posts tagged with 'park day'

first ice day

Looking at the forecast last week I was already starting to get excited about the last Park Day of the calendar year. It was going to be the fourth straight day of below freezing temperatures! There would be ice again! In preparation Leah even took Zion out to get new skates, since the ones he was using last year bit the dust just as winter turned into spring. As it happened it wasn't a perfect day—the weather warmed up ahead of schedule, and lots of people were away so there were just a handful of us there—but it was still delightful to get out on real ice for the first time this winter.

Zion, Elijah, and a friend trying out the ice on Freeman Lake

it'll bear

Well, real-ish... a hole somebody had smashed showed that it was only a little over two inches thick, which while strong enough to hold all of us isn't enough to make me feel like crossing the whole pond or anything. And there were all kinds of bumps near the shore, which is where I felt safer, so the skating wasn't the best. I didn't even get my skates on, actually, though Zion and Elijah had some good attempts. It's hard because we were doing so well last winter and we wanted to pick up right where we left off, but the ice wasn't quite ready for us. And even worse, today was the first day of a crazy warm snap so all the ice that's formed so far is going to melt before next week! I only hope it gets cold sometime this winter, because ice is my absolute favorite.


the turning of the year

One of the downsides to having an awesome group of friends is that you don't get to do everything exactly the way you want to. But that's more than balanced by the upside of getting to go to big parties other people organize! Like we did today for my favorite holiday, Winter Solstice. I was all set to welcome people to our house to celebrate around our beautiful fire pit, but a member of our Park Day group (and now co-op) is lucky enough to have a solstice birthday; so naturally her family got first dibs on making a party. And it was a great one! If for no other reason than Harvey getting to toast broccoli and cheese over the fire.

Harvey toasting broccoli and cheese on a stick over a fire

the latest delicacy

Because it was subbing in for Park Day, there were lots of people there: everybody already had the time blocked off on their schedule. Lots of food too, and some it was even healthy! Besides eating, the kids played in the woods or on the climbing structure (or talked in the woods or around the picnic tables, in the case of the older ones). There was karaoke; Harvey sang lots of songs, and I joined him for some Hamilton. And of course the fire was a big draw. Besides the broccoli, people roasted marshmallows, hot dogs, and chocolate, plus incinerating lots of leaves on the ends of the hot dog forks. And before the fire burned down too low I jumped over it, as tradition demands (twice actually, since some people missed it the first time and I crave attention).

So it's winter now... bring on the snow and ice!

Elijah playing with the fire in the dark

enjoying the blaze


a dry park day

Nobody went in the water at Park Day yesterday, not even in the boats. It's not so much that it's cold (or not just that it's cold), there's just so much pond weed and muck that it's a little gross. I'm not going to say for sure that we're done with lake water for the rest of the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case. That's fine, it's had a good run: the kids jumped in for the first time this year in March and we had the boats out by mid-April. Which means just five short months til we're swimming again! And in the meantime we're having lots of fun on wheels and with balls, and eagerly waiting for the ice to form. Who needs a playground?!

what a waste

It's a good thing we managed to celebrate our year of Park Day when we did because just two weeks later we arrived at the park just in time to witness the playground's destruction.

Zion, Elijah, and a friend looking at the ruins of the Varney Park playground

just rubble

The town of Chelmsford in their wisdom wants to replace one of the last of the awesome wood playground with something "safer", never mind what all the people who use it now think. We watched the excavator smashing down the structure, and DPW crew cutting up the plastic slides with a circular saw to make sure nobody else could use them (and a member of our group had asked!). Well, I didn't watch for very long; it was too sad. Instead I focused on having a good time at the park regardless of the destruction.

