ice and ice cream

Harvey and Zion walking to a hockey goal far away across frozen Fawn Lake

ice outing

The forecast yesterday morning called for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing through the next day, but the sky outside was shining blue and the air mild. Just the weather you want for a winter cycling adventure! So after a nominal amount of schoolwork the boys and I headed out into the wide world. Our ultimate goals were to visit friends' almost-new-house (pending inspection) and buy some Bedford Farms ice cream for a celebratory almost-new-house dinner. Of course there were lots of adventurous stops on the way—and, as is our habit, a picnic lunch.

the boys eating a picnic in the woods

picnic bench

That was at Fawn Lake, our first destination, which we reached after two and a half miles of riding on the sticky-mud-over-frozen-gravel surface of the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. After lunch we explored along the shore, with Harvey and Zion mostly interested in finding a place to get out onto the ice. We don't need the news to tell us about the dangers of possible thin ice: it was plenty apparent most spots along the shore, with water spurting up from cracks if you so much as touched it. Of course, the danger there was only wet feet—still, something we wanted to avoid with miles to go before our journey was through.

With Harvey leading the charge we headed along a narrow path fringed by beaver-downed trees (all the remaining trees have collars of hardware cloth to keep them unchewed and upright). Towards the south end of the pond, in the shadow of the trees, we found an area where the ice was solid right up to the shore. There was even a hockey goal out there as a testament to the solidity of the surface. Harvey and Zion were delighted and headed right out to it; I stayed closer to shore with Lijah who, since our skating trip in December, wants nothing at all to do with ice.

Harvey and Zion walking on the ice

an essential part of any winter adventure

The bigger boys could have stayed all day, but after promising them a return trip another day I got everyone packed up to head back out on the road. Well, not the road, exactly, since the next part of our expedition was to pioneer a route through the woods in the direction of our friends' house (almost-new). There were plenty of paths, all visible on the map; the only questions were a) which one would actually get us where we wanted to go and b) which one were we currently on. Neither was ever really clear. But the exploring was delightful all by itself, with twisty singletrack up and down hills that challenged Harvey and I on both ascents and descents.

Harvey pushing his bike up some steep singletrack in the woods, brothers following

pathfinding

Our cargo bike is wonderful, but it's not the most sure-footed off-road ride; and worst of all it has terrible ground clearance. Luckily Zion and Lijah were happy to run in the woods for those segments where I had to lift it over logs every twenty feet. We had maybe a half mile of that, and then just a little more on the road til we reached the house. The boys were disappointed we couldn't go in—not even in the yard—so we had a little discussion about what it takes to close a home sale. And we sure hope the closing goes well! It's always nice to have more friends in town, and nice for friends to go from 10 miles away to 3 1/2, especially when we can do three of those miles off-road (though to be honest, where they live now we can do 9 3/4 of the ten miles off-road, thanks to fortunate siting of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway... but that's just a coincidence!).

After gazing at the house from the side of the street, we turned towards home—now riding along the not-entirely-comfortable shoulder of Rt 4. But the car noises and exhaust was bearable knowing that where the road gets into town a prize awaited!

three boys enjoying cones in front of Bedford Farms

winter's snow and ice cream

All in all it was a wonderful outing, and we were more than ready to get home, right on schedule for nap time.

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blowing our entertainment budget

On Saturday evening the bigger boys and I accepted a friend's invitation to check out a West Virginia-themed event at a local church. Mountain music! Unhealthy food! How could we resist?! The reason for the theming was that the the church is sending a mission crew down that way and needed to raise funds, so naturally I expected to have to pay a couple dollars. But even with the best will in the world I wasn't ready to manage the $20 suggested donation just to get in the door. Isn't the cost of living a lot lower down there? 10$ should be fine. Once inside, we enjoyed some educational material about Appalachian poverty, kids crafts and coloring pages, a free cupcake from an everyone's-a-winner cakewalk (Zion didn't even participate and he still got a cupcake). And some good music, as pictured somewhere below.

Of course, just the cupcakes weren't enough food for the boys—never mind that they'd already eaten what I had presumed to be supper—so I splurged on a $6 kids dinner plate split between the three of us: a little pulled pork sandwich and a giant brownie. I also helped myself to some coleslaw, which was out on the table to go on top of the West Virgina-style hot dogs, but I think that was ok because we were meant to have a side anyway. Maybe? The young person manning the table was perhaps not entirely clear on the procedures. He also forgot to charge us—really, to record the charge on the piece of paper all the festival-goers had to carry around to record their purchases—so we could have eaten for free, but I'm an honest type (at least when there's no coleslaw on a table in front of me) so when the time came to "check out" I told them about the dinner and handed over my $6.

