<< March 2017 :: April 2017

moments from the week

Lijah and a friend playing under the tree on a cold wet day

rainy day friends

A few moments from the week (missing any from the snow at week's end..).

Zion working with clay, showing how much is on his hands

clay hands

Leah and the older boys playing a board game

quiet moment

Lijah in his Yoda sweatshirt on his green scooter

Yoda scooter

Harvey, Zion, and friends sitting at the little plastic picnic table outside

squeezing in a picnic

Zion opening dyed hard-boiled eggs

Easter preview

boys and friends watching a movie on the computer in the school room

movie evening

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my favorite space

I know I've mentioned it before, but since we spent some time last week playing in the Discovery Woods part of the Discovery Museum, I wanted once again to write about how much I love it.

Zion getting ready to clean up in the block area at Discovery Woods

naturally lovely

We visited on a chilly wet day, with rain and snow falling intermixed, and the main part of the museum was pretty crowded. But when we headed over to the Woods area, we found that we had it all to ourselves. Maybe the closed doors on the house building kept folks away; maybe it was the fact that, when we went inside, the cold air seeping up through the gaps in the floorboards made it just as chilly inside as out. But it was significantly drier! And I don't know how anyone could resist a place like this.

the rear view of the treehouse at Discovery Woods

I guess you could call it a treehouse...

Never mind the fact that we could see our breath, the warm materials and clever design made the space feel wonderfully welcoming. We built block towers, played hide-and-seek, and experimented with the periscopes. Then the boys cuddled under the pile of sleeping bags someone had so kindly left in a corner while I read them a story.

Lijah looking at the array of welcoming features in the treehouse

so much to see and do

In my mental "ideas book" for our current and future home improvement projects, this space is right there on the cover. We're a little sad to hear that the management will soon be closing the original, iconic victorian house that currently holds the "Children's" part of the museum, and building a new structure to house the same sorts of exhibits; but given how perfect a job they did on Discovery Woods I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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what to wear?

Changing weather is hard—at least, when it comes to knowing what to wear to go outside. Switching gears as the seasons change is always tricky, and all the more so when we have summer days in February followed by near-blizzards in March. The boys pretty much gave up on winter gear the first time it got warm, and besides when it was actually snowing they barely wore their jackets all through the barely-double-digit middle of March. Lijah refused his coat entirely for the entire second half of the winter: when I convinced him to wear it to go out in the rain-snow mix on Friday it was the first time it's been off the hanger since early February (not counting all the times the boys knocked it down, of course).

The last couple of days have been warm enough that Harvey and Zion have been rocking shorts and t-shirts, at least by mid morning—the weather has caught up to their expectations. Still, it's that in-between time where they have trouble, for example, getting in the side door of the house: tucked against the north side it's still snowy far past any other part of the yard, and they're mostly not fans of snow on bare feet. Still, they'll do it, such is their commitment to feeling summery.

Me, I have the opposite problem. Once I start wearing my long underwear and wool cap in November or whenever, I have a hard time giving them up. It's been well established that I love the cold, but that doesn't mean I enjoy being cold—on the contrary, my enjoyment is predicated on being well-equipped to sit around outside without feeling any discomfort. So lots of layers. Now that it's spring it's probably time to pare down a bit, but as I say—it's hard. For one thing, our house is pretty chilly in the morning, and the inside of a pair of jeans isn't what I'd call cozy first thing! And then there's always the haunting notion that I might suffer a chill at any time: better safe than sorry.

Of course, when it hits 55° and I'm playing tag with the boys on the playground in my winter get-up I'm pretty sorry anyway! But at what point does the risk calculation swing conclusively towards worrying about overheating? I don't know... but I will say that, this afternoon, I traded my winter hat in for my High Mowing Seeds ball cap. That feels like a seasonal inflection point...

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not-so-high tea

I made scones yesterday morning with the idea of passing them out at the bus stop and showing the other parents that I cared about them and was glad to have them as neighbors. I don't know how they feel about me as a neighbor, but none of them wanted any scones. Never mind, the boys sure wanted some—though since they'd just been treated to a big breakfast of fried eggs, toast, bacon, and oranges, I told them to hold off. Because it was scones, I told them we could have them for tea later. So we did.