And we did great! We had balls, and hockey sticks and rollerblades. We had a long board. We had snacks. And of course, there's the lake, and even the sub-70° weather couldn't stop a hardy group of us from swimming. As I look back on it, in the short term at least the playground "renovation" dramatically increased the danger level for the kids in our group. Besides walking all over the piles of shattered, nail-filled wood after the workers left, they also climbed on (and fell from) railings, swung eight feet up on the chain-link gate of the basketball court, and zoomed headfirst down hills on the long board (that's the only one that was my idea... I zoomed the most). There were some injuries. But don't worry Chelmsford, nobody plans to sue. And we plan to keep meeting at that park, playground or no playground!


the longest four weeks ever

In September 2021 when I organized a Park Day meetup I told people we'd meet for four weeks, September into October. The idea was that people would be more willing to invest in a gathering that they knew wouldn't be a one-off that everyone would forget about, but they wouldn't have to make a big commitment either, like they would joining a co-op. I guess it worked, because this afternoon we celebrated our one-year anniversary!

kids on the play structure, the pond in the background

another day at the park

I don't know that anybody decided the thing was going to keep on for a year and more, but I guess we just never felt like stopping (except a couple weeks at Christmas and one time when it was rainy and folks were tired). Getting together every week is as important for the parents as it is for the kids: homeschooling can be isolating, and the pandemic was isolating, and some of the parents who come have said that getting to talk and listen at the park is what kept them sane over the past year. I don't know that I'm ever sane, but I sure liked hanging out with old friends, and meeting some new ones.

And eating! Once we got started with bringing food it never really stopped. It's mostly not overwhelming, though there are definitely weeks when some of the kids are challenged to burn more calories than they take on. Just something else to look forward to! I didn't make a cake for the anniversary, like I was kind of thinking of; there wasn't time. Instead I just made banana chocolate chip muffins. Which was fun because I've brought them before a bunch of times, and I wasn't the only one to offer an old favorite. Harvey made chocolate chip cookies, someone else brought popovers like they do every other week or so, and there were gluten-free cookie bars like many times before. All together it felt like a greatest hits: very celebratory.

There was a good crowd too, with some new families coming for just the second time and a few other back from summer vacations and obligations. We'd be all set to go another year—we were talking about how we're looking forward to more skating—but there are rumors the park is being torn down soon. So who knows? I guess we've started one institutional event, so if need be we can do it again!


inside the ropes

Freeman Lake has provided us with endless hours of fun so far in 2022. In the winter we skated on it for hours. Then not long after the ice melted we started bringing boats to paddle around in and, when the water warmed up enough not to kill, jump off of. The last few weeks of park day, though, have been boatless. That's because school has ended and official summer has begun, which means lifeguards, rules, and ropes.

kids swimming in the swimming area at Freeman Lake

roped in

Actually, despite significant grousing from many kids and parents (homeschoolers are really united by a dislike of rules) everybody has had a great time swimming inside the protected area. Sure, it's so shallow that the adults and big kids don't have enough depth to tread water in. But it's still wet and cool and filled with fun people. And not only our group: with their liberation from school all sorts of other kids have been able to come to the park, and our kids have even played with some of them. Amazing!

Elijah and Harvey on pool floats in the pond with friends

chillin inside the boundries


water babies

The boys have spent a lot of time in the water the last few days. Monday, of course, it was nearly four hours in the pool. Yesterday was cooler, but we brought the bikes to Walden and rode trails for an hour or so until they were warmed up and ready for an hour or two in the pond. Today for park day I had no anticipation of swimming at all, with the temperature in the 60s and rain in the forecast. Of course, I should have known better! Good thing the swimsuits were still in the car.

Elijah wading into Freeman Lake in the rain

just swimming in the rain

Zion's and Elijah's, anyway, even though I suggested they bring them inside where they could dry (Harvey is a better listener). And when we got to the park I requested they stay away from the water; even though we had dry clothes, other families did not. But then it started raining, and we all got pretty wet anyways. And a few kids changed and went in, and reported delightedly that the water was warm: way warmer than the air! While we parents worried a bit about what would happen when they came out, it seemed cruel to deny them the opportunity to try.

