posts tagged with 'outing'

winter walk

On Friday morning the boys and I set out on a walk to Whole Foods and the play space. The younger two asked why we weren't bicycling—easy for them to say, they don't have to do any peddling!—and I told them I wanted to be able to go slow, look around, and observe the signs of spring. The ones visible under all the snow. So we hit the road.

Lijah walking down the sidewalk, snow on either side

marching

The sidewalks were plowed (finally), but there was still plenty of lumpy ice and snow that made it tough for Lijah so, contra the evidence of the picture above, I mostly carried him. There were moments that I wished I had the backpack for him, or at least the Ergo carrier; but then I realized that we weren't actually in any hurry, and I wanted him to be able to go down whenever anything caught his interest. Because even over the mile distance to the Great Road Shopping Plaza there's lots to see—like our local storm drain retention basin

Zion and Harvey testing the ice on a little pond

you see how Zion always goes first on the ice

Or the big pile of plowed-up snow in front of Leary Auto.

Harvey and ZIon climbing up a big snow mountain

and then, Harvey is first on the climbing

Or the tree that fell across the Narrow Gauge bike path.

the boys perched on a tree fallen across the snowy bike path

gotta go over it

We stopped at those places and many others—Harvey and Zion were completing a series of challenges. It was nice to take the time. Usually when we're walking we have the dog, who—quite rightly—imposes his own priorities. Nice, but also kind of tough for me: I had to work hard not to hurry everyone along, since I'm so used to hurrying. But no, this was totally a trip on which the journey itself was the destination. Lijah (who doesn't do ice or piles or trees) could have all the time he wanted to stomp snow.

Lijah's booted feet stomping the snow

stomp stomp

Eventually we did make it to our actual destination, and had a lovely time for several hours. Then we had to walk back home, which was... less delightful. But that's another story! (spoiler alert: we made it).

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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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blowing our entertainment budget

On Saturday evening the bigger boys and I accepted a friend's invitation to check out a West Virginia-themed event at a local church. Mountain music! Unhealthy food! How could we resist?! The reason for the theming was that the the church is sending a mission crew down that way and needed to raise funds, so naturally I expected to have to pay a couple dollars. But even with the best will in the world I wasn't ready to manage the $20 suggested donation just to get in the door. Isn't the cost of living a lot lower down there? 10$ should be fine. Once inside, we enjoyed some educational material about Appalachian poverty, kids crafts and coloring pages, a free cupcake from an everyone's-a-winner cakewalk (Zion didn't even participate and he still got a cupcake). And some good music, as pictured somewhere below.

Of course, just the cupcakes weren't enough food for the boys—never mind that they'd already eaten what I had presumed to be supper—so I splurged on a $6 kids dinner plate split between the three of us: a little pulled pork sandwich and a giant brownie. I also helped myself to some coleslaw, which was out on the table to go on top of the West Virgina-style hot dogs, but I think that was ok because we were meant to have a side anyway. Maybe? The young person manning the table was perhaps not entirely clear on the procedures. He also forgot to charge us—really, to record the charge on the piece of paper all the festival-goers had to carry around to record their purchases—so we could have eaten for free, but I'm an honest type (at least when there's no coleslaw on a table in front of me) so when the time came to "check out" I told them about the dinner and handed over my $6.

So $16 dollars for all the thrills of a fair at a suburban New England church. It may sound like I'm making fun—OK, I probably am, a little bit—but really, we love church fairs. And the money goes to a good cause, and it's probably not all that much compared to other entertainment options available these days. We just don't usually pay for entertainment, so it stings a bit when we have to. (At least we went in this time...)

And we had to again yesterday, when (different) friends invited us out to free play time at an indoor sports place in Tyngsboro. All three boys had a great time running around with lots of other kids and balls, sticks, riding toys, tunnels, and parachutes (and me—I did lots of running around too). It turns out Zion is pretty good at floor hockey!

Zion posing with a hockey stick on an indoor turf field

sportive

It was all lovely, except that we had to pay $13 for two hours of fun. And then we had to clean up all the balls and toys so the soccer kids could come in and use the field! Any bad taste that detail might have left, though, was totally obviated when the woman who was running the place offered a packet of fruit snacks to all the kids who helped clean up. So the only issue was that I don't feel like I can be handing out that kind of money every day. Especially not two days in a row! Is that a crazy expectation these days?

It may be, but at least this morning the weather was fine so we got in a lovely long adventure in, totally free—well, besides the ice cream we bought. But that feels more worthwhile! Expect more of that story tomorrow.

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Concord River, early December

Despite the snow on the ground the air was mild and almost springlike Tuesday, when we took a trip to the Concord River at the Old North Bridge.

the boys walking down the snowy bank to the Concord River

still wet

The boys were disappointed not to see more ice, but they did manage to find a little bit over on the marshy side of the river. It wouldn't bear their weight, but that made it all the more fun to stomp on and fall through, dropping a couple inches (exact number delightfully variable) with each step. They were wearing their rain boots; Lijah and I weren't, so we stayed far away.

