Family Outings: a Mix of Shared Experience and Individual Pleasure

I’m always interested to see what catches my children’s eye when we attend community events. Kids are notorious for zeroing in on random things. (We’ve all seen the toddler play with the box a gift comes in while totally ignoring the gift, right?)

Last weekend the kids and I spent several hours at Shaker Village for their “Brunch with the Babies” event, also known as “oh my god, all the cuteness, I can’t handle it, please can I take a piglet home, please, please, please!!!” Shaker Village is always one of our favorite local hangouts, but when you add in a good breakfast, beautiful weather, and an orphaned baby raccoon? Paradise, I tell you.

Although the Main Events of the day – including bottle-feeding a lamb, rambling around the property on a hayride, and wreaking havoc in a craft tent – were all universally appreciated by my offspring, I enjoyed seeing what “extras” spoke to their hearts.

My youngest daughter fell in love with a thirteen-year-old barn cat that was not in any way intended to be the star of the show today. It was lounging sleepily on a hay bale and was utterly content to be petted and admired by an enthusiastic five-year-old.

For my son, the highlight of the day was a giant stick. Seriously, this thing was taller than he was. I’m not sure how he manages to always hone in on the biggest, most awkward sticks in any outdoor venue. It’s his superpower. Ordinarily, I have a strict “no monstrous sticks in my car” rule, but I made an exception this time. The bark on the branch was peeling away to reveal a series of interesting markings that I can only assume were left behind by some sort of bug. To my son, they were mystical carvings and he was absolutely dying to find out if they continued across the rest of the branch.

Thus, I let him bring the stick home and he spent a good chunk of the afternoon sitting in the driveway, contentedly scraping away at his prize with a kitchen butter knife, exclaiming over each newly-revealed marking. My knife may never be the same but it seemed a smile price to pay for his joy. He wanted to use a sharp knife, and I’ll admit that probably would have been a more effective tool, but I’m rather partial to all ten of his fingers and so I declined.

My older daughter has the soul of an artist and tends to seek them out. She wandered off at one point and I found her in the studio of one of the farm’s artists-in-residence, learning about the difference between chalk and oil pastels. Marianna McDonald is a Lexington artist who creates beautiful paintings on wooden shingles from the buildings at Shaker Village. I had long admired her work and this seemed like The Moment to invest in a piece of our own.

My daughter was captivated by the concept of the repurposed shingles and was downright giddy when she learned that broken bits of said shingles could be found near some of the buildings, abandoned and unwanted. We picked up a couple and launched into our own painting party as soon as we returned home. Her piece now sits next to Marianna’s on my mantle. Both are beautiful.

I love adventures that can yield a mix of shared experience and individual pleasure. (Not to mention truly adorable photographs of small children and small animals frolicking together.) We enjoyed the day as a family, but each of us also took away some unique and precious memory.

What was my special moment? The fresh croissant at brunch. Simple pleasures, my friends. Simple pleasures!

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