posts tagged with 'outing'

remembering to go out

Lately I feel like we haven't been having the outdoor adventures we need. Christmastime was busy, the weather has been depressing, and we lost some drive for it after we finished up our 1,000 hours. Plus there's other things we need to be doing! But days have more room for adventure than you expect, if you try, and yesterday we found some in between a vaccine appointment at CVS and a trip to the grocery store.

Zion and Elijah running on a boardwalk into a marsh

what adventure looks like

In between those two stops was Mary Cummings Park in Burlington, which we haven't spent too much time at because it's not very wild: feels more like an urban park, with wide paths and plenty of fields (Leah likes it for walking with the dogs because she appreciates the openness). Even relatively less wild, though, it gave us lots of chances to run and explore and climb walls and poke around rusty old car carcasses (the best part of urban woods). We got lots of exercise and fresh air... plus we got to have a pretty fun time together!

Zion (with a toy puppy in his shirt) and Elijah smiling in front of a chain link fence

sweet boys


the depth of local geography and history

Sometimes we think about traveling the world, especially when looking at friends' pictures from Iceland. We will, someday. In the meantime though, there's still an infinity of places to explore around here. Case in point: on Saturday we were at Great Brook Farm State Park, where we've been hundreds of times, and found a new path that we'd never noticed before. It led us behind a broken down old log cabin (but not that old; the "logs" were only siding a couple inches deep) to a mill pond with little bridges to cross over its two spillways. Harvey was really the one to notice the path, so he has pride of place on the photo from yesterday. But we took other pictures too!

Elijah looking down at broken rusty machinery in an old mill race

how long since that sluice gate last worked?

Even though there wasn't much more to the path before we were back on trails we knew well, the tiny bit of it had plenty of entertainments: an old fireplace that looked just like a throne, a grove of numbered trees, and a big rock to climb.

Zion and Elijah atop a boulder in the woods

they are erratic climbers

Naturally we wondered about the cabin and the mill site, so back home I did a little research and discovered that the millpond is quite old indeed: it was the site of "Adam's saw, hoop, and grist mills" dating from 1730. The cabin, like we figured, is newer: it was built in the 1930s by Farnham W. Smith of Concord, who was charmed by the location by the old mill pond and thought it was just as good a camp as anything in New Hampshire. Over the next two decades Smith went on to buy 900 acres around the camp to make Great Brook Farm, where he and his family moved in 1954. Then they sold the property to the state of Massachusetts to establish the State Park in 1974.

Learning all of that makes me even more excited to go back to Great Brook and explore some more. Like, I can't believe I've never visited Wolf Rock! Even if we never leave Middlesex county, there's so much depth to the geography and history that we'll never run out of fun and wonder!

Zion and Leah posing on the outside of the railings of the road bridge over the stream

delight so close to home


a Tuesday at the bridge

I can't remember right now if we bike to the Old North Bridge other times of the year, but we certainly like to in November! That was our outing yesterday, and unlike last year all the boys came along. Leaving midmorning, we made our way down the highly-contested portion of the bike path in Bedford into Concord and reaching the bridge just in time for a chilly picnic lunch in the sun.

the boys eating lunch on the gravelly beach by the Old North Bridge

lunch and history

After lunch we left our bikes to walk across the bridge, try and climb the tree in the field, and play in the amazing overgrown evergreen garden down the hill from the (closed, we tried) visitor center. Last year the we played hide-and-seek there so of course the boys wanted to do it again; at first I was reluctant, but once we got going I had to admit it was a great idea. We played four rounds and we all had fantastic hiding spots each time—well, fantastic except for all the sharp pine needles that made their way into my underwear! Still seemed worth it. We only wondered why we didn't bring friends!

the boys in the limbs of a large evergreen bush

we could fit a lot more kids in this tree!


little outing, lots of fun

Yesterday I had to buy new strings for my guitar. I could have gotten them from Amazon, but there's an actual guitar store in Lexington that seems better, and it also sounded much more interesting to the boys. So we hopped in the car and headed that way, with a vague plan to take a walk somewhere afterwards and be home by lunch. As it happened the store didn't open until 11, so we had to walk first and, rather than driving to somewhere interesting, just walk from a little strip mall in East Lexington and see what we could find. We found some things!

the boys on an overlook beside the Arlington Reservoir

surprise water

We started off on the bike path heading towards Arlington, but quickly left it for a little path along Mill Brook. Before we knew it, we were on the shores of the mighty Arlington Reservoir. The boys have been there before, but not so recently that they remembered it—and none of us had ever seen it so full of wildfowl! Plenty of ducks and geese and, most impressively, over a dozen swans. There was also a new path through a wildlife planting area and then, when we reached the beach over on the other side, a new playground. And not a bad one either! After we waded a bit all four of us spent a happy half hour playing on the various bits of (mostly wooden!) equipment. So much so that it was closer to noon when we finally pulled ourselves away (and we could have stayed even longer if I hadn't been vaguely worried about having left the car in a store parking lot...).

