new year's musings

the moon over some trees

New Years Eve moon

It's a new year! As always, we begin it full of hopes and aspirations, and also exhausted and ill from partying the old year away. Today the boys and I tried to pause and take stock, and set some goals for the week (it's good to start at a reasonable scale; years are intimidating). The older two want to work on building better Pokemon decks, which is reasonable considering the amount of time and mental space Pokemon has occupied for us over the past week. I want to do better at scheduling working time and playing time, so we can all play—including Pokemon—without me feeling stressed and guilty and yelling at everyone for not working.

It's hard, as the holiday season hangs on to the bitter end. Today we spent all afternoon playing at at our friends' New Years Day party. But before then I managed to get some important work done, installing a heater for the chickens' water. See, it's been really cold here—never above freezing since Christmas Eve, and well below most of the time. In the past I've just brought the waterer inside overnight when it's cold, and then let the hens drink in the morning until it froze up again for the day... but that happens in less than an hour lately. And when it freezes solid, after three hours or so, it takes like half an hour under the hot water in the sink to thaw out. So, the heater. Which we've actually had for while; Leah bought it a few years ago, when she was the primary chicken caretaker. But we never used it since I was nervous about water and electricity and hot surfaces around the hens. We'll see how it goes, but right now those seem like lesser problems compared to them dying of thirst in this bitter cold desert.

Another result of the bitter cold desert air is that it's keeping us inside. The boys, anyways: Zion's and Lijah's little bodies cool down so fast, and when Lijah wears all the clothes he needs to stay warm he can't even move. But we're staving off cabin fever so far; there's so much to do in the house. So far, at least. Take a look at this seven day forecast!


too warm today

I was back on the bicycle this morning, and ready to brave the arctic vortex. Yesterday it was -14°F when I got up, so I was mentally preparing for some intense riding; and physically preparing too, with my best cold-weather outfit yet. Wool socks, fleece boot socks, winter boots; long underwear, jeans, and rain pants; t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, flannel button-down, fleece shirt, spring jacket with hood (I don't like riding in real winter coats for some reason). Then I had my muffler and my extra big hat—Drumlin Farm sheep's wool and a fleece ear band—and my two layers of fleece mittens with ski mitten covers to go over them. I was so warm and cozy... disappointed to see the temperature was all the way up to 7°F.

Of course, I could still wear all that stuff; the only thing I left out was the ski mittens, since they make it hard to operate the shifter. But I didn't absolutely need them—my trip into work wasn't a desperate trek across frozen tundra, against all the odds. It was nice, though. I stopped on the way to do some sliding on the ice of Spy Pond, which is about perfect; unlike all the smaller ponds its ice wasn't so compromised with snow on Christmas day. I wished the boys were there to enjoy it with me, because it won't be perfect anymore after tomorrow's forecast blizzard! Oh well, snow is fun to play in too.

And as for cold, it'll be back too: Saturday is supposed to be the coldest day yet. So maybe my outfit will get another chance.

ice on Spoy Pond

the gleaming expanse


Christmas report

a present for Leah under the tree


We celebrated the 12th Day of Christmas with friends yesterday, and today we observed the end of the season with the ceremonial Taking Down of the Tree and the ceremonial Eating of the Gingerbread Houses For Dessert. Well, the start of the eating, anyway; those houses are big enough they'll satisfy dessert cravings, lunch and dinner, for a couple days at least. With Christmas wrapping up it's time for a quick report so I remember next year what it was like.

the boys opening presents in the semidarkness

opening the opening

We started with our family Christmas pretty late: the darkness from the howling blizzard outside kept the kids in bed longer than we might have expected. Zion was the last up. But by eight everyone was alert and enthusiastic, and we had a delightful time opening gifts. Everyone was excited by something, be it a bow and arrows, a lego dragon, or a new faucet (though Lijah doesn't recognize that the number of his presents is finite, which is a cause of distress to him). This was the first year that Harvey was able to buy presents with his own money—as well as making things—so he was especially interested in seeing how they were received.

