Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There's Something about a Stream...

It doesn’t seem possible, but going to the stream just got even better.

Nothing makes the little Goofs happier then a stream and we are fortunate to have one in walking distance. Somehow my kids always find an incredibly interesting activity that they can do indefinitely. On one visit my son attempted to block off part of the stream with rocks so that he could better observe the fish. My daughter drew pictures on rocks with mud. We have built rock bridges across streams to facilitate future visitors. It isn’t just about getting muddy – I usually don’t even let them go in, just play along the edges (sometimes I do, I’m not a monster!)
Any modest body of water will do, we often drive to other creeks, ponds, and reservoirs. At one, we made the acquaintance of another family. The dad was scaling the trees very fast, like a lemur. It turns out he is a tree professional. He loved climbing trees as a kid and now he gets to do it for a living. My children were intrigued and I was a little jealous.

On one long weekend, my parents took the kids to an amusement park for a day. They had a great time going on rides and eating junk food. The next I took them to a nearby nature center where the stream has awesome big rocks for climbing. As a bonus, I had them wear grubby shoes so they could actually do a little stream walking and wading. We stayed for hours. I asked them, “Which is better, “the amusement park or the stream at the nature center?”

They hedged in giving their answer, knowing that their grandparents had gone to great effort on their behalf. But they conceded that the stream was at least even with the amusement park. (This particular afternoon at the stream pushed ahead of just about anything when I let the little Goofs eat in the car – something that in general Mama Goof forbids.)

The stream doesn’t even have to have water in it. On one of our regular trips to California to visit los abuelos we went on a short hike. The little Goofs whined constantly. Their expressions of disapproval alternated between asking why we had come to this desolate forsaken place and demanding a snack – punctuated by regular refusals to walk any farther due to exhaustion. The “hike” was on a paved path and less then a mile and a half. But on the way back, we walked through a dried out stream bed. All fatigue disappeared as they scampered among the rocks, finding interesting stones, animal shells, and other treasures that my wife and I would need to conveniently lose before our flight home.

Winter Wonderland
The other day, I pressed the kids into joining me on my walk through the wooded park. We came to a part of the stream that was frozen over. The little Goofs were fascinated. We threw rocks at the ice to see if we could break it (we couldn’t.) We walked on it tentatively.
It was getting late. But the kids had brought headlamps we bought them for Hanukah (festival of lights!) and the woods weren’t scary at all. The next day, they demanded that I bring them back. So we returned. We made a real project out of trying to break the ice. We found big rocks and tossed them high into the air trying to puncture the surprisingly thick ice. We found a thin section the rocks could break through and watched the trapped air bubble up. But in many spots, the rocks just bounced off. GoofGirl wandered off and found isolated chunks of ice that she could pull out of the water. She built ice cairns on the side of the stream. We’ve since scheduled playdates where the highlight was a visit to the frozen part of the stream.

The best things in life are free, and are even better when they freeze.

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