the ground than they are usually permitted to do. Suffice it to say there were some wet feet and a little chagrin when we made it back inside—winter boots are not as waterproof as you might expect, nor are six-year-olds good at identifying the early signs of leaks while enjoying themselves frolicking. But I think everyone involved would say that it was all for the best, and they'd do the same again. When the world has been frozen solid for a couple of weeks it's nice to experience some liquid while you can!

Harvey and Zion certainly felt that way on our walk yesterday. After he saw Harvey jump in a puddle Zion had to jump in it too, and also every subsequent puddle we came across; just like when Harvey put his hands in one Zion had to do the same, again and again. Never mind that he had wool mittens on. Because of this delight in the watery world it took us a half-hour to walk maybe a quarter mile, and when Rascal and I were forced to desert the rest of the party in the interest of getting him some actual exercise they were moving still slower, distracted by Elm Brook, which is like a puddle but much bigger and moving. Thankfully they didn't jump in that one, and contented themselves with throwing sticks. Zion did get himself all wet anyways, by lying down in a puddle, but since that was part of a tantrum at having to go home rather than warm-weather playfulness it really should be part of a different story.

In short, while it's already cold again now—thank goodness, since it's not even quite February—the brief spring preview was very much appreciated in the proper manner, and we look forward to the real thing at the appropriate time.


wedding weekend

Zion and Harvey sitting against a cabin door wearing matching outfits

this was the spot they chose for their photograph

As Dan mentioned, we had a big weekend of wedding guesting. I went easy on myself and just made ties for the boys instead of full suits. And a gift basket for the bride & groom, which we filled with lovely jam and soaps that I failed to photograph because we're not a real crafting blog here.

Harvey raising a beer

saddle up to the bar

I mean, I just wanted to get to the partying! Thankfully the other parents at the wedding were pretty laid back and nobody called DSS on me for letting my child play with a beer bottle. That, um, had actual beer in it. That Harvey swigged before passing to his friend.

Harvey handing a beer to his new friend John

can you say "enabler"?

I swear it was only a very small amount of beer. And it was MY beer bottle, so at least it didn't carry outside germs. I mean, for my kids, not for the kid who got the sloppy seconds.

We did a lot of swimming and playing with the Ithaca Archibalds. It sure is nice to be on a beach filled with boats. On the second day Zion finally deigned to go in the kayak with me, but only if he could go naked.

Mama and naked Zion in the kayak

the cuddliest kayak partner

And the elder Archibalds went on an adventure together.

the canoe with Dan, Harvey, Nisia, and Uncle Tom

the big kids back from their long adventure

All in all a lovely weekend, though tiring. Weddings and swimming both have a way of making a lot of laundry, so in a way I'm glad fall is coming and no one else is getting married for a while.


marks of childhood

When Zion was born he looked a little spotted and pimply, but it took just a couple days for his skin to attain that baby-soft smoothness so beloved of the marketers of feminine skin-care products. Smooth, flawless, and rosy-pink. The same can't be said for Harvey. Cuts and scratches, bruises all up his shins, poison ivy, mosquito bites—right now he is marked with all those things. He was marked with a whole lot of dirt and grime too, until his bath this evening. The boy loves his outdoor time!

Since he's the most beautiful almost-two-year-old in the Greater Boston area (at the very least) we very well could have gotten him into modeling or advertising, but aside from the tedium of having to manage the millions of dollars in toil-free income that would bring us (what a drag!), we'd also have to keep Harvey from marking up his million-dollar face. It's nice not needing to worry about that. He heals pretty quick, which is enough for us the way things are now.

Although I really should do something about the poison ivy growing by the cellar door...


springing towards summer

What a day! We rang in the spring by spending most of the afternoon outside—though still not enough of it for Harvey. When it gets a little warmer I think I'm going to set up the tent for him out in the yard; maybe sleeping under the stars will minimize the bedtime fuss a little. As it is we've had to drag him in literally kicking and screaming the past couple days.

Not that we're complaining, though! While he's outside he's happy as a clam, the sort of clam that needs minimal supervision (I guess that's probably all of them, eh?). He wants to spend 20 minutes crouching in a hole behind the rhododendron bush? Fine! My only parenting task was to keep him away from the thorny work I was doing—pulling down wild rose vines and clearing out old raspberry canes—but there was so much else to occupy him that he barely even looked my way.

The work went well; hopefully it means we'll get more raspberries this year than last. Taking care of raspberries, planting tomato seeds: despite it only being the bare beginning of spring, we're pretty focused on summer around here! So much so that Harvey and I even poked around the old boat a little. I promised him last summer that we'd take it out, and take it out we will, for the first time in five years or so. Not for a little while, of course: not only will it be some time before its warm enough to want to be out on the water, but I also have to figure out how on earth I'm going to get it out from under the porch. The bushes have grown up some since we put it in there...

As well as all that, there's also a new look for the blog in the works. Thinking so much about summer we can't have it still looking like winter around here! Stay tuned.