It was a fun outing, just like the ones we used to do when the kids were younger and I didn't feel the need to make big adventurous plans. Harvey certainly felt that way too, and as we walked back to the car he was thinking that it was the sort of thing we could be doing more of. Sounds good to me!


new visit to an old fave

The Discovery Museum in Acton opened in 1982, when I was five. I don't know when I went for the first time, but I definitely have early memories of that Lego area in the museum's original building. So do the boys: we made lots more memories there together over the years. Not so much lately, though, so I was excited to hear (halfway through the month) that, for the museum's 40th anniversary, admission in October is discounted to the 1982 rate of $2.50 a head. I guess we can swing that! So yesterday we made the trip (and combined it with a stop at the feed store, just like we did back in 2014).

Elijah sitting on the railing outside the museum

primed for discovery

Of course, the museum property is changed entirely from what we were used to back when the kids were little, to say nothing of what it was in 1982. The original building closed a couple years ago, and while the new one is pretty awesome, it doesn't capture the DIY 1970s (1982 was totally the 70s) amazement of the original. And since then the property has added a big new parking lot with enough solar panels to power the entire operation—super cool!—which required taking down most of the trees that used to make up the Fairyland woods area. The boys felt the sting of the changes even more strongly when they got spoken to for not wearing shoes in the outdoor play area and for being too far away from a parent (I suppose it is mainly a museum for little ones).

Still! Most of the time was fantastic. Despite being big enough to survive without supervision, the boys were entranced by all the exhibits. They loved that they remembered so much about them from a couple years ago, and also they were able to appreciate it all at a little more sophisticated level. We enjoyed playing with prisms, magnets, sand tables, and musical instruments, and we all had to admit that the water room and air tubes in the new museum are easily better than the original. And of course all three boys made pictures on the pendulum table. If we could still get in for a dollar with the SNAP card we'd definitely be going a couple times a year, and if you have younger kids it might even be worth the price of 2022 admission when it comes back next month. It's a great place!


more music in our lives

It's been so long since our last Honk parade that we almost forgot Honk was a thing! Well it is, and this weekend it was back after two pandemic years off. Thankfully Leah's dad alerted us that it was going on and we were able to make it to Cambridge Common Sunday after church to take in the scene.

cloth HONK signs being carried at the head of the parade

back again in our regular spot!

Even better, we brought some friends along! Despite some nervousness on my part we got there with plenty of time to spare, so the kids had some time to play at the best playground. They're the biggest now, but never mind that, it was still lots of fun. For a little while at least; then we headed over to Mass Ave to stake out a spot and wait for the parade. We were super early, but since nobody had bothered to restrict parking along the street there wasn't actually that much room to sit. Which means that after we found a good spot lots of other people came and stood blocking our view up the street. Boo.

But never mind that, we could see things right in front of us, and there was plenty to see. Bands, of course (though not as many as usual); also dancers, kids on stilts, hula-hoop experts, and activists. A lot of people concerned about rents. Only one group passed out candy, but that was enough for us all to get a piece, and there was also a group passing out hot dogs. Seems good!

Zion eating a hot dog

his favorite

After the parade the majority view held that going into Harvard Square for Octoberfest would be too much, so we headed back to the car. Plus there was some strong interest in making some music ourselves! So after I put some lunch together for the gang—muffins and cake at church plus candy and hot dogs at the parade were all just snacks—we grabbed some five-gallon buckets and trash cans and did some serious drumming. Some neighborhood friends joined in too, and then when we were done with drumming one of them went home and got his trumpet so we could do some more melodic music too. It was pretty awesome! Honk is definitely inspiring. I'm glad it's back!


to the zoo

This past weekend Harvey was away at a Youth Group overnight: he left Friday afternoon and wasn't back until Sunday after lunch. At supper yesterday were eager to hear about his adventures, and he did tell us some, but he was pretty tired. Also he's a teenager. Suffice it to say that he had a grand time. Of course, in his absence the rest of us had to do something interesting enough that we didn't feel like we were missing out on all the fun, so we went to the zoo.

Zion, Elijah, and Leah looking at a crowd of flamingos

look at those crazy birds!