So $16 dollars for all the thrills of a fair at a suburban New England church. It may sound like I'm making fun—OK, I probably am, a little bit—but really, we love church fairs. And the money goes to a good cause, and it's probably not all that much compared to other entertainment options available these days. We just don't usually pay for entertainment, so it stings a bit when we have to. (At least we went in this time...)

And we had to again yesterday, when (different) friends invited us out to free play time at an indoor sports place in Tyngsboro. All three boys had a great time running around with lots of other kids and balls, sticks, riding toys, tunnels, and parachutes (and me—I did lots of running around too). It turns out Zion is pretty good at floor hockey!

Zion posing with a hockey stick on an indoor turf field

sportive

It was all lovely, except that we had to pay $13 for two hours of fun. And then we had to clean up all the balls and toys so the soccer kids could come in and use the field! Any bad taste that detail might have left, though, was totally obviated when the woman who was running the place offered a packet of fruit snacks to all the kids who helped clean up. So the only issue was that I don't feel like I can be handing out that kind of money every day. Especially not two days in a row! Is that a crazy expectation these days?

It may be, but at least this morning the weather was fine so we got in a lovely long adventure in, totally free—well, besides the ice cream we bought. But that feels more worthwhile! Expect more of that story tomorrow.

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blessed Martin pastor prophet

We celebrated Martin Luther King day in song this morning. With four MLK- and civil-rights-related songs, we were able to think about a few of the important aspects of Kings life and of the broader movement. (We also sang "All the Little Fish", because of overwhelming demand from the audience.) That was the extent of our lessons today—I planned to do a little more, but then we were invited on an indoor sports date, so we lost the rest of our school time. But that's fine: I love Dr. King and am always excited to celebrate his day, but we really need to talk about civil rights every day, not just one Monday in January. So we'll do a little more more tomorrow.

Generally, our curriculum is pretty heavy on anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti-dominant-power narratives anyhow. We love the Little House books, but we always make sure to talk about how Laura's descriptions of the Indians are totally a product of the prejudices of her day. Our Thanksgiving lessons give equal time to the perspectives of the Wampanoag people. And don't get me started on Columbus! We haven't talked much yet about the specifics of the African American experience, but you can bet what we have done so far hasn't been the slightest bit equivocal about the awfulness of the reality of slavery and segregation, or the fact that as white folks we still have lots to do to even begin to make amends and make things right.

Which is to say, my thoughts from 12 years ago still stand. Good heavens, we've been blogging a long time.

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moments from the week

the Christmas tree outside all covered with snow

snowy Christmas tree

Moments and images from the past week.

the boys painting at easels at Kids Church

art working

frost crystals on a window at grandparents

cold

Harvey inside the front door, snow-covered

no snow pants means snowy pants

zion making a snow angel

angelic Zion

Zion and Nisia joining toddler craft time at our kitchen table

big kids join toddler craft time

the boys walking through a giant puddle

that used to be snow...

Harvey and Zion up a tree

"say trees!"

Harvey, Zion, and their stuffed friends watching a concert

concert with friends

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sledding

Before we said goodbye to Nisia and before all the snow melted (both today) we went sledding.

Zion and Nisia going down the hill in snowtubes

it doesn't look like much, but it was fast

The light and fluffy snow of Saturday evening was much-stomped by Sunday sledders, so when he saw the hill Harvey was so discouraged he was about ready to head home. But I knew that some grass and leaves sticking up wouldn't slow us down any, because packed, sun-melted snow at 15 American degrees is about the fastest surface you could hope for. And so it proved.

Lijah stayed home with Grandma (and Cindy—thanks for the entertainment!) so I was able to concentrate on encouraging the bigger kids. And they all did great! Zion and Nisia stuck to the snow tubes (and the plastic toboggan with me), and took dozens of delighted runs down the big hill. They complained some about the walk up, but kept at it nevertheless. Harvey was fearless on both the plastic toboggan and the real one, which he got back on even after a ferocious crash into the stone wall at the bottom of the hill that left him with a scrape on his chin and a couple of sore teeth. If only we had been out after lunch instead of before it, we might have been there three hours instead of just one and a half.

Of course, I did some sledding too, and made it through the gap in the stone wall into the lower portion of the field by myself on the toboggan and with Zion on the plastic sled. I was pretty impressed with myself... I've still got it! Even Nelly took one run down, on a snowtube—she has video evidence if you don't believe it.

Nisia won't be back again til summer, but we hope the snow puts in another appearance—we had such a good time we'd hate for that to be our only sledding of the season!

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