Zion and Nathan sitting at the table for tea, looking serious

tea is serious business

We had friends over by then so they got to join in too. It was lovely, and the boys were totally ready to enter into the spirit of "tea" as a meal: "Take tiny nibbles," Harvey said, recalling instructions from some book or other. Then he kind of spoiled the effect by knocking over his teacup reaching for the tin of scones after the little boys didn't pass them quick enough. Luckily the cup only chipped rather than shattering—I was letting them use our finest Crate-and-Barrel wedding china—but the puddle of milky tea was mess enough. The little boys—Lijah and his friend Liam—didn't spill a drop, and so would have been within their rights to complain that I only trusted them with plastic cups, but they're more polite than that. They weren't huge fans of the tea, either, come to that, and much preferred the sliced mango to the scones.

Which I don't understand, because they were some tasty scones. I brought the rest of them to work this morning, where they were again properly appreciated. This batch was with orange zest and chocolate chips; the original recipe is from Joy of Cooking and is for raisin scones with cinnamon, like this:

raisin scones cooling on a rack

cinnamon raisin version

In a large bowl, whisk together:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cut in:

6 Tbsp butter

Stir in:

1/2 cup raisins (or orange zest and 3/4 cup chocolate chips, or lemon zest and 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger, or...)

Add and mix until combined (you'll have to knead it against the side of the bowl with your hands to get all the flour up):

1/2 cup cream
1 egg, beaten

Shape the dough into a disk maybe 3/4 inch thick, cut it into 12 wedges, and put them on a baking sheet. Brush them with cream or milk and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar (for the raisin ones; or plain sprinkling sugar for the others).

Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes or until they're golden brown.

And if you want to replicate our experience, serve with decaf Earl Gray tea with cream and sugar, milk, and mango slices.

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two recent YA fantasy titles

Thanks to the success of Harry Potter—and then Percy Jackson—there are lots of bad fantasy novels for younger readers out there. But there are also some good ones, even in the vein of "unlikely young person finds in themself surprising magical talent". Like The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, which I enjoyed for myself a couple months ago and am now reading to the boys.

In this book, set in the present day, a 12-year-old boy names Nick runs away from his abusive uncle only to wind up pretty much imprisoned in an establishment called "Evil Wizard Books." The proprietor is the eponymous evil wizard, who takes Nick in as his apprentice (read: kitchen scullion and farm hand) after Nick tells him he doesn't know how to read. Of course, Nick was lying about that—like he does about lots of things—and as soon as he has his feet under him again he's hard at work learning as much magic as he can behind Smallbone's back.

There are lots of ways this book plays on fairy tale tropes—some of them quite explicitly—but it stands out because of the convincing characterization. Smallbone is an evil wizard by trade and crotchety old Mainer besides, but besides that he's not a bad guy—as long as you put aside the time he turns Nick into a spider. And Nick is just as grumpy, plus stubborn and cursed with a lack of fore-thought. They make a good pair. Then there's the perfect Maine village where things are starting to go wrong, and another evil wizard, this one a naturally magical shapeshifter with a gang of were-coyotes. It all sounds like a bit much, but it comes together into a wonderful story—one of the best and most convincing tales of what it would be like to learn magic I can remember.

Kate Milford's The Left Handed Fate isn't as good. Set in a sort of steampunk version of 1812, it's about a young privateer named Lucy and her scientist friend Max who are trying to assemble the pieces of a mysterious ancient device—weapon?—in order to bring an end to the seemingly endless wars against Napoleon. There's some interesting world-building: "philosophical iron" that moves on its own, a mad-house that you need a passport to enter, fantastically skilled confectioners and weavers, jacquard loom cards containing programing information from a civilization older than the Egyptians... But it's all just a little too much.

The first part of the book takes place on shipboard—the Left Handed Fate being the main characters' privateering schooner—and it's clear right away that the author owes a huge debt to Patrick O'Brian. Then, after some battles and tragedy, they reach the port of Nagspeak, where their famous vessel can be hidden in the half-floating Flotilla district while they search the byways and "hacker's markets" of the town for the piece of the device that's eluding them. There's a lot going on, and most of the time the ornamentation overwhelms the plotting, and the characterization, and... everything else.