Harvey and Zion across the meadow by the river

it's exciting over there

Then of course there was the bridge to explore. We played Minutemen and Redcoats (Lijah and I were the Redcoats, and we lost), and the boys made it snow by kicking almost all the snow down off the bridge deck. And not one of them fell in!

them up on the North Bridge kicking snow down

look out below

Despite the beautiful weather we had the place to ourselves almost the entire time. Just the way we like it.

Harvey and Zion standing on a dock looking at the bridge

peaceful

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experiencing some music

A week ago the boys and I headed into Somerville to take in the music and enchantment of Honkfest 2016. They were excited when we set out—we have prior form in Honk enjoyment—and we had high hopes of meeting up with friends and taking in several hours of quality bands.

one of the bands at Honkfest 2016

a lively scene

Unfortunately, while the festival is pretty child-friendly, the boys weren't particularly festival-friendly. With a bunch of busy days and late nights over the previous week they were pretty worn out. Certainly, except for Lijah—who was also charmingly decked out in forehead eye-patch for the occasion—they weren't up for any wild dancing.

the boys sitting on a wall taking in the scene

passive observers

Even a stop at a playground didn't excite them for very long, and pretty soon Zion was in the trailor and down for the count.

Zion snoozing in the bike trailer

resting

Harvey had enough energy to keep upright, but without Zion to play with he wasn't too pleased with things either (nor was he pleased with the food choices I had available). So we said an early goodbye to friends and headed out—though I did have to stop to check out one more band.

And I'm glad I did, because The Party Band was my favorite of the day. We'd seen them a few weeks ago in the Bedford Day parade—where I thanked them for bringing some real music to the event—but it turns out that the group then was only a portion of the whole band. All together they put out some impressive sound, and Lijah and I enjoyed it to the fullest. Or he enjoyed it until he fell asleep on my shoulder: I guess it was a little too much like his old bedtime music for him to hold out. He's heavy, asleep, but I managed to hang onto him until the end of the set, at which point I dumped him in the copilot seat and we headed for home. There was some considerable mirth at our passage—two sleeping kids amidst all that noise was apparently more outlandish than any of the other wild sights of the festival—but Harvey and I were too grumpy to appreciate it.

In retrospect, though, it was a fine outing. I heard some music, the boys didn't whine too much, and we learned that they can do parades (especially parades next to playground) much better than crowded hour-long sets. Next year I'll do the Saturday part of the festival by myself... or maybe Lijah can come with me, if he asks nicely.

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the other camp

Lijah on the shore of Spy Pond, the other kids in the background

idyll in the heart of the inner suburbs

We're not running day camp this year, but friends of ours are taking up some of the slack and putting on a once-a-week camp out of their house in North Cambridge. We missed the first session last week, but we were happy and excited to be there this morning!

the kids on their bikes ready to go

always a good scene

It was a biking day, and while I was disappointed not to have a way to bring the blue bike in the car Zion and Lijah were happy enough with the trailer and seat. And of course Harvey was raring to go. The group rode well together, though there were lots of stops—for repairs, drinks, and just to take in some of the beauties of the natural world.

Zion and Matthew climbing a fence to look at a pond

eager observers

It was a fairly short ride (by our recent standards), and it didn't take us long to get to Spy Pond, where the kids could have played for two or three days. Especially once they found a tree they could all climb at the same time, "even Zion!".

lots of kids in a tree with plenty of room for them all

it's a party up there

Of course, Lijah was a little left out (though I did help him up it and leave him there for almost three seconds) so he was happy a couple minutes later to find his own tree to climb... sort of.

Lijah sitting in the tiny branches of a small tree

I think he's stuck

It was all lovely, and we look forward to another adventure next Friday... after we get back from "real" camping, that is!

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big kid outings

the three boys hiking way ahead of me, walking into a clearing

look at them go

A couple days ago I took the boys out for a hike around the Old Reservoir. We walked over a mile, and Lijah was on foot almost the whole time. I was pretty confident he would be, so I didn't even bring anything to carry him; correctly so, because even when he was getting tired he couldn't stand to see his brothers walking for long without wanting to join them. He just needs to be a little quicker—as well as his legs, his voice gets a workout as he shouts after them to wait up. Sometimes they even do! Of course, every strenuous hike needs to include a snack break!

the boys sitting on a bench eating their hiking snack

just desserts

The only bad part of the outing was that Zion lost the water bottle he was carrying in the side of his backpack; it rattled right out as he ran along the trail, and we didn't notice at the time. We tried to retrace our steps to find it—and the boys were all very patient with the change in plans—but without any luck. Too bad... it was one of our best ones!

the Old Reservoir in Bedford

somewhere around there is a red water bottle...

