We attended a Super Bowl gathering on Sunday evening—one that was well suited to our level of interest in the game. The invitation went, "So I guess there's a Super Bowl... want to come over and pretend to care?" The email went out on Friday, and I wasn't even sure exactly when I was being invited to attend... I was pretty sure the Super Bowl happens on Sunday, but was it thisSunday, or the one following? (no worries, the internet had the deets for me). Now, I don't want to sound like I'm coolly disdainful of the whole thing—that's just obnoxious. There was a time when I knew all about football and cared quite a lot about who won the title. But time has mellowed me (which is to say, left me uncool and out of touch) and neither professional sports nor television are now any part of my life. Parties are, though, so I was more than happy to go! I brought rocky road bars and cheddar jalapeno biscuits.
We kicked off the festivities at 5, which meant we had time to watch almost a whole soccer game (Bayern Munich defeating Real Madrid back in July, because if you haven't seen it before it's new to you!). Then we watched the first 30 minutes of the American football on tape delay so we could skip the bad commercials (it turns out they were all bad except the Smart Park one, which was at least worth discussing). Then we went home. In between the watching we ate hamburgers and chili and chips, and then ice cream sundaes. And biscuits and rocky road bars. And the small children played football and soccer amongst themselves, which is much better than watching it (the bigger children were more drawn to the television screen). It was a good time all around.
I understand from a tweet from our president that the Chiefs ended up winning the thing; congratulations to them, and I hope everyone playing had a good time!
The most immediate loss to me last week when the blog came to a crashing halt was the post I had just finished up at the time—a good four or five paragraphs about our wonderful experiences at a classical music concert. When I pushed "publish" it disappeared into the void where $_POST variables go without a script to process them. As you can see, the blog is now (mostly) up and running—but I'll never write those words again. Other parts of the website aren't fully recovered, though, and a more lasting loss comes from the missed week of weather reporting. See, I usually make a little note everyday on what the weather brought us—my record goes back years. It's of course theoretically possible for me to have made weather notes on a text document or even, you know, a piece of paper, but my brain just doesn't work that way.
And it's some crazy weather that I missed! Our winter is broken: it's been well above freezing almost every day for at least a week. There hasn't been any snow for two weeks, and it seems like what cold we have only comes with clear skies; whenever there's any precipitation it's, at best, snow mixing with rain. There's a winter storm watch for tomorrow, and it's for sleet. That doesn't do anyone any good. At least the ice was thick enough that it's still sticking around on the more sheltered ponds. We take what we can get. Even when we're not writing it down.
Wednesdays are usually home days for us, but we can never say no to a walk in the woods, so when the invitation came yesterday we headed off to Carlisle for a hike with members of the Greater Lowell Homeschoolers facebook group (including a significant overlap with our own co-op). That we'd never been to the Towle Land town forest made it even more enticing! Because we're getting good at this we were the first ones there, but it wasn't long before everyone gathered—a pretty good group, with six or seven adults and uncountable numbers of kids. It was good there wasn't much of a wait, because it was hard to hold the kids back from the trail.
Towle Land is a lovely woods: there are plenty of ups and downs on the trail, but nothing too steep, a generously-flowing stream, and plenty of vernal pool hollows still filled with water and ice this strange wet winter. Plus some awesome rocks to climb on!
With all the fun terrain we didn't just hike on through. In fact, I don't think we ever went farther than a couple hundred yards before we stopped to play on something or other. That's the way to make a mile-long hike take two hours! Two hours for us, at least; the group had varied levels of woods experience, so other people were done sooner. Especially the ones who didn't bring any food (you know we never make that mistake!). Also the ones who fell in puddles playing on the ice.
I enjoyed interacting with the (slightly) wider homeschool community, and meeting some new people. The boys were fine with it, but they were happiest when everyone else had headed home and they were free to play with their good friends from co-op. They can never get enough time with them. "Why can't they come over to our house after?!" is the constant refrain. Because everybody has lives to live! But don't worry: we've got full days of co-op fun with them today and tomorrow. Living the homeschooling dream!
Sometimes when I'm driving on the highway I look at the cars around me and wonder if folks in them appreciate how nice it is to be driving something that you can trust completely to get them where they're going. Because I don't always feel that way. In fact, I think it's fair to say that for something like half of my driving life I've found myself in a vehicle that has something untrustworthy about it. We're in that half now. Our wonderful minivan, which we've had for almost six years now is showing signs that it doesn't have much left to give. At 233,000 miles that's not unexpected, but it is inconvenient... especially when it's not the only failing technology we're having to deal with lately.
I mentioned the couches and the oven a few months ago; the oven is still with us, and often it works like you would expect. But there are times when it doesn't, like this evening, which as you might imagine makes dinner prep kind of stressful. Leah spent the evening researching sub-$500 ovens, which might sound a little suspect until you think of how the only thing going wrong in our current model is the electronics behind all those fancy digital displays and push buttons. Maybe if we just go back to knobs and dials we'll be all right! (if we could, we'd go all the way back to wood and matches, but our kitchen isn't set up for that kind of thing). Then there's the fridge, which every couple weeks decides it's going to freeze the vegetables and thaw the freezer. All together it makes for a general background level of nervousness—interspersed with moments of existential terror. Which is about right for life here in the 21st century USA!