Worse, despite the lovely originality of some specific settings and scenes, the book as a whole feels vaguely derivative. For anyone who's read the Aubrey-Maturin series, the echoes of it in this book are overwhelming—and early scene with a dropped watch and sweet oil is obvious it feels like a deliberate call-out. I like—love!—O'Brian's stories (though we hated that movie) but I don't need someone else doing his writing. Especially since, unlike O'Brian, Milford lets the 19th century mask slip a few too many times. Besides the O'Brian influence, I couldn't help also noticing a heavy debt to Joan Aiken—besides the alt-historical fiction setting, this book shares with many of hers a feeling of strange darkness around the edges. It's not only the ominousness of the scenery (and literal darkness lots of the time too) in the story, but also the sense that nothing beyond the characters' experience really exists: like it's all being called into being for them as it's needed. Which isn't always a bad thing: most Joan Aiken books are delightful. But it's more of a flaw in a book that's notable mostly for it's world-building. (Also Left-Handed Fate picks up like it's in the middle of an existing story, just like Black Hearts in Battersea, which also felt to me like a deliberate call-out; but I'm probably overthinking there.)

Of course, The Evil Wizard Smallbone also has nothing but gray haze beyond the boundaries of the action. But the action—and the setting and characterization—is so concise you don't mind, or even notice, the lack. The Left-Handed Fate tries to do too much; The Evil Wizard Smallbone tries less but does it perfectly. Read them both if you have time; if you want just one, well, you know what I'd suggest!

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cars these days

Leah's parents needed to borrow our minivan so they could move some furniture down to their new Cape house, so they left us their late-model Honda SUV. Today we had cause to drive it. I'm used to our 2004 Odyssey; it turns out that there have been some advances in automotive technology in the last 13 years. Never mind the bluetooth integration—I heard all about that from my mom last year, and anyways we couldn't make it work with my phone—the rear-view camera display that comes up automatically when you put the car into reverse or flip the right turn signal is pretty amazing (and amazingly distracting, along with the rest of the complicated touch-screen controls). But for pure shock of the new, nothing can compare with the push-button start. Put your foot on the brake and press the big red button, and on comes the engine! Want to use any of the cars other electronics while parked in your driveway? Just push the button without engaging the brake. Naturally, pressing while the engine is running shuts it off. Amazing.

I hate cars.

moments from the week

the boys posing on the green, Zion and Lijah with guns

minuteboys

Moments and images from the past week.

kids playing on the street

springing

Lijah sitting on the living room floor reading a book, baby Joan Marc behind him

the reading life

Harvey and Zion playing with fire, Harvey holding a burning stick

torchlight

the boys sharing a picnic at the plastic table

family picnic

purple crocuses in full bloom

now appearing at our house

Lijah on a treehouse holding a stick in a warlike posture

brave defender of the realm

Harvey holding a baby, reading to Lijah; all in PJs

babysitter Harvey

fife and drummers warming up under a cloudy sky

Patriots Day practice

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Patriots Day warm-up

On Saturday the boys and I biked up to town to watch Bedford's Patriots Day offering, the parade and pole capping. Our town likes to steal a march on the rest of the events next weekend. It's a good idea, since we get to see all the Militia companies in the area: they don't have anything better to do, and it's probably a good warm-up for the real thing. So from Sudbury to Groton, they were all there on our little town green.

a Minute Company marching in front of the Bedford Meeting House

history

Besides the town companies, there were also four fife-and-drum corps: the regular three—Middlesex, William Diamond, and Middlesex 4H—and, new this year, the Piscataqua Rangers down from Portsmouth. The reenactment is great, but I do think the music is my favorite part. Not that it's one or the other—they're all wearing tricorn hats, and some of the towns turn out very respectable bands along with their musketeers. Lincoln is good; Sudbury, though small, is very music-heavy and my favorite of the companies.

But it's the reenactment that gets most people there, and I agree it's fun to see all the outfits as the everybody mingles on the green before the parade steps off. Folks work hard to make their outfits look good; seeing one reenactor taking snaps with his phone I wondered if his attractive brown leather case was chosen specifically to make the phone fit in with the rest of his attire, or just because he appreciated fine workmanship. Even the tobacco usage was historically appropriate.

a reenactor lighting his pipe

period tobacco

That particular gentlemen took well over a minute to get his pipe lit; I'd make a comment about that doesn't reflect well on his general ability to be ready quickly, but I think that's just how pipes work.