Today it was too hot to do any hiking, or really anything at all, except go to a pond that we'd want to jump into. Other people had the same idea, so we were able to meet up not only with friends but with Grandma too! It was a great time, and all three boys—and their friends too—put in some quality swimming practice. Lijah was particularly impressive in how comfortable he is with the water: he just lay there chillin, with his hands on the bottom and the rest of him floating comfortably... He'll figure out how to swim before his big brothers if they don't hurry up!

Mama watching Lijah as he comes pretty close to really swimming

like a fish to water

Leah got to do some swimming too, all the way across that big pond. Based on past performance she was a little nervous about leaving Lijah for long, with nap time approaching, but he continues to surprise: he played happily with the big kids the whole time, and didn't mind a bit about her being gone. And I was delighted to sit in the tent out of the blazing sun and watch him.

the boys and friends playing by the water, seen from some distance through the opening of the tent

everybody's happy

This time the well-earned dessert at the end of the outing was ice cream from Bedford Farms, but I was too sticky to try and take a picture. It turns out ice cream is pretty melty in this hot weather! Harvey and Zion each almost finished a kiddie cone, which is really something—Zion actually ate more of his. Lijah isn't quite there yet, and he was still happy to share with me... but the way he's going I guess pretty soon he'll be ready for his own cone too!

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farm-school outing

Way back a couple weeks ago the two older boys and I took an outing to Drumlin farm. It was on a Tuesday morning and we met our farm-school coop friends there, so the outing was totally in a home-schooling context. Of course, knowing us it wasn't entirely schooly!

Harvey, Zion, Taya, and Isaac running along the farm road

friends on the farm

Still, there was some learning done. Direct experiences are always valuable—especially so in preschool.

Zion petting a sheep through the slats of the pen

tactile learning

And being a teacherly sort I made sure to get some situationally-relevant math problems in there for the 1st graders. They also had some chances to explore the built-in teaching material on the farm, and I was proud of their interest and focus.

Harvey and Taya looking at instructional material about hay

reading in context

In fact, I was so amazed by how well Harvey was reading that it inspired my recent reevaluation of his progress!

But there was also plenty of time for good old-fashioned playing.

the kids atop a mountainous boulder

deep in kid territory

Whatever the educational justification, it's always nice just getting a chance to hang out with good friends!

Harvey, Taya, and Zion sitting on a log, Taya putting her hands on the boys' heads

friends

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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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a good Friday

We didn't go to church this evening—instead we hosted our regular Friday evening small group, which is now a mix of churchy and non-churchy folks. That was a good call—we had a great full gathering—but I did feel a little disappointed to miss out on a lovely moving service at our church where, more and more, we're figuring out how to make things lovely and moving. We tried to make up for the lack by visiting the Stations of the Cross at Bethany House.

Me and the boys (plus one) in the monastary garden looking at a sign

cursory examination

Thanks Katie for inviting us, and for the picture above! Katie's church hosts an interpretive Stations every Good Friday, and we meant to go to that—only with the steady drizzle it was cancelled. So we just got the unlabeled illustrations (in very nice wood-carved semi-relief), but also had the place to ourselves. That was a fine trade-off for our rambunctious crew, who were more interested in statues and puddles than liturgy.

Zion kicking water in a giant puddle

holy water?

Still,we were all there, and they got the story; they know what's up. After the big boys had all run off I was looking at some of the pictures with Lijah, and asked him if he knew who that guy was. "It's Jesus," he told me. Yup. Then he went on, "Jesus dyin. Onna cross." Then I put him down so he could look at a tiny house and a fountain, and stamp in puddles deep enough to cover his boots.

Lijah looking at a fountain in the scraggely monastary garden

contemplating the depths

I think all in all it was a good balance of "holiness" and regular life. I wouldn't have bothered to write about the day at all—it's way past my bedtime!—except for an terrific blog post I came across while failing to do the work that was keeping my away from bed in the first place. It notes an interesting coincidence: "2016 brings a rare occurrence this coming Friday — the coinciding of two very solemn observances, one fixed, one moveable: the Feast of the Annunciation, and Good Friday."

Apparently it happens every once and a while; John Donne wrote a poem about it.

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;

(There's lots more to the poem; read the rest of it at the link above). The post concludes with a celebration of the idea of liturgy, including the following:

It's a way of reading the Bible in dialogue with itself, with the ongoing tradition of which it is a part, and with the whole community of the faithful, out of which flashes of realization can emerge, sometimes slowly dawning on you, sometimes flashing out in startling clarity.

Yes. That's why, even when we skip church, we're always looking to let the liturgical spirit into our lives. I think we had a good Friday; I hope you did too!

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