It got cold yesterday, and it was cold all day today. I love it. My favorite time of day when it's clear and cold is first thing in the morning or later at night, when the air is so still that I can go outside without putting on all my winter gear and experience the cold and quiet without feeling chilled myself—as long as I don't stand around experiencing too long! I just went out this evening to close up the chicken coop and make sure the hens were all cuddled up together, and it was a beautiful welcome peaceful moment after a day full of fun and conversation with kids and friends. Of course, this being the broken winter it is the cold won't last long... but I'm sure enjoying it while it lasts.
Blogging is hard work, so I'm training the kids up to help me out. For the last few weeks I've helped them do some journaling—taking a couple minutes in the morning to think of something worth noting down from the last couple days. Here's Lijah's from today (as scribed by me):
Yesterday we went to Grandma's house. We went to see the ice. We went to the ice and adventured! Zion was smashing the ice. I was sliding on the ice. It was very very fun!
All I need to do now is teach him to type and I'm out of a job!
Now that the light is returning, the hens have started laying in earnest. We missed our trip to the egg farm last Thursday because our homeschool day in Concord was cancelled, but that didn't matter—we ate the regular amount of eggs this week and we still have almost a full dozen waiting on the counter (as I think about it, it helps that our broken oven is keeping me from baking anything...). As they collect the eggs the boys have restarted the recording that we did a couple years ago, keeping track of each day's counts. We're planning to make a graph when we have enough data, but I can already say that it will have a curious spike in it: a couple days ago we discovered a cache of eggs hidden underneath the hen house, and with some good careful work with a long stick the boys brought in nine that day. After that we left a couple old eggs in the nesting boxes to let the hens know where they're supposed to be doing their laying. It seems to be working. A great start to the farming season... now it's time to get some seeds going!
Yesterday it occurred to me that three out of the four "altercations" I've had on the bike path in ten years of cycle communing came when people got mad at me for passing them without warning (the fourth was when someone called me out for drafting behind him, and he was totally right to do so—I don't do that anymore!). There was that "on your right" guy, and then another time I almost got in a fight with some office bro who yelled at me to get a bell. I was thinking about all this because the fourth incident happened yesterday morning.
I was riding along on the bike path just east of Arlington Center. Just by Spy Pond I caught up to a gentleman wearing street clothes and riding a road bike, who was moving at a moderate pace at the far left-hand edge of the lane. There were a few walkers on the path and we were coming up to the crossing at Linwood Street, so I slowed down to stay behind him (at a reasonable distance, as per the previous paragraph!). He must have known I was there; the bike I'm riding these days has an audible ratchet noise when coasting, and I as slow as he was going I was mostly coasting. Far from moving over, though, he moved even more to the left: a foot or so into the opposite lane. So I didn't pass him. After we crossed Lake Street he was going slower than ever and I saw my moment—since he'd rung his bell when passing a walker I knew he was that sort of person so I gave him a quiet "on your left" as I started to go around. I guess he didn't hear me, because as I came up on him he moved even more left and yelled at me in an aggrieved tone, "let me know when you're passing!"
As I went by I told him that I did, and I apologized that he hadn't heard me, all in kind of a rush since I was already leaving him far in the rear. And I'm not good at saying things fast. Which made me wonder. What was his behavior all about? I had thought at first that he just wasn't paying attention, which is why he was taking up the whole path in the manner of a six-year-old out on a two-wheeler for the first time. But he hit me with the angry comment so fast I couldn't help but think that he must have known I was there the whole time! That made me wonder... was he trying to keep me from passing? Or trap me into passing without letting him know so he could make a remark? I don't know.
I do know why I don't ring a bell or say "on your left" every time I pass someone: it's super annoying (that, and I don't have a bell). When I'm riding I stay over on the right hand side of the path, and I trust anyone who's going faster than me can pass without comment and without any problem. I want to say that at least half of the people who do say "on your left" do it just to point out that they're passing you, and therefore are better cyclists. Not necessary, since their superior speed shows that on its own. The only time any notice might be necessary is when the rider being passed is coming up on an obstacle that might make them swerve—but in that case, it's clearly the responsibility of the overtaking rider to hold up until the way is clear. Without any verbal communication needed. Especially not yelling.
After 12 cold oven-less days, we're back in action on the baking front with a replacement installed this morning. (Remember when I mentioned our oven seemed like it was on the way out? It was. It never started again after I wrote those words.) After we burned off the foul-smelling chemicals that new ovens apparently come with, the first thing I baked was the batch of sugar cookies that I put in the fridge back on February 13, with the thought of having them for Valentines Day. The two-week-old dough was a little hard to roll out, but the cookies came out fine. Then I made bread. It was kind of rough around here without bread—we did alright with one package of rolls from the store, some bagels from church, and lots of tortillas cooked on the stovetop, but I'm very glad to have real sandwich bread available again. Just in time for our lunch out at homeschool science tomorrow.