Full disclosure: I didn't go out and protest yesterday. Or today either. I went to work. But I did send some kind emails to people, which I hope counts for something!
When we were protesting on Tuesday it was strange to see folks walking around like everything was normal—lots and lots of folks, since we were in the middle of Boston! To the extent that it feels like the world is ending I'd expect everyone to be out in the streets letting everyone in earshot know that things are NOT OK. But of course we all have responsibilities—jobs and kids and friends and self-care. Important stuff.
But it would be nice if we could manage somehow to keep a protest feeling going even when we're doing all those other things. I'm thinking maybe a pin or badge or something—combined with an effort to be proactively kind to everyone I talk to while simultaneously not letting any offensive shit slip by uncommented upon. That's hard—probably even harder than making time to be out on the barricades every day. When I think about the administration, and the people supporting it, I want to start punching; and when I'm having a nice conversation with an older white woman who it turns out, oops, is kind of anti-immigrant racist, it's really hard to politely point out that maybe she should be kinder, or at least consider the demonstrable economic benefits of immigration. I'm working on it.
Real protesting is good too. I don't want to miss another big event like I did last weekend, so if you know of anything happening fill me in! I'm following the Boston Activist Calendar on facebook because it came up in a search, but with less than 3000 followers to date it can't be too important. And I overcame my strong resistance to joining anything and became a part of our local "Indivisible" group (that's how I learned about Tuesday's event, I think). But I'm still not seeing anything happening locally this weekend. Maybe people are busy planning their Super Bowl parties? Failing that, I'm looking ahead to the General Strike on February 17: if you do facebook, check it out and mark yourself as going. You can make it a thing! (For the record, right now there are 10,244 people "going" and 17,682 "interested". That's... not enough.)
You know, maybe this is all a fad and we'll soon get used to the Trump presidency. But I'm not used to it yet, so this is what I'm doing.
Yesterday we watched the first half of the Superbowl with friends, then headed home for a late bedtime. As I tucked Zion in I asked him who he wanted to pray for. "The Patriots", he answered. I don't know if it's because they were losing or because, thanks to his friend Nathan, he was newly converted by a fan, but either way I thought it was a fine idea. So I prayed for the Patriots to be happy and proud of the way they played, whatever the outcome—Falcons too—and for all the fans to be ok with the result too, and not take it too personally. For my part, at 9:30 last night I was feeling pretty fine about a Patriots loss.
It's not that I don't like the team. I was an impressionable young lad in 1985 and got caught up in the excitement of the playoff run that year, and as a young adult suffered attentively though the Bledsoe years. I feel like I came by fandom honestly—the Patriots may be the Yankees of football now, but I liked them when they managed to find new and exciting ways to fail every season.
Rather, the problem is the national picture these days. It's bad enough that the owner, coach, and quarterback are Trump supporters—in the run-up to the game I also read how white supremacists (you get to hear all about what white supremacists think, these days) were excited to root for a team with three white wide receivers. On the flip side, I was glad to see that in the face of that sort of support the Falcons were wide national favorites. So while I couldn't help rooting for the home team while in the presence of the TV yesterday evening, it wasn't hard to come up with upsides for a Patriots loss.
Then of course they came back to win it (as I discovered this morning) and the whole process repeated itself in reverse. Yay hometown heroes! Rejoice (in a time-shifted fashion so typical of our modern era) with my local friends and neighbors! But there was also a little dismay that terrible people would also be happy about the outcome.
Oh well. Through all those twists and turns (well, really just the one) I managed to survive because it turns out I don't really care about football that much anymore. It's been a long road—starting with a disappointing outcome back in 2009 that clearly made a big impression at the time—but I can now be in a house where the Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl and be content with, rather than watching, reading Green Eggs and Ham to the two-year-olds. As I did last night. (Somebody had to! Those little guys don't have the attention spans you need to stick with that telecast!)
Football is in many ways a beautiful game—acknowledging too its deep problems around safety and racial integration and labor issues—and I happily watched the second half of the game this evening. But being a fan is hard! Only one team can win it all, and everyone else has to go home unhappy. And even when our team does win, the reflected glory doesn't stick around for that long. Hooray, we're represented by the best team in the history of football! We still had to get up this morning and go to work (speaking generally, that is; I was busy with homeschooling). And even the winning players will need to start thinking, soon enough, about what they're doing for next season.
To bad we can't just enjoy sports—as spectators, as players—for the amazing displays of human possibility they represent at the highest level. And at lower levels, because it's just plain fun to play ball! But we can't. So, prayers for the Patriots were right on, Zion. And for the rest of us too.
