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visitors and excursions

Eight months pregnant and chasing after a three-year-old daredevil, S was glad for all the help she could get before D came back stateside. Fortunately, help was aplenty. S’s childhood friend came to spend a long weekend in Portland with her six-year-old son, and S’s parents came down from Bangor the following weekend. And midweek, when S was on her own with Munchkin, she took advantage of the outdoor meet-up groups that proliferate in Maine during the summer months.

With the kids in tow, S and her friend headed north to Freeport to Wolfe Neck Farm’s spring festival. Everything about the celebrations was geared towards children: tractor rides, live folk bands and kid singers, open barn to meet the sheep, goats, cows, and chickens, local food trucks, samples of all kinds of yogurt, and stations to cut vegetables or plant seeds. Munchkin went wild over the cows and had such a good time that the festival easily filled the entire day. It was fun to see him get immersed in Americana, but even more so S enjoyed watching him play with her friend’s son. This particular friendship is S’s longest, and there’s something indescribably beautiful about sitting back with a childhood friend and watching your children also become friends.

Summer comes late to Maine. After several gray, chilly days last week, S and Munchkin took advantage of the first sunny day to join the Rise and Shine Club in Freeport for their excursion to Lanes Island. Munchkin jumped with joy at the brief motorboat ride to the island before running around the beach to spot horseshoe crabs mating and burying themselves in the sand to deposit their eggs. Munchkin wasn’t the only child to grow attached to the large inflatable rowboat that was moored on the shore, and it took some parental intervention to keep the peace, manage equitable sharing of the two oars, and ensure that the rowboat remained grounded on the sand.

The clouds returned the following day, but S still took Munchkin to the Forest Playgroup at Broad Cove Reserve for a mini lesson on horseshoe crabs. It’s unclear how much Munchkin retained from the nature talk, but S came away completely fascinated with these remarkable creatures. It turns out that they are not part of the crab family at all, but rather are considered marine arthropods – biological relatives of spiders and scorpions that have been around so long (450 million years, to be exact) that they are considered living fossils. Over the countless millennia that they have inhabited the Earth, horseshoe crabs have developed a unique defense mechanism to fight infection, which now saves untold human lives. Some 600,000 horseshoe crabs are captured each spring and obliged to “donate” one-third of their blood supply, which is then used to screen intravenous drugs to ensure the absence of bacteria that could be lethal to human patients.

When Munchkin was born, Portland lay dormant under a foot or two of snow, so we did not venture far from our apartment. Fortunately, there are infinitely more fun activities in Maine in the summer months, because baby or no baby, Munchkin would not consent to a sedentary lifestyle. We’ll have more visitors, to be sure, but S also has enrolled Munchkin in swim lessons and researched a lengthy list of activities to keep him busy, ranging from the Friday ice cream train and Portland’s trolley to island ferryboats and all manner of outdoor outings.

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