The chilly weather sapped the boys' energy—that, and a late night Friday—so they were more than ready when the parade finally got going. My camera ran out of batteries before then, but Harvey—the official parade photographer of the day—was willing to settle on shooting with my phone. Here's a picture he took of the British Regulars bringing up the rear of the parade.

four British regulars marching

the day's villains

They were on their way to break up the pole capping, which they apparently did in delightfully non-traditional fashion. We didn't see it—all the days crowds are down at the pole end of the parade, and with the cold wind the boys were about done with being outside. So we headed in to the library for the other focus of the day's festivities, the library book sale. I picked up maybe a dozen books; I count it a success that when we got home I found there were only three of them I already owned.

There's more Patriots Day coming next week. We've warmed up—we'll be ready.

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summery outing

Zion feeling the water

down to the water

Yesterday the weather turned warm and summery, so we headed out on the bikes for a summery outing to Fawn Lake. I made sure the boys packed changes of clothes.

Surprisingly, no one needed them; we had some wet feet, but nobody was inspired to take any great risks (or to straight up jump in the water). Maybe we were having too much fun hiking together and seeing what was around the next bend. Lijah can't always keep up with his brothers, but when he does manage it he's delighted.

three boys walking together around the pond

hiking together

We saw some wildlife: there were geese and swans on the pond, and I spotted four turtles basking on a log.

a pair of turtles basking on a log

the braver two

We didn't see any beavers, but there were plenty of signs of their presence. Here's one of maybe 50 downed or partially chewed-through trees we saw.

Lijah considering a large tree cut almost all the way through by beavers

impressive work, beavers

We were particularly delighted at the new outflow at the north end of the pond: it now runs through a two-foot diameter plastic pipe under a wood bridge, and the boys loved putting their hands in the icy water as it burbled out the lower side. (If you ask me the whole thing looked a little tenuous; if the pond bursts its banks next spring and washes away a segment of Springs Road just there I'm going to say I called it.)

Zion atop a rocky ledge

victory!

Besides the water, there were also other amusements. Zion was very proud of himself for climbing this rock—twice—and then we made it our pirate ship and spent 20 minutes attacking the swans. But the water was the main draw. That's what happens when it feels like summer!

the boys lying on a walkway looking down into the water

close examination

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work-beach balance

Our outing on Monday was wonderful and educational and great exercise. And it was productive for the work of our household, because Leah was home using her bigger computer to do hours of work and appreciated not being interrupted. That's why, after exhausting the possibilities of the pond, we finished up the trip with a stop at Whole Foods and the play space. Yesterday the weather was even hotter, so we needed—really needed!—to go to the swimming pond. But Leah was away at the office, and there were things that needed doing at home. So how was I to justify spending three hours at the beach?! (besides, of course, the fact that the beach is really awesome).

the boys at the edge of the pond, Zion jumping

jump right in!

We sure enjoyed it. The water was super cold, but with the air hitting hot-for-summer levels there were lots of people there in swimsuits, even if it was only preschoolers and college kids that showed any real interest in playing in it for long. After about two hours in the sun I finally got hot enough to brave full immersion, and it almost stopped my heart. Sure made the air feel a whole lot nicer afterwards, though!

Lijah smiling with this towel over him

warm and happy

With no ropes and no lifeguards, the boys were free to roam and play to their heart's content, and they did. Harvey and Zion headed off right away; Lijah was a little slower to get started, but after a bit of sand-piling with me he too was off to join the fun.

three boys playing far away along the beach

independent play

So I read a book. It was delightful, but I couldn't help thinking of all the other things I could be doing while my children were playing independently, if I could be somewhere else. One problem of modern parenting is the need to constantly provide our kids with entertainment. When I read the Little House books I don't see Pa trying desperately to interest his girls in one thing or another so that he can have ten minutes together to plow the field!

Still, if I had been off cutting wood or whatever I wouldn't have been there to help when Zion tripped and fell headlong into the deep water. As it was I was right where I needed to be to yell at Harvey to go bring him a towel (delegation is the best parenting).

Zion holding his towel to his face

cuddle towel

I was also there to hear Zion's pride, which he was ready to share as soon as he got the water out of his eyes. "I swam!!" he exclaimed (he can't properly swim yet). "I flapped my hands like this and I flapped my head out of the water! Like a fish! Maybe my totem animal is a fish!"

"Great!" I told him. "You'll have lots more chances to swim this summer." Too bad there's no swimming holes they can walk to by themselves. Oh well, the work will all get done somehow...

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holy week, unholy work

Today was Maundy Thursday, which means we're into the meat of Holy Week now—the part where the days have names (though I heard the term "Spy Wednesday" for the first time yesterday, so that's a thing too). Leah and I aren't entering into the contemplative heart of the season, because we're being totally destroyed by stress.