I got the notice that my office would be closed today at 10:00 yesterday morning. At 7:15 in the evening they called off school in town. After a crazy icy day yesterday that saw a 55-car pileup on Rt 128 and countless other accidents around town—not to mention a perilous commute for Leah and me!—the powers that be were in no mood to take chances with the snow in the forecast tomorrow. So everyone is hunkered down at home this morning, waiting... Waiting for the first flakes to fall... Waiting for the temperature to drop below freezing... Waiting... for Snowmageddon 2017. I'll update throughout the day to let you know how it's going.
6:50 am: After a night awake with sick and anxious kids it's nice to be awoken by the chickens early enough that I don't miss any of the excitement.
7:30 am: First fine flakes begin to fall. Lijah throws up for the eighth time since 10:00 last night.
8:30 am: Fine snow falling heavily in whipping wind. Unsalted surfaces are covered, and snow is encroaching on the edges of the roadway.
9:00 am: Harvey and I enjoy a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast, with tea and apple cider. We don't have any orange juice and only a little milk, but otherwise our supplies look good. Zion throws up.
9:20 am: Harvey finally does his chores. There are six eggs to bring in; he puts some of them in his coat pockets and one smashes in there when he bends down to take off his boots. Zion wishes he could throw up again. Lijah falls asleep in Mama's lap.
11:30 am: The plow comes by for the first time; not much more than a couple inches of snow to move.
12:40 pm: Snow falling much more quickly, accumulating at least an inch an hour. Sick boys watching Daniel Tiger on Amazon Prime.
2:30 pm: Snow continues to fall heavily. Harvey and I join the neighbors in a snowy walk through the woods and local construction site. Maybe 8 inches of snow on the ground, but it's hard to tell with how much it's blowing around everywhere.
5:30 pm: The air is slightly less full of blowing snow, but the wind hasn't let up any. Roads are all white despite near-constant plowing, but it doesn't stop the few people out from driving at their usual speed. Also there are no sidewalks, naturally.
7:00 pm: Just a few misty flakes coming down now. Maybe 9 or 10 inches on the ground, and more in drifty areas. Zion wakes up raring to go, and eats tortilla chips, rice and cheese in a flour tortilla, and a hot dog. Lijah is a little slower but is also revived some by corn chips.
8:30 pm: Calm outside, calming inside as we try and get our boys who slept all day to bed. Harvey doesn't have any problems, of course: he fell asleep instantly.
The groundhog was right! Over the last week it finally started looking like winter around here, and we've been enjoying it to the fullest—or at least, as full as we can manage in between bouts of illness.
It started last Tuesday with a brief but intense fall of wet snow that caught us as we biked home from a mid-morning outing (to pick up some hot bar bacon from Whole Foods, if you must know). By the time we finished our lunch of bacon sandwiches the snow had changed to light rain—light enough that we didn't think twice about heading out to play in it. Even Lijah! The snow was amazingly sticky, and it was no work at all to put together a good-size snowman. He came out looking pretty cheerful despite the damp.
I told the boys about a snow chair I made last time I'd experienced such great packing snow—long before any of them were born. Of course then we had to make one for ourselves. Because Lijah was getting tired of eating snow cakes we limited ourselves to a Zion-sized model.
As I put Lijah down for his nap the other boys spent some time using the snowman as a swordfighting dummy. I was pretty grumpy with them when I noticed—that was my snowman too!—so when they took their rest I rebuilt him out in the front yard. Those balls were so big I couldn't get them on straight, and when the temperature shot up the next day I was sure he wasn't long for this world. But he managed to hold on, and it turns out his lean was just the thing to prepare him for Thursday's blizzard.
Folks talk about how summer is the best time for getting to know your neighbors, but I find snow storms are fine too. Tuesday evening Harvey helped the neighbors with their snowman, and on Thursday, with everyone home for the storm, parents and kids alike enjoyed playing together in the bitter blast. We shoveled with the neighbors on one side (then tossed a football around for longer than you'd expect given the conditions) then took a lovely adventurous walk with the family on the other. In a blizzard construction sites become magical wonderlands.
On our way back from that walk we stopped in at another neighbor's house to say hello—they were surprised and charmed to see us, and it was just too bad we were too wet and exhausted for a proper visit. Too bad too that Zion and Lijah were to sick to venture outside at all... though on the other hand, snow days are also great for cuddling on the couch and watching shows!