The Stone Zoo, the smaller of Greater Boston's two zoo options, is less than half an hour away at a good traffic moment. Despite that I don't think I'd ever been there before! And the boys had only vague memories of the last time they went with Leah, years ago. So we were delighted to get right up close to the animals, starting with the flamingos and scarlet ibises and then moving on to the cute furry things.

a bush dog (I think) opening its mouth

I think it's a bush dog

The weather was delightful so I was surprised not to find the place more crowded on a Saturday afternoon. There were people there, sure, but not nearly as many as I would have expected. Especially not many bigger kids—mostly lots of toddlers and preschoolers. There was certainly lots for our big kids to enjoy. Besides the real animals there were lots of giant Lego constructions, each with some information and a piece count. They were easier to see from far away than the actual animals, so they kept us moving to see them all.

Elijah next to a lego mouse taller than he his, copying its pose

do they look alike?

Zion and Elijah putting their faces into a lego undersea scene

getting in the picture

Of course, the real animals were the main draw. We tried to each pick a favorite, but it was hard: they were all so charming. The gibbons with their long arms, the hornbills, the various things that looked like crosses between cats and raccoons... even bears! I think my top pick was the otters, who weren't awake when we first went by their enclosure but put on a great show when I went back for a second look. I would have stayed to watch them way longer than the rest of my family. Zion loved the wolves.

a Mexican gray wolf at the Stone Zoo

mostly they were moving, but this one paused for us

The challenge of the zoo for Zion is not getting to take all the animals home. He made up for it by taking control of the camera and working hard to get photos of each exhibit, including some that I would never have bothered about because they were moving too fast, or not at all. The jaguar, for example, was disappointing in its sleepiness, and we never did find the snow leopard in its enclosure. But he also got some great shots where it looked like the animals were posing just for him.

an alligator opening its mouth it what looks like a smile


He has lots more photos he can show you if you want!

Stone Zoo isn't huge: just the right size for a relaxed afternoon outing. But big enough that we had time for a snack towards the end! Chips and nachos at the Yukon Creek Cafe was absolutely in keeping with the flow of the expedition.

Zion at a table at the zoo outdoor cafe area

pit stop

Sadly the other snack bar closed before Elijah was able to get back there for the caramel popcorn he wanted. Oh well, he was consoled with the pair of slippers he picked up at the gift shop on the way out. Zion got a snow leopard doll to make up for not seeing the real thing. It was a good time!


beach school day

We had so much fun at the beach the Friday before last that I decided to make it a thing, and we went back again this past Friday. By ourselves this time; everyone else was either busy or resting. Which was maybe just as well, because when we got there it didn't really feel like a typical beach day.

the beach under gray clouds; Zion standing in the waves, Elijah drawing in the sand

chilling at the beach

It was even colder than we expected, but that was fine, because we had lots of non-swimming activities to do. Like schoolwork! I made the boys bring their journals and stuff to draw with, just in case. It turns out Wingaersheek is popular with homeschoolers. Last time we met some kids who must have been (they were collecting invasive species crabs and feeding them to seagulls), and Friday we arrived at the same time as another family of school-aged kids who I actually asked if they were doing a beach school day too. And they were!

But it couldn't be school right away. Our first order of business was to walk out onto the sandbar, the one that almost drowned Harvey last time. This time we arrived just about at low tide, so were able to wade out to the bar without even getting our shorts wet, and then walk way out into the ocean on (relatively) dry land. (That's where the picture up top was taken.) It was super fun, even if we were a little worried about getting cut off. As it happened, we survived.

Elijah standing at the end of a sand spit among waves

the end of the land

By the time we headed back the clouds were beginning to disperse. It still wasn't swimming hot, though, so after some lunch we took advantage of the expanse of low tide beach to walk around the corner, inland along the Annisquam River. We enjoyed the different consistencies of sand, the light on the channel, and the space to run around.

Elijah running, waving his shirt, along the beach

joy in the sunshine

With memories of too much sun the week before I also brought our little beach tent. As cool as it was the sun didn't feel like a threat even once it emerged, but it was also a great place to rest in out of the wind! And it let us organize our piles of spare clothes, food, and school materials. The boys did some journal writing, drawing, and reading.

Elijah reading in our beach tent, his brothers lying on a rock outside drawing

beach school room

To that point they would have been fine limiting themselves to a little wading, but I wasn't having that. As the tide began to creep up over the rocks I tried out the water myself, then invited—forced?—them to come and give it a try with me. It was too chilly for Elijah, but once the older boys got in they had to agree that it actually wasn't that bad. And as the tide flowed around the rocks there were lots of opportunities for fun!