Leah's stress has nothing to do with the liturgical calendar; she's just absorbed in a couple big projects at work, in preparation for a conference next week. It means ten-hour days, and lots of brain-space taken up by work thoughts 24 hours a day (at least she works on writing about the Bible... that's kind of holy, right?).

In my case, it totally makes sense that I'm busy this season. That's what happens when you work for a church—even a non-liturgical church like ours. Well, I say "non-liturgical"; but now we've got a couple of Episcopalians in charge of the families program—me being one of them of course—so Good Friday and even Maundy Thursday events are happening annually. Today was my job. We had a little over 40 people for a pot-luck with communion and foot-washing, so I think it was a success... but for one thing: very few adults were willing to be part of the foot washing! Leah says it's because they saw it as a kids' event. Maybe. I think they need to pay more attention to John's gospel. Oh well, there were plenty of kids who knew what to do.

kids at church washing an adult's feet

the best part of Holy Week not counting Easter

Now that that's over with, my stress levels will drop by at least 50%. For Easter proper, my only role is making sure everyone has enough food and seeing that the trash is taken out. True, calling donut shops to try and order 15 dozen for Sunday morning is a terrifying experience, but at least it doesn't last long (for the record: so far, no luck). I can't promise that I'll be ready to have a transcendent spiritual experience come Sunday, but I think at least I won't have a nervous breakdown before then. Then Monday is Patriots Day. Tuesday? Tuesday I'll finally relax.

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warm and fuzzy

baby leaves on the apple tree

growing

It got warm super fast this year. Not counting the false starts in February and early March, we went from cold and snowy at the beginning of April to too hot to live a little over a week later. So all the plants are in fast-forward—at least, the ones that didn't ruin their chances this year by starting off too early and getting frozen when the cold came back.

I'm always interested in the transition from winter to spring, as the green comes back. You notice it in the trees, as the bare sticks start to grow green and yellow fuzz before filling in with baby leaves—it's not just the color that changes, it's the shape of the skyline. The grass is more subtle, and more interesting to me. At one point the grass is grayish-yellow; later it's deep dark green. You can't see it happen. One year I want to do a photo project, and take a picture of our yard from the same angle every day so I can put the images together and finally see the greening in action. The only problem is I won't be able to know exactly when to start the project. When does the grass start greening? You never know until it's about done; that's when you finally notice anything's happening.

The grass is in a hurry too this year. It's definitely green now, and starting to grow. The chickens are loving it, and doing their best to keep it short. The improved diet shows up in their eggs, which are noticeably yellower of yolk than they were last month. Yup, we all love the warm and the green—and we appreciate it all the more for having missed it in the winter. I love having seasons.

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moments from the week

the boys decorating eggs at the kitchen table

Easter prep

Happy Easter! Here are some moments from the past—sometimes holy—week.

Lijah standing on the Bernsteins' couch, with the rest of us doing a seder behind him

different than other nights

shirtless Lijah playing on a pile of rocks

solo imaginitve play outside

Lijah on the swing in our yard in his bathrobe

robe swing

Lijah making a face, wearing new flip-flops

new sandal sillies

Zion and Harvey having fun at a church thing

fun at midweek church

Lijah in tiger pajamas lounging on a wall in front of a statue dinosoar

a photo for the ages

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan putting up a wooden cross

annual pilgrimage

the boys eating matzah sandwiches at a playground

matzah meal

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our Easter day

suited and barefoot Zion on the steps with a basket full of eggs

the egg hunter

Yesterday was Easter, and it was full and celebratory. The weather was beautiful all day, and we enjoyed sharing the day with lots of friends. But first—before breakfast or even Easter baskets—with the photoshoot:

the boys in their Easter finery

celebratory clothing

Unfortunately, the rising sun was in the subjects' eyes, but you get the idea. At least they weren't dirty. This is the first year since Harvey was born that Leah didn't make new clothes for the boys the holiday—she's a little busy—which meant that they had to make due with hand-me-downs, or, in Harvey's case, awesome African duds from Auntie Nelly. They still looked sharp.

