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backwoods bliss

One of the keys to parental happiness is either cultivating shared hobbies with one’s children, convincing (or cajoling) them to embrace one’s own favorite pastimes, or finding complementary activities that allow the simultaneous indulgence of both adult and child interests. In Maine for the summer with Munchkin, D struck gold on the latter front.

We have long tried to build up Munchkin’s stamina for hiking. Although we still have our work cut out for us on this front, Munchkin’s newly discovered passion for biking means we can cover a lot more ground if we simply bring his bicycle to the woods with us. His other favorite pastime is collecting pinecones, acorns, and dried leaves to make pinecone soup at home – another activity that lends itself perfectly to our outdoor outings.

The Maine Audubon Society lists at least a dozen prime birding areas a short drive from our summer abode: woods, ponds, lakes, fields, farms, water reservoirs – all just minutes away. Whereas D’s one birding spot in Kigali – the Nyarutarama Lake – has no trails and holds little of interest for Munchkin, all of these places have neatly groomed paths where Munchkin can ride his bike while D scans for birdlife.

With each trip to the woods, we come another step closer to cementing Munchkin’s own burgeoning appreciation for the outdoors. During yesterday’s visit to Hinckley Park, for example, he was excited to find a turtle, spent a long time examining a small snake we found in the grass, and followed a family of ducklings back and forth along the pond shore as they foraged for food.

D, meanwhile, indulged his passion for ornithology. Not only is the birding in Maine good year-round, but also the summer is breeding season. In addition to the colorful Maine staples – the blue jay and cardinal – D also snapped pictures of several species he saw for the first time. The most exciting of these was the crow-sized pileated woodpecker. This morning’s visit to Capisic Pond was similarly productive, with all manner of blackbirds and warblers singing up a storm, even with the sun approaching its noontime high.

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“Don’t you love Maine?” S’s dad teased her rhetorically shortly after she had returned home with Munchkin. “You guys should move here.” Not likely for the time being given our career choices, but we certainly aim to make the most of this summer sojourn in one of the world’s most bountiful natural wonderlands.

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