posts tagged with 'park day'

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

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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

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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.

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fat-free

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!

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skate-sailing

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

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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

takeoff!

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!

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our ice expertise

We've had some icy adventures the last few days. Yesterday's park day saw its fair share of sledding, but the snow was really too thin for sustained fun so it was the ice that really held everyone's interest. It was a solid as you could wish for—well, as I could wish for, anyway. Plenty of other parents were a little nervous, so I did my best to reassure them. My line of reasoning was that once a big section of pond is frozen to any depth, to the point that it doesn't move or squish when you step on it, its failure mode becomes much less obvious. Nobody's going to "fall through" at that point, unless they find a weak spot, and I checked before the free-for-all began to make sure there weren't any near the beach. And we weren't totally reckless: I bet we could have ventured pretty far out, but to the disappointment of a couple kids we kept them within 20 yards of the shore. Where, I must say, there was still plenty of fun to be had.

kids playing on the ice

new vistas of delight

So nobody got wet, like the last two weeks. But don't worry, we had our ice-tastrophe for the week a little earlier, on Tuesday, when on a walk at October Farm Riverfront in the beautiful 12° weather Zion stomped through the ice next to the river and got wet up to his knee. No real harm done, of course, except we had to cut our walk short, which made Elijah very grumpy. Even with the quick retreat to the car Zion's pant leg froze completely solid before we got the heater on it, which was pretty cool!

I think it was actually my stories of all the times that I and the children in my care did fall through the ice that convinced some of the other parents that the park day ice wasn't as dangerous as they thought. Clearly, we've had vast experience and must know what we're talking about! So eventually everyone let their kids venture out and they all slid around on feet, tummies, sleds, a snow skate, and in the case of one prepared family actual ice skates! It could only have been better if we'd had hot chocolate, and if there wasn't a thin layer of sticky snow on the part of the ice we allowed the kids to play on. We did manage to scrape some of it off, though a shovel would have made it easier; but in the absence of anything designed for the purpose the big kids were happy to use Elijah as a sweeping tool!

two big kids dragging Elijah by the legs on the ice

he's happy to do his part

We all hope it stays cold, and also snows, so we can play on the ice more next week and also sled down the hill behind the beach way out onto the ice. I'm checking the weather forecast a couple times a day now...

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party at the park

Our Park Day is still going strong. Stronger than ever in one important regard: folks bringing food! The feast I predicted last week came to pass, and it was one for the ages. I made coconut macaroons this morning and Harvey made chocolate chip cookies; there was also thumb-print cookies, stroopwafels, peanut-butter fudge, other chocolate chip cookies, gingersnaps, and peppermint candy. And it wasn't all sweets. There were also spring rolls and saffron buns. The kids all ran around a lot, but I have some doubts as to whether they burned more calories than they took in. For the adults there isn't even a question! I think some folks are planning to be there next week too, but we're taking a break... not only do I anticipate being busy with Christmas prep, but the season is enough filled with treats as it is!

escalation

Last week at park day one of the parents brought popovers to share. Now, I often bake snacks or desserts for school days, or at least bring leftovers to share, but I hadn't thought to offer treats to our friends at the playground. Knowing that was a thing, though, I just had to get in on the action, so yesterday I brought a tin of chocolate cookies I made the evening before. Only to find that this other dad brought popovers again PLUS chocolate cookies with crushed up candy canes on them! Folks hardly looked at my cookies, paling as they did compared to the wonder that was the other cookies (ok, they actually ate them all up, but clearly everyone thought the other ones were better in every way). Now there are plans for a veritable feast next week—bread, desserts, hot drinks... It may end up being a swan song for the group this year, because I'm not sure how many folks are going to want to come out on December 22. Then again, this group has surprised me before...