It was fine that we got a late start to the morning, because the snow made us pretty uncertain about heading out on the road to my parents' house: we were happy to linger warm and dry. But with a delicious brunch awaiting us we couldn't stay away forever, so at 10:30 we piled into the car for a treacherous 5-mile trip to Lexington. Or maybe a little more than five miles, because on our first try up the big hill at the end of the trip we only made it about 15 feet before slipping backwards, so we had to take an alternate route. Which also involved a lot of slipping and spinning tires... but we made it. And as we came out of the car the snow stopped and the sun came out. So.

The rest of our Christmas day was super relaxed and filled with food and sloth—oh, and some more presents too. More giant lego sets for the bigger boys, and giant stuffed lego figures for Lijah. They were delighted.

Harvey and a donut

what Christmas is all about

It was a little too bad that my brother and his family couldn't be there with us for Christmas day, but not even—because it meant we got to do another Christmas with them a few days later. Lots of food again, and more presents for the kids. But this time we couldn't be entirely relaxed: you can't eat non-stop every other day without getting some exercise! So despite the cold we forced the kids out onto the sledding hill.

Zion and Nisia climbing back up the sledding hill


As it turns out running up and down the hill kept us plenty warm (OK, only Zion ran down very often... up was enough for the rest of us) and we stayed out all the way til sunset. Then there was hot chocolate and the fire to warm us up... and more food, of course.

Harvey in front of Grandpa's fireplace

Christmas coziness

It was all delightful. Let's do it again next year.


moments from the week

our house with Chrismas lights

winter lights

Moments from a quiet week.

turkey drumsticks and other food on the table

some of the New Years Eve feast

snow on the shed

after the blizzard

the boys starting to eat their gingerbread houses

they've been waiting so long

Lijah with a rubber band in his hair pointing a sword like a gun

our warrior


oh $#!*

Zion's new favorite word is "shit". Really! Harvey told him to stop saying it yesterday, and he answered, "but it's my favorite word!" Places where he's busted it out over the past few days: at the dinner table with Grandma and Grandpa; in front of his friend's parents; at church. In fact, at church yesterday he was walking along chanting "shit shit shitty shit..."

I don't know where it comes from, and I don't know what to think about it. On the one hand, what do I care?—I don't mind people swearing in general, and when Zion does it it's actually pretty cute. On the other, I don't want him to offend anyone, especially since when he does the blame will fall on me. I suppose it's... just a phase?


Lijah in the cargo bike in the snow

out and about!

After two solid weeks of below freezing (often below zero!) temperatures, and a couple of blizzards (well, almost blizzards) it was nice to feel a little warmth again the past couple days. Monday it almost hit freezing, and yesterday it blew past the freezing mark to reach the high 30s for a few hours. Positively tropical. We celebrated by getting the bikes out for the first time in quite a while.

Past time, too: our destination was the library, where we had many overdue books to return. But never mind the fines, it was lovely to be out and about under our own power again. It would have been lovely had the sidewalks been better cleared; going uphill we needed to be in the roadway or we wouldn't have been able to make any progress at all in the slush (at least the sidewalks are now plowed at all, five days after the storm). Even in our sleepy little town some drivers didn't appreciate sharing the road in the middle of the afternoon, which made me a little grumpy. I don't like being honked at. But we made it, and returned our books and got new ones, and I got to take a little nap in the children's room while the kids looked at books. Fresh air is tiring!

Harvey's bike in a snowy bike rack

a capable machine


moments from the week

Zion atop a giant snow mountain

king of the mountain

Moments from the past week of dramatic weather shifts.

Harvey, Zion, and Havana playing a board game

winter sport

Lijah and Kamilah in the snow, making silly faces

selfie faces for a non-selfie

Lijah pikachu crawling out of a snow fort

pikachu in the snow

the boys smiling in the half-built playhouse

builders resting

Harvey and Zion playing pokemon cards on the porch

I guess it got warmer

Harvey, shoeless in shorts, batting a snowball with a shovel

snow ball

Harvey and Zion's snow boots completely encased in mud

thaw: the aftermath


pokemon cards

Since Christmas, Pokemon cards have entered our lives in a big way. I know, right? Here's the story. For some reason, this school year saw a resurgence of card collecting among the elementary-school set. I pushed back at first, but with Pokemon excitement sweeping the neighborhood it was inevitable that some cards would come our way before long. Looking back at the photos, I can see that as early as the summer there were already impromptu poke-battles happening in our house.

boys and friends playing with pokemon cards

the latest craze

Nobody actually knew how to play, which was a little frustrating to me, but I managed to let it go. Then in the fall Grandma Beth, a keen observer of children's interest, bought a learner deck for the boys. It ran them through all the steps of the game, the right way. I couldn't help but listen in as they played. Soon afterwards Harvey bought a deck of his own... but then sadly traded its best cards away for flashier cards that he couldn't actually play.

