Sunday, May 30, 2010

Go Triple A with the PawSox: McCoy Ballpark, Pawtucket, RI

It is hard to review any park after Fenway (of course, I left that one up to author Chris Klein 'cause I knew he would do a way better job). That doesn't mean I won't try.  I still hold on to that college dream of a summer coast to coast road trip, hitting as many majors as I can.  Now that would be a dadventure boys.  In the meantime, I'll settle on the minors.  I love the park in Portland, you can't get enough of that SeaDog mascot (whatever that is) or that loud foghorn with every homer.  The other Portland hosts a bizarre park and the last time I was there they were still a Rockies affiliate because there is so little pro ball in the west.  The relatively new stadium in Newark is pretty nice, even though it marks another failed effort at gentrification in this once prosperous town.  But, the best location of all is not the view of Manhattan atop the hill in Staten Island (plus their a Yankees affiliate).  It's the Brooklyn Cyclones at Coney Island.

Now, if seeing a Sox affiliate is more important than the park or locale, Pawtucket is your place (Lowell, here we come!) We were greeted at the park by Paws the Polar Bear and his lady friend.  Sydney was psyched and went back three times to grab a pic, a handshake, then an autograph on his Sox cap.  Lij wouldn't come within ten feet.  Seventeen bucks later on day of game and we were in for general admission seats.  We chose the left field bern.  I am not sure what a bern is at a ballpark, but it was a pretty sweet lawn view of the action.  Paws' lady even made it out there to throw some souvenir balls.

Free parking, five dollar beers, a benjamin less than the gates at Fenway and yes, we even saw Clay throw a mean one last summer as he got his act back together.  Who knows, you might be watching the future Youk, Dustin, or even Rocket Roger.  Was it the best ball we've ever seen?  No.  Did the boys shake their booties every time the PA pumped out a player's theme-song?  You betcha.  So head down 128, stop by the  Roger Williams Zoo, save a few and enjoy.

A Vineyard View: South Cape Beach, Mashpee, MA

South Cape Beach.  Even the name sounds like an imitation.  It is along walk down the coast from the "real" south beach in Miami.  You can gaze out on the Vineyard, but you can't touch it.  It is on the ocean side of our beautiful spot on Waquoit Bay, hence the water was much colder.  The place is even teeming with inch long sand crabs.

Then why, oh why would the boys spend three hours there?  Yeah, it was the sand crabs.  We may have strolled the beach for an hour scooping up six different shades of seaweed (the boys liked the clear, snot like variety best, surprise, surprise).  But while I was busy taking in the rolling dunes covered in wild roses, the boys were collecting these wierd shrimp-like hoppers and putting them in empty shoes.  The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reseach Reserve teams with wildlife, including these odd balls.  We found blue crabs, spider crabs, martins in their houses, and even some herons.  Who needs the "real" south beach.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cape Rains, Fun Pours; The Cape Cod Children's Museum, Mashpee, MA

Many of you face this choice every weekend.  To Cape, or not to Cape.  Those of not fortunate enough to own our own borrow.  In this case, our borrow of choice for years has been my folk's place in Mashpee.  So while you crazy folks navigate the bridge traffic every good lookin' weekend, we pick and choose.  But when we don't  choose quite right, we end up here at the Cape's best indoor space (nothing personal Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, it was close).

Why has this former warehouse pulled beantowners down for twenty years?  It's gotta be the pirate ship.  Where else can four year-olds stand a story up on this sand bar and launch soft cannon fodder down at their parents?  The toddlers, (well our Thomas addict) love the trains.  You can crawl your way through four cars and even pose plastic farm animals precariously on the front grill.  There is plenty of science as well, from a rolling track for golf balls to math toys.

What makes this place special though is the extras.  Every once and a while they pull out the Star Lab, a cool inflatable planetarium.  Their puppet theatre hosts work from Falmouth high students.  Even more impressively, they feature an entire section on the history of the famous Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, (we missed the Pow Wow at their HQ next door, again!)  So, the next time you make the bridge gamble and get caught in a gale, instead of sitting and reading Good Night Cape Cod, over and over again, head to Mashpee for this indoor dadventure hotspot for kids.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bovine Heaven by the Sea; Appleton Farms, Ipswich, MA

Ok, we all know that I am indoctrinating my sons in my bizarre passion for cows.  I am not ashamed to admit it.  I remember falling in love with those husky, deer-like critters those blissful summers in Union, ME.  I was the same age as Sydney was now, and I was obsessed with the dairy farm across the street from my uncle's house on Seven Tree Pond.  Well, these apples won't be falling far from the tree.  We ventured out to Appleton last Father's Day on a wet and wiley day.  That trip made me decide to start the blog.  What other out-of-the way, uniquely New England adventures for dads just lay waiting?  I began with one of my favorites, the Cape Cod Baseball League.  Now, we are coming up on summer two (and post 100), and what better way to launch a season of fun than a tromp through the cow manure?