The next day was Friday, and all the school kids had to go back to school; so it was a perfect day for us to go sledding. The wind was whipping the fine snow all over the hill and the trails were far from broken, so we were glad of our new-to-us giant snow tube, which glided wonderfully over all the powder. It was also a great place for Zion to rest when his post-illness tiredness caught up to him.
His fatigue and the biting wind meant we didn't stay too long out on the big hill, but on the way back to Grandma's house we found that the path in the woods offered some promising terrain for the toboggan, so we spent half and hour or so there. Harvey worked hard to get the plastic sled down, but it was our five-foot wooden toboggan that was best for the job: we managed a couple runs with all three of us of a hundred feet or so, around two big sweeping turns. It was great!
Saturday Harvey and Zion got to play with the neighbor we visited Thursday—a small investment in relationship building pays off big! They had a great time until Zion bumped his head and had to be brought home, then he and Harvey had a great time. Harvey was gone from 10:00 until 4:00—now that's a playdate!
With more snow in the forecast for Sunday we were a little nervous about getting to church—and more importantly getting home. The snow in Cambridge was wet and not really accumulating so we thought we were fine when we started towards home at 2:00, but as soon as we headed up the hill away from Cambridge things took on a more dramatic aspect.
It was pretty scary, and we were glad to get home and cuddle up for the rest of the day. Monday was another snow day, but the sun was out by mid morning so despite the whipping wind we could have had yet more snow fun... but there's only so much of that you can do in a row! Instead we visited a library.
The last couple days have been warmer again. I meant to write all this Monday, but Harvey finally came down with the stomach bug that got us all in sequence: Lijah and Zion Thursday, Leah Friday and Saturday, me Sunday night, and Harvey Monday night. So now we've all had it, and it's done. Quick, let me have some time to write before the next sickness strikes us! Zion had a fever at bedtime so we might not have long to wait...
Yesterday was meant to be the first national strike. It was kind of a letdown. I failed, personally. Well, not entirely; I didn't work (though I almost never work Fridays) and I didn't buy anything (never hard for me). But I failed to get down to the protest planned in Boston, or even to mark the day at all around here. What did I do instead? Yelled at the kids, made food, hung out with friends in the evening.
Since making a big deal about protesting a couple weeks ago I haven't taken a single concrete step. We've been pretty sick and snowed in—and the bizarre news comes so fast and furious it's hard to know how to focus my outrage anyway. Oh well.. I suppose there'll be plenty more opportunities!
There's a piece making the rounds lately about a terrible couch from West Elm. The notion of the article is, here's this hip $1,200 couch—the "Peggy"—that folks are buying in their late 20s when they want to move up from Craigslist finds or Ikea offerings, but really it's terrible and breaks right away; and that lots of people have had this experience. So I don't really care about that, but there was one thing in the article that really got my attention:
I went into two different West Elm stores and asked patient employees what they thought of the Peggy and if they would recommend it to somebody. ... In both cases, I asked what the expected lifespan is for a West Elm couch like the Peggy. Both store employees told me that between one and three years was normal for a couch with light use.
We're thinking a lot about our own couches here. The couch and big chair that we bought when we moved into this house are ten years old, and the dog has loved being on them for nine and a half of those years; not to mention the three kids when they came along, the two of us, and countless visitors. There have been many pillow forts. And yet I'm dismayed and disappointed that the covers are getting threadbare and are suffering lots of little holes (and a couple gigantic ones). And our other couch? My parents got that one when I was a baby. Sure, it's been reupholstered once and has a slipcover on it now, but it's still hanging on.
Talking to some other folks about my reaction to the West Elm article, I was gratified to hear that they too thought one to three years was unreasonable—but I think the majority view even among sensible people of my acquaintance is that you shouldn't expect much more than five. I just don't know what to do with that. I was thinking about furniture a while ago (just after we started our epic, house-wide furniture-moving project—still in its middle stages today) and it occurred to me that couches are a pretty new invention, relatively speaking. At least for the common folks, a couple chairs around the stove would be all you could look for by way of relaxing seating. Maybe a rocker. Wooden chairs last longer than five years, I believe.
Generally, I admit I'm too ready to believe that, since I obtained a thing once, I should be free from having to do so again. Shoes, for example, need to be replaced with some regularity, it turns out. Jeans. Socks. But I don't think it's unreasonable of me to expect twenty years out of my couches. The money is bad enough—even worse is the trouble and effort of actually managing the replacement! And what happens to the old couches? Landfill? They're not getting sold on Craigslist, if they're breaking down after one to three years!
