posts tagged with 'outing'

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

blue

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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.

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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!

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Lexington remains undiscovered

On Thursday on my way to pick up the boys in Lexington (and ride in the woods there) I noticed a sign advertising Discovery Day on Saturday. A street fair seemed like just the thing for a Saturday outing, so come 10:00 Saturday morning we got out the bikes, packed up lots of water—but no food, since for sure there would be lots of treats to buy!—and headed up the bike path. We also brought raincoats, since there was a chance of thunderstorms later in the afternoon and we didn't know how long we'd be out, but the weather was beautiful as we rode on our outward leg. Cloudy, mild enough that the humidity wasn't oppressive, and a little falling mist but nothing to make us any wet. So imagine our surprise when we reached Lexington Center only to find a sign—handwritten, taped to the signboard but mostly falling off—telling the world that Discovery Day had been cancelled due to weather.

What weather?! We were some disappointed, I can tell you. Happily Lexington Center is a diverting place even in the absence of a street fair, and a visit to the library—where we haven't been for years, it seems like—and the visitor center kept things feeling entertaining. Of couse, we also needed to find food! We ended up going to Via Lago for a takeout meal that was quite a bit more expensive than what we would have bought at the fair, but probably a whole lot better too. And then we climbed some trees and played cornhole on the court thingy they had set up there.

the boys eating at a picnic table outside the Lexington visitor center

classy picnic

Oh, and there was also a fairy house and garden tour advertised on signs all over the place, which we mostly ignored until we stumbled upon a little fairy village tucked under some trees on the edge of the lawn by Buckman Tavern. It would have been even better if there were more moveable parts for the boys to play with, but even as it was it felt like a pretty good discovery.

Elijah sitting above a fairy house town

charm

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history schooling

Doing this Park Day thing has gotten us more plugged into the homeschooling community than we have tended to be otherwise, so we're able to learn about some opportunities that otherwise we'd never be aware of. Like a field trip to the Garrison House historical site in Chelmsford. I'd never heard of the place: spending as much time as we do in Lexington and Concord we have no need of additional historical houses. But when we were invited I saw no reason not to go. Doing things is better than not doing them! And what do you know, we learned some things.

kids and adults standing watching an instructor in colonial dress

direct instruction

Not that the visit was a complete success. The Garrison House is where all the Chelmsford elementary school kids go once in their social studies career, and it's also open to 4th grade groups from other towns. So the experience was pretty schooly, which put our kids off. The first part of the program was an hour in the craft building, where they got to churn butter, make soap, dip candles, and sew quilt squares. Which sounds awesome! But liability issues meant that they could only do a little bit of each project under careful direction, and the number of kids there ensured that there was a lot of waiting around between turns. Standing up. Plus with all the history we do anyways no one in our family was surprised to hear that, in the olden days, people couldn't go to the store and just buy what they needed. Like, duh.

The second hour, a tour of the Garrison House itself, was better. The house was continuously occupied from 1690 to 1954 before becoming a museum, and its different rooms show what it was like in the 1690s, 1750s, 1870s, and 1900s. Pretty cool! We don't have anything like that in Lexington. I could write lots about that, but the boys already did. Here's what Zion learned:

Yesterday we went to the garrison house. The garrison house was made in 1690 and a half and people lived in it til 1954. It was made as a garrison a fort. In 1690 to 1750 the house only had like 1 room and that 1 room was the kitchen the dining room the living room and the bedroom. Later in the 1700 they had better technology like beehive ovens and a crane. AND they had bricks for their fire places. Then in the late 1800s they got facterey rugs and curtains they also had time for a piano. Then in the 1900 sumbody put a wood stove in then changed it to kerosene. They also had a ice box and a pump. Later it became a mousem.

Then after the program we got to picnic and play on the grounds. That was the best part. And the benefit of doing big schooly things is that you can meet some new friends!

lots of kids up in a tree

mine are up there somewhere...

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parties upon parties

Zion's best friend is just ten days younger than him, so after they enjoyed some time together at Zion's party on Saturday they got to do it again on Sunday to celebrate the other birthday. It was a totally different feel from our backyard extravaganza, though, because his friend wanted to spend an afternoon at Kimball Farm in Westford. Originally an ice cream store, Kimball Farm has transformed over the years into a veritable theme park, with animals, mini-golf and a driving range, batting cages, bumper boats, zipline... Delightful, but unlike whiffleball at home not cheap. So Zion was one of only two guests, and he and the other boys had an amazing time with a pass that let them do three activities each (they picked nine holes of mini golf, bumper boats, and the zipline. Plus ice cream of course!

Of course, that left some disappointed siblings. Elijah, for example. Luckily he's good friends with Zion's friend's sister (that's what happens with homeschoolers) so, not satisfied with planning their own trip to Kimball Farm sometime this summer, they also requested a special outing of their own for that afternoon. I was glad to oblige, and after lunch together at our house the three of us spent a happy couple hours touring in Lexington Center: we stopped by the Visitors Center, climbed the Belfry hill and explored the rocks (the kids requested I not take a picture of them inside the Belfry's protective wrought iron fence, to make sure they couldn't get in trouble), and played on a playground. Then we came home in time for them to watch a movie and eat popcorn. It's no birthday extravaganza, but still a pretty good Sunday afternoon!