Not everyone went in; some of the kids, far from having swimsuits, were wearing long pants and hadn't brought dry clothes. A few of them were pretty unhappy about it. But there were other fun things to do besides swimming, like directing the course of the streams that were flowing down the hill across the beach. And in the end, everyone got wet, either in the lake or in the rain. So we all learned a valuable lesson: when you're going to be by the water, bring a swimsuit. And a towel, definitely a towel too.


messing about in boats

We picked Varney Playground in Chelmsford for our Park Day location in large part because of its awesome play structure, so we're dismayed that it's scheduled to be torn down and replaced by an insipid plastic nothing before too long. But the beautiful wooden structure isn't Varney's only appeal by any means, and this afternoon it couldn't compete at all with the draw of boats on the pond.

Zion and a friend half-on a tiny kayak, Lijah paddling a regular one

on boats in the water

Three families brought four boats between them, so there were lots of possible combinations and lots of turns taken. One minor setback was that Zion, in charge of bringing our canoe paddles, forgot to put them in the car—but never mind, it led me to learn that you can drive a canoe with nothing more than a stout stick. Good to know! There was one new boat, a tiny sit-on-top kayak, and it was a big hit with the younger kids—especially since the day was so hot and summery that being in the water had some appeal. You couldn't paddle that boat without getting wet anyway, so why not do it from in the water?! If you were under 12, that is; the water was far from warm, so parents and big kids managed to refrain from going in.

The big kids sure took their turns with the dryer boats, though. In fact, their second trip across the pond took so long that we stayed half an hour later than we would have otherwise: half an hour after the absolute latest time we could leave and still have dinner on time. If they want to take a long voyage again, they're going to need to bring either a watch or walkie-talkies. Independence is great!

I was a little disappointed we didn't get to play with the baseball stuff we brought, not to mention the wonderful playground... but it sure is hard to resist the appeal of messing about in boats.

boats and kids on the beach at Freeman Pond

three and a half hours worth


park day boat day

Less than a month ago, there was still ice on Freeman Pond. Not enough to skate on, sure, but it was still there (we skated for the last time seven or eight weeks ago, I think). Now that it's gone, of course, it means it's time to go in the water! That actually started back in March, but yesterday it was finally warm and fine enough that I felt comfortable bringing the boat.

Zion, Elijah, and a friend on the canoe in Freeman Pond

on the water again

Or boats, actually—because when I was cleaning under our front porch a week and half ago I discovered that we had a windsurfer down there. I guess it's been there for a while, and I can't imagine why we haven't tried it out before now! We couldn't manage the sailing part yesterday—too many missing pieces plus my complete lack of knowledge about the process—but it was still great as a paddleboard!

Zion raising his arms triumphantly standing on the windsurfer board in the pond

he's always loved standing up in boats

The water still isn't what you'd call warm, but it was enough above freezing that even if there was no actual swimming nobody minded falling in much, even on purpose. We had also brought the muskets to play with, and there was the whole playground there, but none of that mattered... it was the water the whole time!

Zion in the bow of the canoe heading towards the Park Day beach

sun on the beach


you know winter's over when...

For the last couple months we've really enjoyed the ice on Freeman Pond at park day. Skating, exploring... even sailing! Last week it was barely a ghost of its former glory, but we still had a little bit of fun throwing rocks to break the thin skin of ice that still floated a few yards from shore. Well, today the ice was finally gone completely, and you know what that means!

Elijah and Zion wading deeply in Freeman Pond

that's what we do with water, right?!

Let me say that the water was in no way warm, nor, really, was the air: you see that Zion didn't take his shirt off, and Elijah was wearing long pants out there under the water. But open water and a beach is so exciting that it didn't take them long to progress from wading, to splashing each other, to dunking sweatshirts in and then putting them on. By then everyone was so wet that it would have been silly not to go in all the way! For those kids, anyway. Somehow all the adults, teenagers, and younger kids managed to resist the allure of the pond. This week, anyway: Spring's just getting started! Let's see what they get up to next week.