posts tagged with 'park day'

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.



After the big winter feast folks at park day continue to bring food. Not everyone, but enough that the kids have come to expect that there will be a good supply of treats and don't bother to bring their own snacks any more. I try and do my baking part every other week or so, and this morning I got up earlier than I maybe would have otherwise to make mini muffins. Maybe a little bit too early, because after melting the butter I completely forgot to mix it in to the batter, a mistake I didn't notice until just after I put all three pans into the oven. Oops.

Well, we had just learned that the Shrove Tuesday pancakes were meant as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs and butter before the Lenten fast... I never would think to fast from butter, but maybe it was my subconscious saying something? The muffins were fine even without butter; not nearly as good as they would have been, but totally passable for the kids of park day. They weren't fasting either!

water power

Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere where it stayed cold enough all winter that the annual ice breakup in the spring was something people would pay attention to. But there are joys to be found in the crazy up-and-down temperatures of Massachusetts February too. Yesterday morning we took a walk in Lowell in the balmy springlike air, and it was delightfully strange to be wishing I had shorts on while looking down at the ice on the Pawtucket Canal. There was no ice on the Merrimack River, though: any pieces that haven't melted yet have to be all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean by now. There is some flow on that river!

the boys looking down at water roaring over a dam on the Merrimack River

spring tide

It was actually pretty scary standing on that catwalk watching the water roaring under our feet. We don't do a lot of things that would result in near-certain death in case of a slip, but this felt like one of them. I asked the kids how many gallons of water they thought were passing over the dam every second, but it wasn't really a fair question: how could we hope to make any sort of estimate?! (after some research this morning this site suggests it was in the neighborhood of 150,000 gallons per second).

In the afternoon the water at Freeman pond was powerful and dangerous in a different way. There was four to six feet of open water between the shore and the ice, sparkling in the sunshine and rippled with little waves that were well-nigh irresistible to lots of us there. But cold! Because it was ice water. So nobody did more than wading, unless you count the toddler who fell in completely. Harvey challenged all comers to see if anyone could stand in the water longer than him; nobody could, though two people battled him to a bitter (numb) draw. And Zion, Elijah, and a friend made their way on to the ice and ran around on it in their bare feet until I yelled at them to get off. Good times!

the boys wading in icy Freeman Pond

wade in the water

Now today it's back to winter and there's a winter storm warning in effect for tomorrow. Seven to twelve inches of snow forecast. That's fine: we get another day of sledding, and then it all turns into even more water. Spring is coming!



I didn't expect much of the ice at Park Day this afternoon, with the warm weather and then snow since last time we were there. I knew it'd be safe, for sure—it was so thick it'll take weeks to break up—but I certainly didn't anticipate any skating. Well, I was happy to be surprised when there was not only skating, but para-skating!

the boys on skates being pulled by a parachute

the best thing ever!

It took me a long time to get my skates on. First we sledded for a while, until we wore out the tiny bit of snow left on the hill. Then some kids recruited me to walk across the pond with them. We've never done it before, and it seemed like the last chance, so fine (I stamped a 25-foot-wide dog cartoon into the snow in the middle, which I hope some pilots enjoy). Then even after a few kids showed that you could skate even with the inch or so of snow on the ice surface I thought I could still do without. But when that parachute came out and proved, in the strong gusty wind, that it could really move folks across the ice I had to get in on the action!

Sailing is my favorite thing that I never get to do, and this definitely scratched a sailing itch. The best way was to have two people each grab a side of the parachute and, with one hand up and the other down, stretch it to catch the wind. It was exhilarating to skim over the ice, and we hardly crashed at all! I don't know that I'll ever get to para-skate again, but it was very satisfying to add something to my bucket list and cross it off, all in the same hour.

the para-skaters getting ready out on the ice

readying for another run


sledding report

For all that it snowed on Saturday we haven't done very much sledding since the storm. On Sunday the boys played outside for a while but nobody had the energy for any sort of outing. Ditto Tuesday. And today was gross and rainy all day. But we did get out Monday afternoon for a couple hours, and then park day yesterday was all sledding all the time. So maybe six hours in five days? I guess that's not too shabby.

Zion going off a jump on a sled


Conditions weren't best either day, but of course that didn't stop us from having fun! On Monday the snow was still deep and fluffy where it hadn't been packed down over the weekend, but it was warm enough that it was also kind of sticky. Our sleds were all pretty slow, but our friends had a couple that worked fine. And when we made a jump and dug out the run-up so it was basically ice, they did great! And nobody was too badly hurt.

Elijah going off a jump on a sled, and starting to crash

not an optimal launch

Yesterday was positively springlike, so I was worried that our high hopes for sledding down onto the pond—something I've been dreaming about for weeks!—would be dashed. And our first runs were pretty dire. But there was a good crowd of homeschoolers there who were willing to keep trying, and eventually we got things packed down enough that the sleds started to be able to move. Plus we stayed long enough that it started to cool down a little bit, which helped too. Not that we could ever go on the ice, though—not quite. It was so slushy on the pond that, while folks felt confident ice fishing way out in the middle, when the sleds ran off the edge of the beach they went splashing through four or five inches of slush. Of course, we had to do it if we wanted to battle for the distance record, so we were pretty wet by the time we finally headed home.

Zion and Elijah sledding down the hill at park day

picture taken standing right on the shoreline

Will it ever snow again this crazy winter? I hope so! We've got more sledding we want to do!