You know it's been far too long since you've updated your blog when you need to go through iPhoto on your computer to remember what's happened since your last post. As far as I can tell, nothing photo-worthy happened in the week and a half after Halloween. It's quite possibly true, but it's hard to know.
Veteran's Day fell on a Thursday this year, so as a favor to...oh, I dunno...teachers, I guess (because it wasn't for stay-at-home parents) the kids had both Thursday and Friday off. Oh, what to do? They started fighting before I even rolled out of bed on Thursday morning. Fortunately, we were meeting up with some of my old mommy friends in our old stomping grounds where I was once in a mom's group. We met at the park. We had a picnic, then walked to frozen yogurt. It was great to catch up and it took most of the afternoon, so that little excursion was more than worthwhile. I didn't take my camera. I don't know why not.
A friend of mine who is far more organized and apparently far more motivated to keep her kids engaged in cool, outdoor, kid-friendly activites than I am, had made a reservation for a group of kids to play at Adventure Playground, a park at the Berkeley Marina. It's been featured in all sorts of magazines (including National Geographic) over the years as one of the best playgrounds around. It was an easy sell for me. Drive a bit to keep my kids occupied without TV or computers for the day? Sold.
I'd heard that they had materials so the kids could build things in the playground, but I couldn't quite grasp what they meant. Just as well. I'm not sure I would've trusted my kids had I known. And that would have been a shame. This was the view through the fence:Mam happily and very publicly declared that it looked like a junkyard. And so it did.
We arrived at the playground right on time and right at the same time as some of the other kids in our party. It was a suprisingly beautiful morning. The sun was shining and there was only a light breeze...not the stiff chilly wind I'd expected. Only one attendant was working in the playground that day and as soon as we'd all assembled, she went to work explaining the rules of the playground and for using their tools.Not surprisingly, once the kids had been told that they could ride the "trolley" (a modified zip-line-like ride) as often as they wanted, check out hammers and nails and saws and build whatever they wanted with any of the scrap wood available, they all ran through the gate...kindergartners through sixth graders.
The trolley was the first order of business:It was a short little ride, but it was a lot of fun until you hit the damp pile of sand at the end and had to shake it all out of your pants!
It took a while to get bored with that and finally get to picking up stray nails or shards of wood to earn the right to check out a real tool. Then they finally started to get a good look at the place. It's full of amazing old things, old playground bits like slides and swings, racks of scrap wood, old boats, old tires, cargo nets and the exposed innards of pianos.So many things to explore. And, of course, once Smunch and Mam had checked out some tools, neither kid knew what they wanted to do. I ended up helping Mam hammer a small plank onto the railing of a playstructure...for no really good reason. Smunch checked out some paint and started painting random pieces of the existing structures.While he appears to be taking this job very seriously, Mam had a much more artistic flair with her painting technique.Eventually, even I had to try out the trolley.But the sand in the pants made one ride enough.
Smunch and a friend tried their hand at reinforcing a catwalk.It didn't work out all that well, mostly serving to make the catwalk uneven. The attendant came and ripped off their additions, while suggesting they build a hand rail instead and helping them with that. Smunch's small contribution to the playground.
Meanwhile, Mam was sawing random things.Somehow, I doubt this is something they intend for the kids to do, but it's obvious it's been tried in thousands of places around the playground.
After two hours of just playing around...but having a whole lot of fun running amok in a "junkyard", our time was up and all the famlies had a picnic outside the playground and the kids went down to the "beach". I put that in quotations because this is a beach at the Berkeley Marina. There's nothing to suggest that it's particularly clean. I wasn't thrilled, but they were busy, happy and outdoors.
Fortunately, the webpage for Adventure Playground had mentioned the potential need for a change of clothes. The playground was no problem. But Ryder kids and water? Always a problem.This may look harmless enough, but if you click on that picture and look closely, you can tell that Mam's already been up to her butt in the water. She walked right in, shoes, socks and all. Smunch was jealous. He wanted to wade in the water too and started taking off his shoes. I stopped him, not knowing what kids of sharp rocks, shards of glass or needles might be under the surface (there was a rumor that hypodermic needles sometimes litter this beach). So, he too walked in with his shoes on.
I was prepared, but not the least bit thrilled. Stripping Mam to naked in the puddle/pot-hole filled dirt parking lot was a pain. I wasted the two towels I brought by having her stand on one (so she wouldn't get the new clothes muddy) and using the other to throw sopping wet clothes on. I hadn't prepared for needing to dry Mam off after that as well. So, I was grumpy and read Mam the riot act about how I really hate it when she does things like that after I ask her not to. But it was so predictable that I probably should have been better mentally prepared than that.
In retrospect, that was kind of a bad end to a fun morning. But the drive home was eventless and peaceful. I suspect they remember the fun a lot more than the trouble they got in for getting soaked! At least I hope so...