a Harvey party!

Harvey's actual birthday was a long time ago, it feels like. Time stretches in the summer. But now, a full 23 days after he turned ten, we brought his birthday season to a close by finally throwing him a party.

kids watching Harvey opening presents

party crew

It wasn't just disorganization or laziness that led to the delay—the reason we held off on doing something in June was that his friend Jack would be away then, but back in July. Jack usually travels all summer, so I don't know that he's ever been to one of Harvey's parties... so naturally it seemed worthwhile to schedule the celebration on a day he'd actually be around. Of course, after we'd made that decision disorganization and laziness played their part in keeping me from actually inviting anyone until it was very nearly too late. Happily our friends are flexible and were all able to make it to a party at lunchtime on a Saturday with five and a half days advance notice. Good thing, because they would have been sad to miss it!

Harvey chose a board game theme—well, board and card game. He wanted a chessboard cake, but since I didn't know if I had the technology to make that happen I proposed something a little simpler. He was fine with the idea; I think it came out pretty elegant.

birthday cake

like those dice?

The party started at 11, and nobody was too concerned about board gaming. Harvey was mostly just delighted to have his three favorite friends together in one place. Since naturally we invited families, Zion and Lijah had people to play with too, leaving the adults to relax and chat. Harvey wanted hot dogs and coleslaw for lunch; I grilled 28 hot dogs, which was just barely enough. After lunch the play started to get a little violent—the ten- and eleven-year-old boys we know are partial to sword-play—so we redirected the kids towards the games inside. With the food and the adults outside, there was plenty of room in the house for games of Ticket to Ride, Zingo, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh to all happen simultaneously. Only one of those led to violence, so that was good.

It was all so much fun it was almost time to go before we remembered cake and presents! Luckily, after we did that half of our guests were still able to stick around for another hour or more. That's what we like to see. Thanks for turning ten, Harvey... Happy Birthday!

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moments from the week

Lijah sitting on the table drawing

the drawing table

Moments from the past week.

Harvey playing checkers on the giant street board in Lexington

street checkers

Lijah and Jack doing a puppet show at the library

puppets with friends

Lijah picking black raspberries to eat

berrying at home

Zion with scotch tape over his mouth

silenced all his life

the kids in the water at Walden Pond under ominous gray clouds

just before the downpour

Harvey waiting to blow out birthday candles at the picnic table on the lawn

birthday party at last!

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annual Cape trip

Harvey and Grandpa playing in the raft, Lijah diggin in the sand

beachy

We started off July with a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's beach house. It's a pretty sweet deal; this is the third season they've owned it, and we're starting to get used to visiting. It's nice to know what to expect on a vacation (check out the similarities between the picture above and this one from last year). Of course, we also try and work in some novelty. This trip we stopped for dinner on the way at Friendly's in Plymouth.

Zion and Lijah looking at an ice cream sundae at Friendly's

Friendly ice cream

I promised the boys I'd take them to Friendly's when I got word that the last one around here would be closing; then we didn't make it before they actually did close. Happily they're still hanging on in a few locations, one of which was just moments out of our way off the highway. My turkey club supermelt and Reeces sundae tasted exactly the same as when I had the same meal the last time I ate at Friendly's, ten years ago. Consistency is a selling point. We reached the house just in time to walk down to the beach for the sunset.

the sunset over Cape Cod Bay

a show just for us

We spent most of the next day on that same beach—splashing in the water, lazing in the shade of the umbrella, and paddling the inflatable. The sun was super hot, and I was a little nervous after getting a sunburn at the pond a couple days previous, so I didn't have quite as much fun as I might have otherwise. Just enough to get a little sunburn.

The next day Harvey and I started the morning by cycling into Welfleet to get some bread so we could make a picnic lunch. We tried to take an off-road path, but within a dozen feet of the entrance we were swarmed by masses of deer flies. The road it was. I enjoy the riding in Truro and Welfleet: the roads over the rolling dunes feel like downhill both ways. To me, at least. To Harvey the way home felt pretty uphill. He didn't die, though!

Picnic in hand, we loaded three bikes in the car and headed to the other side of the Cape to see some ocean waves. Coast Guard Beach is the best place for free beach parking; Harvey, Zion, and I could bike from the visitor center, and Mama and Lijah took the bus (which Lijah enjoyed for its own sake!). The waves were pretty small when we hit the beach at around 10:30, but as we swam and played they gradually ramped up. Never huge, but definitely big enough to play in!

Harvey and Zion preparing to ride a moderate-sized wave

here comes one!

One was so big it knocked Lijah over, so he retreated to the blanket, where he promptly fell asleep. Vacationing is hard work!

Lijah sleeping on the beach with my cap over his face

recovering

On the way back to the house we stopped for ice cream, then managed to stay awake to enjoy a lovely cookout and a peaceful evening drive home. We got in the door at around ten; I think I'm still tired from all that fun. I should have taken a nap too.

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some are readers

Once again we're taking part in the summer reading program at the library. Last year the boys signed up and then didn't do anything else with the program, because all the rewards were for doing reading-adjacent activities like writing letters to authors or attending presentations at the library. We don't have time for that. This year, though, it's all about the reading: there are necklaces, and each child gets to add a bead to their necklace for every 15 minutes read. That, we can do!

It's actually slightly more complex than that: kids can also trade up the 15 minute beads for ever-prettier beads representing more time. An hour gets you a metallic bead, glow-in-the-dark beads are for two hour, and at four hours the prize is a bead that changes color in UV light. And then there's the coveted star-shaped 8-hour bead.

The last time we were at the library the kids stepped up to the counter from youngest to oldest. Lijah was read to a reasonable amount; Zion impressed with his nine or so hours of reading over two week. Then it was Harvey's turn. When the computer showed that he had recorded 24 hours of reading the librarian was a little shocked, and she wondered if maybe someone had missed checking off his time for previous weeks. "No," I said, "I don't think so. It's been 12 days since we've been in... how much is that per day? Yup, I'm actually surprised it isn't more."

Harvey reads enough; or, too much. I've mentioned it before. I was the same way I think. It's easy to see how TV or video games can keep kids sedentary and hamper their imaginative play—I'm sure that in some circumstances books do the same thing. Not to say I'm against reading! But as someone who, given a quiet moments this afternoon, picked up a book rather than getting back to work cleaning the basement, I know it can have its downsides. Certainly in my family I don't see anything to justify the fetishization of reading—positioning as an absolute good—that we see from schools and libraries. But then, we'd read anyway! So I guess it's nice that we get beads for it... oh, and coupons for free used books too! The boys have racked up seven of those between them already. Not that they're interested: who needs to buy books when you have a whole library full of them?

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screen time

I've mentioned before about the lack of screens at our house; it remains a problem. On the one hand, we have more windows that can open downstairs—in fact, all but one of them can now!—but no more screens. Less, in fact, since Leah took the screens out of the kitchen window to improve the dishwashing view. And upstairs we've lost a couple to breakage. So as always there's a balancing act between cool air and bugs. A couple big flies are entertaining me with acrobatics as I type this. But it's not too bad: we've got some good fans upstairs, one of them with a built in fan, and we get the house cool enough overnight that the littler boys want to cuddle in blankets when they come down in the morning. Still, I think it's time to get the screens back on the kitchen windows.