Sometimes, your kids find an awesome bit of water—a stream or ocean beach or fountain—and they want to go in it. And sometimes, even though it's pretty chilly and they don't have dry clothes, you let them.
We found a spray-park type fountain at Emerson Park in Concord yesterday; we've been there a few times before but it was never turned on. We were on our way out when we saw it, and I guess the boys were thirsty.
They were disappointed when it turned off after a minute, but then a very nice gentleman asked if we'd like him to keep it on for us. We did!
It was threatening rain and cold enough that Lijah had his raincoat for the couple hours we were playing at the park. Even though he was more waterproof than his brothers—not to mention the only one with a change of clothes available—he kept his distance from the waters.
Not so Harvey and Zion.
Then after they tired of that lovely fountain we went over to an actual drinking fountain—but a crazy one, that sends a stream at least three feet away. And since they were all set for drinking water they took turns spraying it on each other's head. Then they took off all their clothes for the drive home. Good times!
All sorts of things have been going undescribed in our busyness lately: garden, building projects, outings... and child development. The boys can do more things every day. Lijah's sentences get ever more complex; yesterday he asked me, "after you take your shower Dada, will you play knights with me?". Harvey has exhausted all the good comic books in the kids section of our library so this evening we moved up to the "teen" room, where I vetoed a few dozen horrible titles before we found a big book of Spy Vs Spy that he didn't want to look away from for the next hour. As for Zion, he's spent the last couple weeks doing a lot of yelling and whining, poor little guy. Two steps forward, one back.
We're not running day camp this year, but friends of ours are taking up some of the slack and putting on a once-a-week camp out of their house in North Cambridge. We missed the first session last week, but we were happy and excited to be there this morning!
It was a biking day, and while I was disappointed not to have a way to bring the blue bike in the car Zion and Lijah were happy enough with the trailer and seat. And of course Harvey was raring to go. The group rode well together, though there were lots of stops—for repairs, drinks, and just to take in some of the beauties of the natural world.
It was a fairly short ride (by our recent standards), and it didn't take us long to get to Spy Pond, where the kids could have played for two or three days. Especially once they found a tree they could all climb at the same time, "even Zion!".
Of course, Lijah was a little left out (though I did help him up it and leave him there for almost three seconds) so he was happy a couple minutes later to find his own tree to climb... sort of.
It was all lovely, and we look forward to another adventure next Friday... after we get back from "real" camping, that is!
A couple (early) moments from the week; tomorrow we'll be away at camp collecting many more moments.
We're back from a lovely trip to Mt Desert Island with our friends, full of hiking, swimming, good food, and pirate golf (well, maybe not full enough of golf for the boys).
Even with all that activity it was wonderfully relaxing, and it was hard today to get back to work in the 100° office here. We were all still thinking of mountains.
Well, mountains of laundry too. But Leah handled that, and I got all the camping gear packed away, and now we're thinking about the next adventure: an adventure in organizing!
Moments and images from a vacation week. Many more to come, along with words, when I have time and better health.
A week and a half ago we hopped in the car for a trip to our favorite place ever (well, besides our house). In the several hours before hopping we packed, adjudicated fights between the kids, and finished building a coop for our smaller hens so they could be unsupervised outside in between visits from the neighbors. You know, the stuff that everybody does before going on vacation!
All those tasks meant we didn't get out the early start we might have hoped for, but by hitting the road at 10:30 we were within just a half-hour of my "realistic" goal time, so that was fine. Also because we got them in the car early to stop the fighting, the kids were all settled in and already watching their shows as we loaded up the final items and checked the house, which was helpful.
Since we're old pros at the camping packing by now, we only forgot the lantern this year; much better than last year's oversight of the chairs. But despite our proficiency, I was still feeling pretty stressed as we rolled away from home—besides the chickens I was worried about my garden in the terrible scorching heat, and about how things would carry on without me at work—so I appreciated that Leah was driving so I could try and calm down.
Unfortunately, the mid-morning traffic was the least calming thing imaginable, and since I wasn't behind the wheel I was free to keep constant tabs on its sprawling extent via my phone. Unable to bear a backup on 95 that stretched for that road's entire length within the state of New Hampshire, I directed us off onto Route 1 in Salsbury. I had earlier vowed never to venture onto Rt 1 in NH again; apparently I need a reminder of why I feel that way every 15 years or so. Using ever-smaller local roads we eventually made it to Maine, after a little more than an hour of New Hampshire purgatory.