Harvey in the water among rocks, Zion on one getting ready to slide

the best rock for sliding

Wingaersheek is a fairly sheltered spot, so it's not generally a place you'd go to for waves. But the wind was so high it was actually kind of choppy, and as we let the tide push us up the beach as it rose we found some spots where the waves were certainly big enough to be fun.

all three boys playing in the smallish waves

even Elijah got back in for a bit

As delightful as it was, though, a couple hours in the water left me, at least, feeling increasingly cold. And Elijah was getting bored, running out of things to do by himself up on the beach. Plus everybody wanted to go into town! So even though it was 25 minutes in the wrong direction for home we packed up and headed to downtown Rockport where we walked around, took in the sights, and bought candy and food for dinner. Among other stores we visited the Bearskin Neck Country Store, which I'd somehow never been in before. We admired the wide range of gummy candy items available—and the player piano!—but all we bought was a jar of spicy pickled beans.

Zion and Elijah looking at the player piano

more than just a piano!

Even in town, though, we couldn't escape the fact that the true lure of Cape Ann is the ocean! And I feel so lucky to be able to visit it regularly.

Harvey walking out on the breakwater in Rockport



epic day

What a day we had today! We started off with a hike in Greenough Land with our school friends—half of whom are just back from two weeks of traveling. Greenough Land isn't so large, but we made the most of it with two hours of walking and playing followed by lunch in the parking lot.

the kids walking along the edge of a little pond

out in the woods

After that I took the boys across Carlisle to Great Brook for some biking. See, we got a new bike rack (after the old one fell apart and dropped the bikes on the road as we were driving, which deserves a post of its own!) and I wanted to test it out. Plus I wasn't sure how long our walk was going to be, so I planned for further exercising. As it happened the boys were tired enough to prefer %%%not doing more, but I was committed. With the promise of ice cream at the end of the ride they went along with me. We only did a couple miles, but they were hard (and fun!) hilly, woodsy miles, so the post-ride frozen treats were well-deserved.

the boys eating ice cream at Great Brook Farm

ice cream with the cows

Then when we got home Leah was heading out to the pool and asked the boys if they wanted to go along. Never mind that they'd been completely wiped out on the drive home, the idea of swimming gave the younger two a new jolt of energy and as soon as they could change they were out the door again. Harvey and I needed a bit of rest, but after we got that we went out and did an hour and a half of solid work in the garden. To cap the day off, friends came over for dinner on the deck and the kids played outside into the dusk. All that took us to nine hours outside for the day; needless to say that brought us over the 2.75 hour per day average for the year. It's not a given we'll stay there, of course, but a couple more days like today will seal the deal.


spectator sport

Zion is interested in baseball. Not enough to want to join a team—or rather, his interest in baseball is outweighed by his lack of interest in participating in organized activities—but he and I have had lots of fun playing catch since he got his new mitt for his birthday. We're throwing that hardball hard! So when I let him know that the Lexington Blue Sox season was starting up June 1 he was thrilled to hear that we could go to a game. How about opening day?! Unfortunately, the opening day yesterday was rained out (I don't know how the players felt about it, but two boys at my house were very disappointed!). But that just meant that tonight was opening day instead, so at 7:30—when we'd usually be doing bedtime!—Zion, Elijah and I headed to Lexington to be sports fans.

Zion and Elijah sleepily watching baseball from aluminium bleachers

night game

We aren't usually, you know. I don't think any of the boys have been to more than two sporting events where they don't know anyone playing. So we were excited to see that Lexington on a Thursday evening plays host to a wide variety of sporting contests and practices. In the few minutes before the baseball started we were able to take in some soccer, softball, and even cricket! Unfortunately there wasn't anyone on the skate park. Not many people in the stands for the Blue Sox either; I kind of expected a crowd, but never mind, we had our pick of seats in the tiny bleachers. Not that the boys stayed there long: after an inning of attention they left to watch the game in between bouts of active play. Which makes sense! How can you watch those skilled athletes at work without wanting to get in there with some athletics yourself?

And they sure were good. My favorite was watching the throws all the way across the diamond from third to first, like laser beams. Way harder than me and Zion throw! Zion liked that the catcher could throw to second from his knees. This hitting was fun too, starting with a solo home run in the first inning. That fence is far away! The Blue Sox dominated, scoring 11 in the first four innings; we had to leave then since it was way past my bedtime, but no worries because that was all the scoring they did so we didn't miss anything exciting. The Bulldogs got one run in the eighth, but that was it. The Blue Sox have been the league champions the last two or three years, and it looks like they might be on the road to another title. And we were there at the start!