Clearly, many people are still making solid, reputable couches, so I shouldn't overreact to this one failure of common sense. But West Elm also sold a lot of Peggys, so. Modern culture is weird.
The boys have had some good play times this week, with friends freed from school by the February break. Just the thing when parents aren't providing any fun. On Monday, when I was stuck on the couch holding Lijah and letting him drip snot all over me, they ventured around the corner to Jack's house—"because we already tried everybody else and they're not home". That's several houses down and across the "big street" (speed limit 25, actual speeds, oh, 40...). And I didn't even have Jack's mom's number to check if they were home. So I gave Harvey a card with my number on it, and off they scootered. Not only did they make it safely, they stayed for four hours or so playing happily. Lijah got to rest and recover, and he was raring to go when we finally walked to pick them up.
Then yesterday we returned the favor by hosting the party at our house, for Jack and also for Nathan and Liam, whose dad also needed to get some work done despite the school vacation. So four big boys played inside and out, two toddlers took long naps, and two dads got to be productive.
My favorite part of the afternoon was when the two older boys invaded the kindergartners' game. After a little bit of yelling and whining, Zion explained capably and eloquently why he didn't like Harvey and Jack trying to take over; after a second, the big kids asked what they needed to do to join in the right way. Then they played superheros together.
My least favorite part of the afternoon was just before dinner—of course everyone stayed for dinner—when all six kids were running around the house shouting at the top of their lungs, but what do I expect... it is winter, after all.
Let's see if we can keep the fun going the second half of the vacation week.
It's not every year that the kids can have a snowball fight shirtless and with bare feet, but we witnessed it last week. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday—each day warmer than the last, melting a foot of snow down to almost nothing (rain Saturday night after a slightly cooler day finished it off). There was lots to enjoy: Leah got to run in shorts, Harvey took a long bike ride with a friend, the kids had the aforementioned snowball fight. We took a hike Friday and Harvey and Zion were in shorts and sandals (though we walked through enough snow that they maybe would have made a different footwear choice if they could do it again). But there's also the nagging sense that it shouldn't really be so warm in February, and that climate change is dooming us all. Kind of spoils the fun.
So, even though I probably have to abandon my plan of direct sowing arugula seeds in the garden this month (I was going to use row covers if it got cold again!), I was glad to see more seasonable weather make a return yesterday. Especially when we got home from church and I could put my hat on again—I forgot that you need to wear more clothes in the winter.
We marked the end of the crazy warm weather with a fire Saturday evening. The boys invited the neighbor kids over and we toasted marshmallows, then they played with fire for a while as the temperature dropped and a light rain started to fall. It was fun. We'll do it again... like, towards the end of April?
The boys spent most of the warm spell outside, naturally, but to really take advantage of the weather we needed to go for a hike. We did that on Friday, and we got to bring Zion's good friend Nathan along with us. The Archibald boys were in full warm-weather gear. I did make them bring sweatshirts along, just in case; that was totally unnecessary. But as I mentioned in the other post there was enough snow that they weren't entirely thrilled to be wearing sandals. Not that anyone complained!
And there were also long stretches with no snow at all. Even though he was wearing his snow boots (incidentally the only footwear he owns at this point) Lijah was happiest to be able to walk on dry dirt: his footing wasn't so good on the icy snow. Even there, though, he was happy to hold my hand, and I didn't need to carry him at all.
When we reached the old reservoir we noticed two things: the ice cover was still just about complete, and there was a giant white pine that had fallen onto—into—the ice.
Actually, the first thing the boys noticed was the bench where I had told them we could eat lunch—we've been there before—but it was still too early so I told them to run and play for a while first. Naturally they had to try the ice, and when Zion didn't hear cracking he announced it was safe. What he didn't notice was that he was slowly sinking in what was, really, just a layer of dense slush. Nathan actually stood still long enough that water started welling up around his feet. It was pretty cool.
After lunch I couldn't resist venturing out onto the fallen tree trunk; after he saw me neither could Zion. He went farther than me, too. I suppose he was determined to get out into the middle of the pond somehow.
Nathan and Harvey were more cautious, but they did get out a little ways too. I wonder what will happen to the tree in the summer? How long will it be laying there before it decays? The wood is totally sound—it was just the roots that gave up, as the dirt around them at the edge of the pond washed away. Clearly more expedition will be necessary in months to come. We stand ready to undertake them.