Recess: Biking in the Rain

22 08 2010

How I wish I had brought my camera today, but I forgot. 😦

The weather forecast is for rain solid for the next three days, which happen to be the last three days of my summer vacation. And I had my heart set today on a long family bike ride — longer than we had attempted before — to an abandoned old mill and its waterfall, for a picnic.

You know we’re too intrepid to abandon the plan, right?

We packed our picnic, warm clothes on our backs and more warm clothes in a giant ziploc so we could have a drier ride home, and set off. Steady soaking drizzle drenched us the whole way, but the ride was simply gorgeous and magical anyway.

We road east along the Northern Rail Trail along the lake until we reached a granite corridor rising up on both sides of the trail. Next was an apparently abandoned house we reached by following our noses down a long, mysterious trail. The house, on a point of Lake Mascoma, would be reachable only by boat, bike, or snowmobile, but was wonderful with its old stone fireplace and amazing view. We went by the old Enfield train station — now used to garage ambulances. We drove through Enfield and wondered whether a thunderstorm would kick up that would require us to have an afternoon snack at one of the restaurants we’d never tried. (Thankfully, it didn’t.) We went under a long, mysterious, railroad overpass and sang Little Red Corvette at the top of our lungs for the good acoustics. Ultimately we landed at the old mill, took out our lunch of bread, cheese, roasted veggies, and chocolate, and had a good meal before changing into those oh-so-welcome dry clothes for the ride home. A wonderful ride, and another example of weather being no deterrent to magic.


Physical Play: Swimming Lessons

7 07 2010

Floppy is straight-up terrified of the water. Here he is, blessed with the unheard-of luxury to actually live on a beautiful New Hampshire lake, and he screams and cries as if we’re murdering him whenever we insist he enter further up than his knees.

It’s not a good situation. This year, we put our foot down and signed him up for beginning swimming lessons at our local pool. He hates that, too. He’s the oldest kid in the class, and the most totally uncooperative. That’s not really a good situation either. So since I have a week off of work, we’ve been doing family swimming lessons at home.

That faint screaming you’ve been hearing probably emanates from our neighborhood.

He is making some progress, though. He is now able to swim, with a pool noodle….

out to our swimming float (which floats in a death-defying depth of about four feet)….

And after much weeping and gnashing of teeth….

somehow end up in the water…

And even swim back….

where, safely upon shore, he cursed our other offspring for seven generations or so, before going inside and calling his grandmother to brag about his fabulous accomplishment.

A pretty good lesson. Now we’re working on actually putting his head in the water without having to jump off the swim float to do it. Terrifying, I tell you.

Recess: Swimming and Biking

27 06 2010

For recess, we took the summer’s first swim in the lake (brrr….) and took a family bike ride. This was the first time in 25 years I had been on a bike, but since we have a 20-mile bike trail in our backyard, I felt obligated to relearn. As a starter bike, I bought myself this:

It’s even cuter in person, with me on it, but I didn’t take pictures, so you’ll have to trust me. My knees, they are killing me, though….

Physical Play: Running a 5K with a 7-Year-Old

23 05 2010

We’ve had a lot of physical activity posts lately, and honestly, we decided to do Cully’s Run today because we thought it was a worthy cause, not because we needed more physical education curriculum. (But really, what 7-year-old kid doesn’t need more physical play?)

Still, I thought it was worth posting about, because when I go to run/walk 5K events, I see a lot of hard-bodied 20 and 30 somethings, and not a lot of people who look like me: no families, no non-athletes. I also don’t see a lot of other groups of people who don’t look like me, but who might enjoy a race: people of various shapes and sizes — especially not people of larger-than-average sizes — people older than 30-something, children, people with visible disabilities. And I think that’s a shame, because on a day like today — sunny and low 80s in New Hampshire — on a course like the one we ran (a gorgeous, shady sojourn around Storrs Pond), a 5K walk-run is nothing but enjoyable.

But I understand why people who are not young and athletic stay away from these events. They sound scary and intimidating to a non-athlete — every time I sign up for one, and I’ve done several, I have to remind myself that it’s OK, I’m welcome to go, I don’t have to worry about what will happen if I come in dead last or get too tired to finish or get bogged down with a kid who has pooped out. And that’s even with some experience as a non-athlete who likes to go out for an occasional short race.

And I promise you, I really am no athlete. I do not have an athlete’s body:

And although I’m smart enough to know that there are lots of women shaped more-or-less like me who are athletes, even Olympic athletes,  in my case, the stereotype associated with my body shape tells a basically accurate story: I’m nearly totally sedentary, at work and at play. The physical play documented on this blog is the only exercise of any kind that I get. But if you can walk, you can probably walk a 5K, if you take the pressure off of yourself. And that is as true for children as for adults.

Our first 5K was an Earth Day event sponsored by a park in 2002, and Floppy was not yet born. I don’t remember how we did, but I recall that it was more work than I expected and we came in so late that we missed the big feed these races have for finishers as a reward at the end.