By Christmas we had accumulated a couple hundred cards (mostly for free... thanks, Kelsey!) and Harvey had bought a second deck to replace the first one—which he had by then lost anyway. By then he knew all the ins and outs of the rules, and was really hoping to find some opponents worthy of his developing skills. So I bought Zion a deck as a Christmas present... and added one for myself, too. Why not?! They're only $15 a piece.

Only, not really. When I first figured out the rules I was underwhelmed by the game: I declared that it was a deck-building game where the interesting parts of the experience came while you were spending money. At first, the actual head-to-head game play felt pretty flat. That's still true. But it turns out that the more money you spend, the more interesting the games get! And let's just say that, by this point, I'm pretty interested.

I do have moments of sanity—if not to say disillusionment. Why do I need to pay seventy-nine cents for a card with some particular words on it, so my deck can do what I want it to? Can't I just take some other random card and write on it with a permanent marker?! I could, actually; and that line of thought has us thinking about designing our own trading card game. One day. But for now we're enjoying the complete Pokemon experience: building our decks, researching old cards and new releases, and watching championship matches on youtube. And playing against each other and a few friends!

the boys playing pokemon at church

have cards, will travel

It's probably just a phase, but it looks like one that's not likely to run its course anytime soon. We need more opponents... any interest in learning to play?


final Discovery

The moments from the week will be a little sparse tomorrow because for a combination of reasons I took almost no pictures over the past week. That means we'll miss remembering—among other things—some beautiful sparkling sunshine, six boys on one couch playing Mario Kart, and our first at-home Pokemon tournament. But worst of all, I forgot to bring the camera yesterday when we visited the Discovery Museum and played in the old house for what may well be the last time ever.

See, after 35 years of delighting children of all ages from 1-8, the museum folks feel that they've outgrown the not-huge Victorian house where it all began. It wasn't enough to supplement it with an education space and a science museum for older kids and the best playground space ever—with the original museum feeling cramped and shabby (not to mention far from ADA-compliant) they plan to bring all the indoor exhibits together under one roof. That roof is currently scheduled to open February 10, at which point the house will be closed to the public forever.

Sad news. The museum as it is has a ramshackle charm that's really hard to find these days. All the exhibits are clearly made out of recycled material and things you can find at any hardware store. And the fact that they're sited in what's very clearly still a reasonably modest single-family home drives home the point that you, too, could be as creative if you cared to. What a discovery!

But times change, and Yelp reviewers in 2017 2018 demand flashier design and cleaner carpets (plus universally accessible bathrooms, for preference). As I wrote when I first learned of the proposed changes last year: given the fantastic success of Discovery Woods I'm inclined to give the museum leadership the benefit of the doubt. There will be wonderful things in the new museum when we visit it (in late February at the earliest!). But it won't be the same. We very much enjoyed our visit yesterday, and I really wish we had photos to prove it.

Instead we just have to remember things in our minds. Who even does that?!


moments from the week

Zion, Lijah, and Julen building at Learning Express

playspace engineers

A couple moments from the past week.

Lijah and Kamilah dancing in the low-light playroom

evening dance


a story which must be told

A bit over a week ago, at the tail end of the previous thaw (we're in another one now) the boys and I were on a walk with Rascal. When we found ourselves close to Bedford's newest pond* the bigger boys naturally wanted to check out the ice.

Harvey and Zion inching across the ice on the pond

carefully now...

Even after 5 days of mild weather it still took their weight without a problem—that's what comes of the thaw following two solid weeks of well below freezing. Unfortunately, we find that frozen mud thaws faster than frozen water, and when they reached the far bank and foolishly stepped off the ice they sank ankle deep in oozing quicksand. Harvey managed to escape, but in trying to turn around Zion tripped and fell onto his hand and knees. It took lots of help from Harvey to get him up, and then more help to get his boot out of the mire—his foot had come up without it and it was pretty much submerged. Then, because his love for his brother leads him to provide support emotional as well as practical, Harvey took off one of his own boots to make Zion feel better as they crossed back to me and Elijah. Better, but not completely happy.