At church we all got right to work either setting up an awesome, welcoming service, or freaking out at all the rush and business—as appropriate for the age or general coping skills of each of us. When it was apparent that there was going to be enough food, and enough eggs hidden, and enough greeters, I could relax. Leah couldn't quite as much, since Lijah's freak-out was only magnified by the above-normal crowds. So he had some quiet time. Then there was the egg hunt. Sadly, due to its early start I missed seeing Harvey and Zion hunt, but I did make it in time to see Lijah at work (he was drawn out of seclusion by the prospect of candy).

Lijah holding up an egg on the church playground

green egg and bunny

And, of course, I caught up with Zion afterwards to get a load of his haul, as pictured above (he made a mockery of the eight-egg limit, but he was their early to help hide them so maybe it's ok..).

There was another service after that but everyone was exhausted, so Leah and the boys headed home to set up for our egg hunt and party. I was on the clock so I had to stay. And I enjoyed the second service; then enjoyed the hot bike ride home, an hour when I didn't have to talk to a single person. The boys had a more conventional rest, so they were raring to go when 4:00 rolled around and our egg hunt opened for business.

Harvey saluting with his basket on his head

pre-hunt high spirits

It went well; I think there's not more than a dozen unfound eggs littering our yard today.

Kamilah reaching for an egg

like you do

We didn't have many kids join us this year—just six hunters counting our three, and three babies—but there were lots of us old folks, plus one special guest.

Harvey making friends with a puppy

making friends

The second-graders there were glad to share their obsessive sorting and categorization of prizes; I think they made some trades too.

Harvey, Zion, and Havana sorting eggs on the stage

checking the loot

Zion is in that picture too, but he also played; the other two sorted for like, an hour. Maybe more. They love sorting. In their defense, there were lots of cool things in the eggs this year: dinosaurs, Peanuts dog tags, Squinkies (if you don't know, don't ask). Not so much candy, but that was fine—we had plenty of treats available.

lots of desserts on the table outside

just desserts (and drinks)

The party ran on cheerfully until darkness, light rain, and too-far-past-bedtime drove our guests away, and we went to bed dreaming of the next adventures. Today was just as full and exciting; maybe I'll manage to write about it tomorrow.

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April makes Patriots of us all

Hot on the heels of Easter, Monday was Patriots Day. We hardly had time to recover—didn't have time, in fact, but we couldn't stop and rest: there was a parade to go to! Unlike last year we didn't make a big thing of inviting lots of folks to join us in biking and picnicking and watching, but we did mention it in passing; and such was the success of last years event that we had plenty of company again this year. Including Lijah, enjoying his first Patriots Day parade since his first one!

Lijah waving a flag along the parade route

Patriot boy

Our ride up was almost a perfect success, with the children 7 and up leading out at a blistering pace and two new riders—kindergarten and pre-K—making their longest effort to date. Unfortunately one of them (it was Julen) wrecked mere yards from our destination and busted his lip, but his enthusiasm was only dimmed for half an hour or so. It did kind of spoil his appreciation of our picnic lunch though! There was lots of food to delight the rest of us, and he did manage a popsicle.

Harvey, Zion, Lucy, and Clara picnicing on the green

plentiful pre-parade picnic

After some energetic freeze tag—why do I always have to be it?!—we headed over to our traditional viewing spot. I don't think we were ever all there at the same time, but if you total us all up there were 23 people associated with our party, spanning three generations (six of the kids had grandparents present!). Never mind the giant picnic, we needed slush to ease our wait (Nathan needed fried dough).

our big crowd sitting on (and behind) the curb

we all love a parade

Then we watched the parade. It's a big one. I've long realized that all my parade photos over the years look pretty much the same, so I eased up considerably on the photography. Still, there are some sights I just had to capture.

Lexington minutemen marching

marching

Last year's parade friends were more peripherally interested in the proceedings—this year I was sitting next to friends who enjoy parades as much as I do (and who were attending in Lexington for the first time) so we watched and commented with keen attention. It was lovely. And long... we were all sated with excitement and ready to head home when the last tank finally rolled past.

The ride home went just as well as the ride up. Julen, recovered in body but not in spirit, chose to join Zion and Lijah in the blue bike; it made a heavy load, but I could manage it downhill. More serious was the heavy crowd of walkers on the bike path through Lexington Center, but our kids only hit one elderly pedestrian hard enough for anyone to notice. Then the crowds thinned out and we were rolling free.

the gang, including me on the blue bike. heading home on the bike path

satisfied parade-goers

Leah, who had stayed home working, was ready to greet us on our arrival with veggie straws and ice water. Just the thing—the kids were hungry despite eating constantly for the past four hours, and we were all hot and tired. The weather wasn't actually that warm, but shepherding—not to mention carrying—all those kids is hot and thirsty work!