We ran our first 5K as a family in 2007, when Floppy had just barely turned 4. It was a road race through an urban neighborhood, and because he was so little he had to do a fair amount of the race on our shoulders. (No, we didn’t bring a stroller. We wanted him to have the experience of running, and we didn’t own a stroller.) We took turns among making him run or walk and carrying him between the two adults, and we finished the race second-to-last.

This time he could easily outrun us — he’s a fast runner, these days, much faster than me. In fact the most difficult part of today’s race was reigning him in, and making sure he didn’t get lost way out ahead of us on a complicated, hilly route through the woods. Trying to keep up with him we actually finished closer to the middle of the pack; in the last half, definitely, but certainly in time to get plenty of food.

We even had time to take a couple of pictures. Here’s Floppy, looking resentful about smiling because we made him stop running to pose:

If you’d like to try a 5K as a family, or as a single or couple who are non-athletes, locate one that is walker-friendly. You can certainly run as a walker (we usually run or jog at least some of the race), but participating as a walker takes the pressure off of everyone. Ideally, a walker-friendly race will have separate (earlier) start times for walkers versus runners, and may not even time the walkers. A beautiful course is also ideal, and a good cause will help you feel good about participating. Kids love the feast most races put on afterwards, and will be highly excited by the drama of the starting gun or whistle, the cheering along the course at water stations and turns (and the finish line!), and by getting their own t-shirt and race number. Bring lots of water (although most races have water stations along the way, since runners don’t want to carry anything to weigh them down), wear sunscreen, and have fun. Let me know if you try it as a non-athlete or a family, and how it goes for you!

Recess: Dancing

16 05 2010

For recess, Floppy and I did some dancing together: Hip Hop style (to the Nike video of S.O.S., by Rihanna, which on the DVD I own comes with lessons courtesy of Jamie King), Capoeira, and Belly Dance. I love youtube for this kind of thing: you can look up anything in the world you want to learn and need a teacher for, from left-handed knitting to plumbing to belly dance, and there is a teacher with endless patience to show you what you need to know. So fun.

This is what Floppy looks like taking direction from Jamie King:

Recess: A Quest for Adventure

9 05 2010

After all that math, and spending most of the rest of this rainy Saturday cooped up, reading Tom Sawyer and a book about mummies, Floppy proclaimed that it was time for an “adventure.” My physical education book suggested for today’s lesson following Denise Austin as she stretched out a bunch of giant rubber bands, which honestly did not seem very adventurous, so it was time for plan B.

Vital Communities, which is a wonderful local sustainability organization, besides being in the business of mass transit, local food, and saving the environment, has a sideline in treasure hunts. I kid you not. Our local treasure hunts are adventurously called Quests. You follow clues written in rhymed verses to hike through a natural or historical area and find a hidden box with treasures inside — minimally, a rubber stamp with gorgeous artwork and a miniature notebook. You carry a stamp pad, a notebook of your own, and your own personal (usually homemade) stamp. When you find the box, you stamp it into your notebook, and leave your stamp in its notebook. Sometimes there are other mystery treasures inside, too.

Vital Communities holds a series of parties every spring where you can make your notebook and stamps, and we did that last year, but we’ve never followed a Quest here. So I suggested we try one. I sort of wished I hadn’t suggested it once I looked at the clock, as it was an hour before sunset and we hadn’t even packed a bag, and the Quest was in an unfamiliar park. I momentarily imagined us lost, wet, and cold in the dark less than a mile from home.

But Floppy’s face had lit up, and it was sunny for the first time all day, so I packed extra carefully and double-checked our attire more than I usually would. What’s an adventure without a little danger?

Here’s the Quest we chose. We had trouble finding the park, and right away, it looked very mysterious. We followed the clues to a hidden bridge:

The brook it spanned was full of spring rain:

We headed deeper into the woods:

The trails were wet, muddy, and slippery, and it was dark and spooky.

And  then, just before we reached our hidden treasure, the thunder and lightning moved in and the rain started to pour. We picked our way back as fast as we could in the dark, and we never did make it to the treasure box. But our hearts were pounding all the same! (And we all survived, no injuries.) A real adventure!

(P.S. If you’d like to have an adventure of your own, but don’t live in New Hampshire or Vermont, a similar program (without the poetry) is offered all over the country in the form of letterboxing. We’ve done letterboxing all over the country, and that’s lots of fun too. )

Physical Play: A Springtime Walk

28 04 2010

It was cold and snowy last night — yes, I know it’s late April, this is Northern New England, so what? — so Floppy’s baseball practice was canceled. But we aren’t afraid of a little bluster, so we took a family walk on the trail behind our house at sunset. And we saw lots of amazing things! Like a mysterious windy fairy staircase:

We found lots of fiddlehead ferns. (Can anyone ID this species for us, so we know if we can eat them?)

We saw that the beavers had been busy….

And we saw what they had been busy doing:

We saw *enormous* wild strawberry plants in flower…

and docks waiting for summer to arrive:

We didn’t forget to see the sky:

Never be afraid of the weather. It was a wonderful walk.