Friday was a full day of playing for us and the kiddies. We started the day with a trip to Oxon Hill Farm. Between the animals and all the open space to run, the kids really enjoyed it. As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to help milk the cow. Dovid and Tzipora fearlessly stepped forward to give it a try, and both were successful (I've got an awesome action shot of Tzipora!). Chana petted the cow, but passed on the milking opportunity.
From the farm, we went home, regrouped, and then headed out again. This time, we picked up our friend's 3 kids, and the 8 of us headed to Annapolis. Our first stop was ice cream. Yum! And then on to the main attraction: Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake. The 'Adventure' is an hour and 15 minute boat cruise that promised to turn the kids into pirates and the adults into deck loungers. Now we had quite a range of ages, from 3 up to 15, and I've got to say, it really worked!
The whole pirate experience was like an hour and a half of pirate improv. Before the kids even step foot on the boat, the experience begins. They get dressed up, get tattoos and have a talk-like-a-pirate short course. The adults who run the operation are as kid friendly as can be. They keep the script moving along, so nobody gets bored. The kids got to find a map and treasure, use water cannons against Pirate Pete and even found some Pirate Grog. The boat setup is such that the kids just have fun, and don't even know that they are following any safety procedures. There's basically one rule: no climbing. As long as the kids keep their feet on the deck, nothing too bad can happen to them.
I was amazed that the parents really could sit back and watch their kids play. For the right ages, this is definitely an outstanding thing to do.
On Saturday, I took the kids to shul, which they did great at. For Shabbat lunch we had my brother and sister-in-law come over, which let us have a breather while they played with the kids. Earlier in the week, I had produced a bag of spinach and asked if the kids wanted any. The answer was a resounding yes, because they had seen Popeye and knew the strength inducing properties of said green. At lunch, Dovid refused to eat the last two bites of his pasta salad. I asked if he'd eat it as a Popeye Sandwich, that is, wrapped up in spinach? For sure! And thus it was the first and only time in recorded history that spinach was used to get a kid to eat pasta, versus the other way around.
Speaking of meals, the last time we had the kids in town we gave them a sticker if they finished everything on their plate. We figured that they had outgrown this, but after our first meal, they wanted to know where their stickers were. Fine, we'll give them a sticker, but they'd have to do more than just finish their plate. Over time, the routine was enhanced until we had a theme song, yes an actual song, that the kids could recite to remember what they had to do to get their sticker (they had to help set the table, eat all gone, wait for everyone to finish before getting up and help clean up). Man, putting things to a song makes it so much more official, not to mention fun (instead of nudging, we just need to sing). I'm going to have to remember that. I should really record the song, so I can remember how it goes for next year. Chances are, they're going to want to hear it. (Side note: yes, we know making a kid eat everything on his plate can be a bad habit. However, the song didn't allow for "eat a sensible portion size" or "eat until you feel full." So we had to go simple.)
After lunch, we took a walk to the 'spikes' -- that's what the kids call the Air Force Memorial near our house. They watched airplanes, ran around and before we knew it, it was time to go home and get ready for bed.
Arrrrrrr matey, a fun couple of days for all!