Then some of the crowd headed home, one additional child joined us for a sleep over with Harvey, and we all had dinner together.

lots of kids and a few adults eating at our picnic tables

outside again? why not

It was a tiring day, on top of another tiring day, capping off a tiring week. No wonder Lijah fell asleep before he could finish his dinner.

Lijah asleep in my lap

all worn out and done up

I was pretty wiped out too—yesterday I couldn't hold my head up to type by evening, so this story went unwritten. But I couldn't leave it too long. I'm sure there's lots more adventure coming this vacation week, and I don't want to get backlogged!

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our tiny Patriots Day celebrity

The Bedford parade and pole capping feels like months ago now: we've been through like two seasons since then. But it was really only a couple weeks, so I'm not too late in posting this collection of images that the Bedford Citizen collected. Or only a little bit too late: I had the link open in a tab for a couple days before I managed to actually look at it this evening, mainly to see if the boys and I made it into any photos. Sure enough, there we are on page 8, top right-hand corner. There are lots of very pretty photos to see in that document; ours, sadly, is not one of them. But at least it shows we were there!

As it happens, so were a great many other people, many of them kids. Why did they pick us to single out—with a not-technically-accomplished photograph, no less?! Is it just because we're locally famous for getting around town on a ridiculous bicycle? Was it Lijah's tiger pajamas? Realistically, it was probably Zion's musket that did it; nobody else thought to bring their guns to town this year. On the next page the only kid in attendance wearing ear protection also gets a photo, so it could be they were looking for uniqueness rather than beauty. And there's no denying we're unique! Sometimes even more than I'd like... but mostly I'm just proud. There are worse things than having people pay attention to you as a result of your strange life choices.

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moments from the week

Harvey and Zion with Easter baskets on their heads

Easter sillies

Moments from the past vacation week.

naked Lijah spraying the hose

warm watering

Zion sliding into the wading pool in the backyard

swimming in the yard

Lijah sitting on the Easter picnic table

convenient to the food

Lijah and Zion sitting on the curb enjoying slushes

slush buddies

Harvey with boots on his hands in the house (and Lijah holding a sword)

just a typical morning at our house

Harvey and Lucy being horses, Zion and Clara riding them on a green field

off to the races

Zion smiling (sort of) with his magnatiles construction on the new rug

building on the new rug

Zion and Nathan running on the street, seen from the porch

outside and active

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how do you organize your life?

Up above these words is our tagline: "living our values, as soon as we figure out what they are." We came up with it in a moment of inspiration and it's kind of a joke, but it's also kind of absolutely true. Like most people, I assume, we want to live in accordance with some higher principles. The hard part is doing that when ignoring principles would be easier—like, with cold rain in the forecast for the rest of the week I was kind of wishing we had two cars so I could drive to work. Good thing we could never afford another car anyway!

Lately I've been thinking about living values on another level: whether I actually spend my time doing the things I claim to want to do. That comes down to organization.

Modern life and media makes it easy to use up a lot of time on things we might not care that much about, objectively considered. I sit down at my computer and impulsively check out Google News... why?! I don't care, particularly, about what's happening in the world—at least not at that arbitrary moment. And beyond the news there's an endless galaxy of writing on all kinds of topics—fantastic writing, about things which would expand my understanding of the world! (also, for the record, lots of bad writing about stupid things). But when I have concrete tasks to work on—tasks I want to work on!—reading for enjoyment and vague self-improvement isn't the best use of my time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no sort of Puritan. Reading is awesome, and just about any reading is self-improving. Watching TV shows too, if you're into that. The question is one of time management. And I'm trying to think more explicitly about it this week. To that end, I've set myself some goals for the week—high-level ones, rather than to-do list items. My theory is that, with them in mind, I can look at what I'm doing at any moment and see if it lines up with any of those goals. If it doesn't, do I have a good reason for doing it?

It's Wednesday morning; so far, so good. It does mean that this blog post, which I started Monday, is only getting finished now. Every other point when I though about sitting down at the computer I prioritized something else—sleeping, largely. But this morning it's too wet to work in the garden and the rest of the family isn't up yet, so it's prime writing time. So here you go!

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