Once in Maine—and as soon as we crossed the mighty Piscataqua everybody in the car calmed down considerably, especially me—we made our first stop at Maine Roasters, as has become our tradition. Leah needed a coffee and Harvey a bathroom; Lijah was glad to whine and beg his way into a bag of trail mix that was displayed right at his eye level, of which he ate only the M&Ms. Never mind we had a gallon of our own trail mix to eat M&Ms out of—that's why he's a two-year-old. At least the other two boys are rational human beings and could be content with the homemade stuff (which of course we had to break out for them).
Before long we turned onto Rt. 1 again—this time in the right place, Brunswick—and happily left the highways behind. Now there was plenty to look at: oceans, antique stores, weather. The week before our friends had told us there were thunderstorms in the forecast for the day of our drive up, so it was gratifying to see them really deliver!
We stopped in Waldoboro for a grocery run (emergency chicken nuggets—something else we forgot—batteries, deli turkey, and beer) and got caught in a delightful downpour in the parking lot.
And then the phone redeemed itself, because for the first time ever we managed to detour successfully around the Wiscasset traffic. Very gratifying. And Camden wasn't bad at all: we diverted ourselves by playing I-Spy with letters, and didn't even make it all the way though the alphabet before we got through town (just Z was left).
After Camden, of course, comes Lincolnville beach—and gratifyingly the weather cleared up (as pictured at the head of this post) in time to let the boys do what they've been looking forward to for weeks...
Lijah, unfortunately, has developed something of an ocean phobia—never mind that the waves were maybe two inches, except when a wake washed up. But there was plenty for him to do as well, and he and I had fun exploring around the shore, playing pirates, and ringing bells.
And Leah went swimming.
The stop was far the highlight of the day, and in fact we didn't need to make any more—not even for the bathroom! (Lijah asked "can I pee in the car?", and was reassured to be reminded that yes, he was wearing a diaper). There was a little more rain before we got to the island, but once again it stopped in plenty of time for us to be able to set up our tent in dry comfort. And all our friends had arrived long before us, so as I worked my family enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken fajitas. Don't you worry, I got some too: had to keep my strength up for a busy day of hiking the next day!
I wrote most of the boys' homeschool plans today. Two of them this time! We're all excited to get started with the school year; a couple days ago Harvey groaned when he heard that school in Bedford starts September fifth, because that seemed like much too far away for him. We probably won't make it that long. It may be kind of silly for us to follow an academic calendar, with all our big unschooling talk, but we do like new beginnings. There are high hopes for this one on all sides.
I can't speak to the hopes or excitement of the public school kids, but at least in this town they're heading off to a school that has some right ideas about transportation. A press release published in the local independent paper recommends kids get to school by bike or by foot as a first choice, or by school bus if that isn't possible. The last couple paragraphs take up the less preferred option: "If your child cannot walk or bike or ride the bus, DRIVE, BUT ONLY IF YOU MUST" (emphasis in original!). The piece mentions the dangers cars pose to kids, congestion, and air pollution as reasons to leave the car at home. I think we have a long way to go before everybody gets the message, but it's great just to have it out there so prominently! Almost enough to make me want to send my kids to school so they can bike there. But no, we're keeping them here: there's so much fun in store!
Our friends who are running a day camp this summer also hosted a kids art show Saturday afternoon. It was wonderful to see the variety of art on display, created by kids ages two to twelve: drawings, paintings, sculpture, poetry, fiber arts, and cartography. There were maybe a dozen artists involved, and a good crowd of kids and parents there to take it all in.
Besides the static display, we were also treated to performances of storytelling, jokes, and live and recorded music. Lijah took advantage of the projector for some impromptu performance art.
Many but not all of the kids involved are homeschooled—and all of them could be, given the dedication they showed to their artwork. They didn't all know each other going into the show; while they didn't leap to connect with each other, there was definitely a feeling of shared kinship as artists.
We weren't organized enough to be part of the show (I think we were the only family in attendance without a name or two in the program). Or I should say I wasn't organized enough; as soon as he heard of it (on Friday afternoon) he rushed some lego models and experimental cooking into production for the display. For my part, I was inspired by many of the pieces with ideas for the upcoming year of learning. There's another show planned for the winter; the boys are looking forward to being there with lots of their own art to show off!
Here are some more words about our camping trip. It may be a bit much but we appreciate the record ourselves, even if it doesn't have so much appeal to the wider world. We do a lot on vacation, and it's nice to be able to revisit it!