There is nothing out-of-the ordinary about Appleton.  There is the requisite CSA Farm with a waiting list of over 900 northshore residents.  There is the obligatory Farm Field School.  I know you say, been there, done that.  There are even quaintly Brahmin barns and stables over two centuries old.  Soooo dime a dozen!  But what you don't get anywhere else, (particularly so close you can smell the sea), are the rolling green pastures, and wide-open expanses  that make this farm one of the most beautiful in all of the Trustees of Reservations laundry-list of gems.

Alright, as long as I am admitting things, I did have ulterior motives.  Woodman's.  This isn't any old clam shack mind you.  This is THE clamshack.  Now, I know clamshacks.  From Red's Eats in Wiscasset to Arnold's in Eastham, I have tried them all.  I have sat for hours in bumper to bumper on Route One up and down the coast.  I would even do the 20 hour drive to O'Steen's in St. Augustines for their shrimp.  But, I digress.  Clams.  Since 1914 Woodman's, in little Essex, has been just a hop, skip and a jump from the cows.  You can even imagine them sneaking out at night to hit the stuff.  My man Sydney is a clam chowderhound.  Lij loves the fries.  But me, a straight fried clam man.  So after a hard day on the farm, hit Woodman's on the way home and try not to doze off on 128. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day at Russell's, Wayland, MA

My mom and I have a tradition dating back at least thirty years (yes people I am THAT old, or THAT young, however you want to look at it).  Every mother's day we would go to Volante's or Mahoney's and crank up the garden.  This was a tough tradition to live up to when I lived in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and even NYC.   This Mother's Day tradition was one of the many reasons we moved was to be closer to family.  Now the boys have joined the dadventure.

I chose Russells because it is the Disney World of garden centers.  The boys love this place.  It is everything living in Brooklyn was not.  We now own 3/4's of an acre and have been slowly filling it up one spring, summer and fall dadventure at a time.  Last summer, Liji spent most of it picking peas and eating them straight from the vine.  Now we had already hit Russells en route to Codman Farms for early plantings this spring because of the quality and accesibility that make all of that outdoor fun possible.

Mom and I like to find those crazy varieties of tomatoes, the boys of course refuse to eat them.  She hung out in the petunias and annuals while I took the boys over to the pond fish supplies.  As if having Lake Cochituate in the backyard wasn't enough, the boys want a pond (read, dad wants a coi farm).  So, we grab two bullfrog tadpoles and hope they don't end up in the fish tank filter like last year.  We just added "Froggy Learns to Swim," to the library, thus completing the "Froggy" series just in the nick of time.   Finally, we made sure to rustle up a few bags of MooDoo, cause the boys love to say "cow poop" about as much as I love spreading it. And we're out.  Two hundred bucks down, piles of poop,  months of organic produce and man-labor ahead, how better to spend Mother's Day appreciating mom.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Team Dadventure Walks for Hunger: The Commons, Boston, MA

The Walk for Hunger

Back in the day, before I was a principal, and even a teacher, I was a professional activist.  I worked on dozens of campaigns for Clean Water, Safe Toys and Fighting Hunger with the PIRGs on college campuses from Mass to Colorado, Washington to Oregon.  It was a chance to put my ideals to work and see the country.  It led to many adventures, including one nighttime escapade involving a banner, a highway overpass and a snowplow driver in Fort Collins, CO with my good buddy Brian, now the director of the North Carolina Conservation Network.  'Nuf said.  This year, we decided to get the boys involved.  No nighttime escapades necessary, we decided just to walk.

The recent cuts in school budgets everywhere have really concerned Kam and I.  Some teachers have spent a lifetime building careers, but even former educators may go to bed hungry this year.  Project Bread estimates that over 550,000 Massachusetts families are affected.  This wonderful organization has been the sponsor of the walk since 1969, with over 44,000 taking part last year.  We decided it was time to jump on.  We thought 20 miles might be a bit steep, despite the long legs and endurance of my amibitious four year old.  We decided to skip the first sixteen and hop on at Magazine Beach in Cambridge.  We slowly made our way past the crew regattas, over the Charles and up a beautifully lined Comm. Ave against the flow of the thousands.  It was inspiring.  

After the finish we couldn't pass up an opportunity to soak in the Commons. The tulips were out, the birds aflutter and the mallards with newbies.  It was straight out of our fav "Make Way for Ducklings" by the best New England author ever, Robert McCloskey.  We met a good friend for brunch (no bagel stores on the walk route, so she came through).  Then of course, we had to hop on the swan boats.  Our driver was a second generation employee and regaled us with tales of his dad cutting off his pants to make shorts on a 90 degree day against swan boat policy.  It was a perfect ending to a wonderful family event.  Please make sure to sponsor our walk  by clicking here and help out those less fortunate.  Maybe next year you can join Team Dadventure in making a difference with us.