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revisting a ride

On Tuesday I wanted to get out for a ride in the morning before the forecast rain. I was thinking MTB but, as we talked about it, all three boys requested a bike path trip (I think they were thinking fondly of Saturday's excursion). I was worried that would be a little tedious, but they were convincing so after a little bit of farm work we set off up the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway towards Lexington. It was fun: we went at a reasonable pace, we got to talk, and when I got bored I rode over things along the side of the path. But when we stopped by a stream for a rest and some playing, I had an idea. Some years ago we had explored part of the "ACROSS Lexington" trail system, and had a great time... maybe we could do that again? We did, and it was delightful.

Harvey and Zion riding on a singletrack path through a field

dirt under the tires

As I wrote in that long-ago post, the ACROSS Lexington trails connect sidewalks, paved paths, and woods segments all over town. Back in 2018 they went up to "H"—it's all the way to "N" now, but we still stuck with the original "A" route. Because besides a good ride, we also wanted to relive past glories! And see how much more impressive we are now. For example, compare Elijah in that old post to what he's up to now:

Lijah in the cargo bike looking at a wildflower garden and farmy shed

Lexington scenery

Elijah on his bike in a garden spot

now he has his own wheels

(We tried to reproduce the original as much as we could, but April instead of July made it hard!)

Zion was seven the first time, and had been riding for less than a year. Elijah is eight and an experienced cyclist, so he never told us he hated trail A except in jesting imitation. He did have to push up some hills, though; we haven't been riding that much lately and the seven or eight miles felt like a fair lot. Still, we made it in fine form, and quite a bit faster than last time too. Home in time for lunch, even with a stop at the Battle Green visitors center thrown in at the end. Good times. I wonder if there'll be any interest in trying out any of the other thirteen routes?

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to the city for a fair

Friday evening Harvey reminded me that there was a fair happening at church on Saturday and he'd maybe like to go. I was doubtful... it seemed like a lot of work. Where would we park?! But then his brothers got ahold of the idea and it seemed unkind to deny them just because I'm a lazy homebody. So I came up with the plan of leaving the car in Arlington and biking the rest of the way on the bike path. Which worked great! We got to the fair maybe half an hour after it started, and stayed until closing time. And we did all the things... except win one of the big raffle prizes.

Elijah going in a bounce house

heading in for another turn

Besides the bounce houses—the heart and soul of any fair—there were all kinds of very simple games to play. Some of them gave you raffle tickets when you completed them, but I wasn't sure how many times we were meant to play in a row. It was less stressful to just play on the things we could do ourselves, like the cornhole courts.

Harvey throwing a cornhole beanbag, Zion waiting his turn

toss

There was also unlimited free cotton candy, and pizza, salad, fruit, and juice boxes (not unlimited, to the boys' dismay); a painting table; and a fun photo booth. Harvey didn't have the best time after all—he was maybe a little old for the games, and he couldn't help thinking he could have been home playing Minecraft—but the other boys and I had a fantastic time.

As delightful as the fair was, though, the bike ride to and from was even more fun. It's been a couple years since we ventured down to that end of the Minuteman bike path, and there was lots to see and enjoy. Like playgrounds! Even the crowds on the path between Arlington and Cambridge were exciting—we never get half that many people on our end of the Minuteman. Best of all was Spy Pond, at its finest on a beautiful April day.

Zion and Elijah looking across Spy Pond

travel broadens our horizons

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out in the sunshine

My favorite thing about this time of year is watching the kids walk on snow in their bare feet. Not that there's lots of snow left, but certainly pockets. And you know it's warm enough that they're having a hard time bothering with shoes. On Tuesday we went for a walk at October Farm and I'm not even sure if Elijah brought any. He reports that, even where there wasn't snow, the mud was pretty chilly. But the air was charmingly mild, so much so that he and Zion didn't even feel that they needed to keep their shirts on.

Zion and Elijah walking on snow shirtless, Elijah barefoot

enjoying the air

We brought a lunch, and the hardest part of the whole trip was waiting until almost 12:00 to eat it. Picnics are still so exciting! There was ice to try—not at all safe—and water to wade in—pretty cold—but most of all we just walked and talked and enjoyed the mild air. It was so lovely being outside that when we got back to the car we did a little tailgating to soak up as much early spring joy as we could.

the boys sitting on folding chairs in a dirt parking lot

good thing we brought the chairs!

Then on the way home we stopped for a minute at the boat launch to wade in the river. But only for a minute. The Concord is still cold!

the boys wading in the Concord River, being cold

brr!

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nostalgia

Yesterday we spent some time with friends and as we adults sat around talking we did some reminiscing about how much we used to enjoy little outings with our little kids. Expectations were so reasonable! Everything was so delightful to experience! Well, the boys may have been listening and feeling the same way, because when Harvey, Elijah and I took a walk in the afternoon we found ourselves bushwhacking along Elm Brook where, I recalled, there used to be a path many years ago. Only a short bushwhack, though, and before long we reached the bridge where the bike path crosses the brook, a spot where Harvey at least had spent many delightful hours exploring and playing when he was well younger than Elijah is now.

Harvey and Elijah walking beside a brook

old haunts

What do you do at a stream? Throw sticks, climb on the retaining walls, test how cold the water is, see if you can wade all the way across (no), find secret homes on the bank... Besides the water, there was also some ice on the bridge that Elijah and I enjoyed sliding on. Then we walked a little further—but not too far! We climbed on some stumps and loading docks, visited the Budd Rail Diesel Car, and pushed the tiny rail cart thing up and down the narrow gauge tracks. Then we headed for home since it was time for Harvey to play Minecraft. We were out for an hour and a quarter, and we didn't get farther than half a mile from home. And it was a highlight of the day! Not bad for entertaining an almost-teenager.

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