Our first full day in Maine this year we broke from tradition to eat breakfast at the campsite, rather than going into town to the Cafe. It was partly to save money, and partly because thee two-year-olds aren't the easiest crowd to wrangle in a crowded restaurant as they wait half an hour for their first food of the day. It was cool enough when we woke up that I enjoyed lighting the fire, and the bacon, eggs, and toast went down well. The only unhappy moment came when Leah realized she had forgotten the filters for her Aeropress. The little boys had no such concerns.
As for the bigger ones, they're such old hands at camping that we could leave them entirely to their own devices.
While the kids played we packed lunches and snacks, then we hopped in three cars and headed to the day's trail. We meant to hike up Bald Peak and then Parkman Mountain, but in our enthusiasm we reversed the order; all we cared about was that we were going up.
And up and up; as per Harvey's request, there was lots of steep scrambling on the trail (but no ladders). The boys were full of energy and handled it all without a problem. They totally earned their top-of-the-mountain snacks.
Lijah, too, did a great job; he didn't have to walk, but he had to allow himself to be carried in the backpack, which was probably even harder! He had a moment of rebellion when it was time to get back in after our first mountaintop start, but I was able to enthuse him enough that he remounted without any real screaming. Zion was ready to go too.
I didn't take nearly as many pictures on top of Bald Peak, where I think we had lunch; it's always thus for the day's second summit. I did manage to use my phone to snap one of Leah, celebrating her freedom on her first hike in five years not carrying someone!
The way down was just as steep, and the boys (and some of the adults!) found that controlled sliding was the best way to manage the grade safely. Harvey wore two big holes in the seat of his pants.
By the afternoon it was pretty hot, and we were all footsore and happy to make it back to the cars for a bit of a rest. But back at the campsite the boys quickly revived and got ready to hit the pool!
While some swam, others cooked dinner, and as the sun started to get low in the sky we sat down to a lovely meal of pasta and meat sauce. We'd all earned those carbs—especially the little ones, who permitted us to have so much fun.
Yes, they all know how to do this camping thing!
While we're starting to think about fall and school around here, we aren't ready to let go of summer yet—and the last couple days we've been working on enjoying it to the fullest! On Thursday we took a picnic up to the playground and relished in the cool evening breeze after a hot humid day. Then at the library we were delighted to stumble upon a party celebrating the end of the summer reading season, and got to enjoy a popsicle dessert—several popsicles!—and some loud crazy family entertainment from the Toe Jam Puppet Band.
I was impressed with Harvey, who raised his hand at almost all of the (many) volunteer opportunities but never got picked; with Lijah, who despite the volume and zaniness gradually moved off my lap into the second row with his brothers; and with myself when I volunteered to go up front and try hula-hooping. At least I had Lijah there to help me. Zion was cool too.
It was a beautiful cool evening, and besides the music it was super fun to hang out with lots of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. After the show lots of the families drifted over to the playground, and Harvey continued to show off his confidence as he jumped right into the game the other kids were playing. It was dark and we were tired as we biked home, but I couldn't imagine a sweeter evening.
Then yesterday we got to be part of the last day of summer camp for the year: the traditional group ride to an ice cream place. Despite the staggering humidity it was fun to ride on an urban bike path through Cambridge and Somerville, and we enjoyed delightful stops at a grassy embankment and a playground, where we had lunch.
Of course, the best stop was the last one, at JP Licks in Davis Square for ice cream. They boys said it wasn't as good as Bedford Farms, but it was still nice to share the moment with friends.
Then after a long rest time to recover we closed out the day with a lovely pizza picnic dinner with friends here on our lawn. We took the opportunity to make some farm-school co-op plans for the coming year, because there's no mistaking but that fall's around the corner; but we're loving summer while it lasts!
On our second full day in Maine, we planned to split up so that Mama could get a chance to hike with Harvey while the littler boys had some fun with me in town. But before that we needed to visit the Cafe! We were reminded why we hadn't gone the morning before when it took over half an hour to get all 15 of us seated, but at least there were fun things to do to distract the kids from their grumbling tummies.
After a delicious breakfast we put Mama and Harvey on the bus (he needed some forcing, since the hiking expedition was pitted against possibly visiting a toy store in town, but we made it happen). The rest of us sat around and played in fountains.
