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HomeArticlesRaising Outdoor Kids: Staying active during quarantine (and after)

Raising Outdoor Kids: Staying active during quarantine (and after)

Photos by Ron Abelar. Clockwise: Josie Nicita (13) reels in a catch at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert. • Riley Abelar (11) and Nolan Abelar (7) deliver bags of salad to neighbors during the lockdown. The salad mix was created from the family garden. • The whole crew at at Griffith Observatory the weekend before everything changed. • Dominic Nicita (11) and Josie Nicita (13) learn a new move during lockdown. • Lulu Nicita (10) inspects a flower found in the Superstition Wilderness.

We first sensed something strange was happening while looking for bottled water during a quick trip to Los Angeles in early March. We visited the beach, the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood and the Santa Monica Pier during spring break. Water was impossible to find.
We rolled our eyes a few times during that trip, only to learn that it would soon be impossible to find water — or anything, it seemed — at home either. Knowing now how life changed, as quickly as it did, we’ve never been more grateful for a quick weekend away than we were for that one. It somehow feels as if it were three years ago rather than a few months back.

I keep thinking we’ve been living in 60 days of Sundays, except now we’re past that 60-day part. Some days have been so long, and then somehow some weeks go by too quickly. How is it that we’ve already picked up school yearbooks, which this year won’t be signed by friends and teachers?

Quarantine has been so many things. Isolating and disappointing, yes. But also creative, patient and eye-opening. And it changed dramatically over time. We started in sweatpants. Now we are pushed indoors by 11 a.m. by the scorching sun.

Online instruction was easy for the kids, except when the problem or question was hard. The “connecting” part was simple, and they largely managed it themselves, attending violin via webcam and logging in to participate in PE from the family room. And yes, in case you’re wondering, it is possible to injure yourself in an online gym class.

We still hike (during cooler times of the day), but we stay local and create space between us and other hikers on the trail. We still go to the lake to cool off, but we have to get creative with parking, because we aren’t the only ones with that big idea. The kids still play with the neighbors. Even as “stay at home” orders relax, we won’t likely change our habits much — at least for a while longer.

As the weather warmed, Kick the Can and Capture the Flag games moved from afternoon play to right before dinner. Dog walking became something to do before lunch instead of after, and same for the long bike rides to a nearby park — an excursion the kids just began doing on their own during lockdown. It was a pretty big moment.

We sent them on a science field trip early on, giving them money to ride bikes to the local nursery and find vegetables for our microfarm that would be hearty enough to handle the heat. It was a big assignment, but they brought back melons and peppers, which are thriving even during the onslaught of 100-degree-plus days. We harvested dozens of carrots, prepared an unknown number of salads from our microfarm for bike delivery to neighbors, and nurtured watermelon radishes from seed to harvest, which takes about 60 days.

It’s strange to consider that the maturity of a root vegetable could measure the passage of time, because we’re usually horrible at remembering when we planted something. We always say we’ll be better. But with the radishes, we knew we were in sweatpants when we dropped them in the ground. And we know, because the seed package reminds us, that they need 60 days. It didn’t say 60 days of Sundays, but they thrived all the same.

We’ve celebrated a birthday in quarantine, we’re preparing for another, and we’ve missed what would have been a first-ever concert for the only kid left who hasn’t experienced live music. We escaped to a Flagstaff cabin for a weekend, where we saw snow fall for the first time. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the campsites we woke up early to reserve will allow us in later this summer as we planned.

We’re reading, playing cards, reconnecting with Legos, riding bikes, running, and learning sweet moves on the trampoline. We’re dreaming of getaways, and prepping new kayaks for maiden voyages. We’re hoping it doesn’t take another harvest of radishes before we can do that.


Lisa Van Loo
Lisa Van Loo
Lisa Van Loo is a Gilbert freelance journalist. Ron Abelar is an avid outdoorsman and photographer. Together, they are parenting five children. Follow them on Instagram @RaisingOutdoorKids


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