After we changed Lijah's clothes—and missing one family for medical reasons—we activated full tourist mode to take in the attractions of Bar Harbor (yes, including the toy store). There's lots to see and do; the only problem was that the five-year-olds were about entirely worn down from the hiking and swimming of the day before, and didn't show much enthusiasm for... anything. You'll notice them lying down on the grass behind the cannons where Lijah is posing happily.
They did enjoy putting their feet in the water and throwing some stones, as pictured at the head of this post (for his part Lijah, though energetic, was still scared of even those tiny waves).
Harvey, who had done just as much hiking and swimming as they did, luckily has more reserves of energy to draw on, because as we lazed around town he was headed up Mt Pemetic via the delightful and challenging Pemetic Northwest Trail. It has wooden ladders and boulders and a gorge, and though Leah doesn't take nearly as many pictures as I do she did manage to capture this one for documentary purposes.
While he struggled upward (and then back down) the little ones and their caretakers had a relaxed picnic lunch, and then they finally found an activity their speed.
We were kind of waiting for Harvey and Mama so we could give them a ride back to camp, but patience wore thin and we abandoned them to their fate (me, Zion, Lijah, and Nathan that is—the other adults and toddlers stayed behind with other plans). All three boys fell asleep on the ride, and Zion stayed sleeping once we got there for a well-needed two-hour nap in the car (while poor Nathan had to make do with playing with Lijah). Harvey and Mama made it to the toy store after all, once they came down off the mountain, and didn't even need to ride the bus to the campsite, thanks to good timing and plenty of space in Kyle's car.
It was my turn to cook, and swimming, reading books, and campfire chili and cornbread were a fine end to an easy day.
Sometimes I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with canning. I love having done it, but the actual doing is sometimes challenging—and specifically, the initial effort to get started. Luckily I have Leah in my life, because if she knows something needs to get done she will make it happen. Even if it's something dumb like putting up the first big harvest of paste tomatoes.
I have four Roma plants in this year, and they're doing great; it's a good year for tomatoes. And I like to pretend I need to preserve food to get us through the winter. With the tomatoes the pretense is especially thin, because taste-wise they're certainly no better than what you get in a can (though I suppose the fact that they're organic and BPA-free and all is worth something...). But as I say, I like the idea so after we finished a batch of bread-and-butter pickles Leah and I peeled, cored, and diced our three-four quarts of tomatoes, which all packed down to three little pints to go into the water bath canner. Oh well, they're pretty pints!
I often imagine what it would be like if we had the time and space to really grow all we needed to eat, at least in the area of tomato products. Maybe when the kids are a little older I'll do enough to get into a rhythm, like back in the day when there was three days of just canning tomatoes and then it was done (though I don't know how they managed to get them all to ripen at the same time). As it is now we're a little more low-key about the whole thing. After slicing and salting the cucumbers, we took a couple hours off from the process to visit the pond. Because it's still summer, and while late summer is all about tomatoes, it's also all about getting in as many beach trips as you can while it lasts!
No, this post isn't about catching the end of the blueberry harvest: we did one trip at the beginning of the season and were satisfied with the 17 pounds we brought home. Instead, it's about Lijah's latest demand.
Two-year-olds are interesting: they spend a lot of time expanding their independence, but when they want babying they want it now! When Harvey and Zion were that age, they asked for "uppy" when they wanted to be carried. Sometimes "I want uppy!", but mostly just "uppy!" Or "UPPY!!!" Lijah will have nothing to do with such baby-talk: with him the demand is simply, "PICK!!"
That's short for "pick me up", of course; I suppose he doesn't have the solid grounding in syntax and pragmatics to know why his shortening doesn't make sense. Though it's certainly not like he can't make perfectly respectable sentences when he's a little calmer, like "I'm drawin a knight with a sword fightin a monster with a sword". Just a couple minutes ago he was failing to go to sleep and Leah called me in to hear his joke. "Why did the chicken cross the playground?" he asked me.
I know that one! "To get to the other slide!"
"No, I was goin to say that part! Why did the chicken cross the playground?"
"Because he wanted to get to the other slide!" Or maybe he said side. It's actually impossible to distinguish, the way he talks, so that joke is maybe not the best one for him to tell. (In case you never heard it before, it's not original to him: he got it from Harvey, who got it from a book.)
In any case, all that is to say he speaks pretty well most of the time, which is why it seems all the funnier—or more infuriating, depending on circumstances—to hear him crying repeatedly, "pick! PICK!!"