Zion crying, covered with mud


After we dumped maybe a pint of water out of the boot I told Zion to put it back on: the thaw was coming to a dramatic end even as we walked, and with temperatures dipping below freezing I figured a wet boot would be lots better than no boot for our nearly mile-long walk home. Zion's hands were also giving trouble: there was no way we could wipe that mud off them, and we didn't want to ruin his coat sticking all that muck through the sleeves. But he was in danger of freezing to death. So I had him wrap his hands up in the front of his shirt, and then I zipped his coat up around him.

Which I suppose would have been fine if he could walk, but he couldn't; and with the state his boots (and feet) were in I couldn't blame him. I was pushing Lijah in the stroller, so I had Zion stand on his scooter and pushed that along too (Harvey took the dog). That was fine until the little scooter wheels hit a stick and Zion fell on his face. At that point Lijah was evicted so Zion could be brought home alive (though he did take a brief ride on Zion's lap; a mile is a long way for his little legs, especially when someone else is riding).

By the time we got home Zion had recovered a bit, but of course when we saw Mama just getting home as we turned onto the street he had to cry a little for her too. Luckily she knows how to take care of cold boys, and also where the boot dryer is, because we sure needed it. It turns out that pond mud dries as hard as the finest clay!

Harvey and Zion's snow boots completely encased in mud

thaw: the aftermath

*I call it "Bedford's newest pond" because it is: DPW folks dug it in the summer when to replace another area of wetland lost to ball fields. So far, apparently, no one but me has used that phrase in the history of Google, which is something.


moments from the week

the boys resting in a field

winter relaxation

Moments from the past week.

the boys concentrating on art at the kitchen table

concentrating on their work

Harvey and Zion playing Pokemon

one of many battles

Lijah walking in the rain

winter rain is the coldest

Lijah, Henry, and Liam playing a board game

playing superheros

Lijah on a couch at the library, looking at a book

enjoying the library sunbeam

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan playing soccer in Nathan\'s backyard

winter ball


experiencing winter's ice

With the snow mostly melted and some stings of warm days, sometimes it's hard to remember that it's still winter around here. But so deep was December's chill that all the ponds are still well-covered with thick ice, so when Friday dawned cold and clear we thought it would be the perfect day for an icy expedition.

Harvey and Zion on the ice of Fawn Lake, Lijah looking on


Since we wanted to expunge the memory of the last time any of us were out on the ice, we made sure to prepare properly. That meant that the bicycle was well full of anything we might need. Including a blanket, of course!

Zion the full cargo bike bucket

Lijah is there too, under the blanket

The crushed stone bike path was in good shape as we started out, but closer to the pond conditions really deteriorated, and for the last mile we spent half the time pushing the bikes over long stretches where the slush had frozen into a solid—and lumpy!—covering. Not the kind of ice we were looking for!

Harvey walking his bike over the icy icy path

ice road biker

But we persevered, and eventually made it to Fawn Lake, which was covered in just the right sort of beautifully smooth ice. (The thaws do an amazing job of melting all the snow without really touching the depth of ice coverage—this year is the first time I've ever seen that happen, and it's happened twice already.) We set off to cross right away, but some disturbing cracking noises sent us scurrying back before we made it a third of the way. Never mind, there was lots of fun to be had climbing on rocks and running around the field.

Lijah in hat and mittens

keeping cozy

After lunch we recovered our bravery enough to venture a little way onto the ice to investigate a trio of ice blocks some previous explorers had cut out and set on end. The holes they had come from were long frozen over, so we didn't worry about falling in; and they made fine, if chilly seats. Not that we sat for long, since the warm sun shining on the ice made it wonderfully slick. I found I could run and slide on my front for, oh, ten feet or so. Of course, then everyone else had to try it.

the boys sliding on the ice on their stomachs

playing penguins

Even Lijah overcame most of his nervousness about the curious noises that the ice produced from time to time to be able to take some good slides. Yes, we love ice! Not the kind on the path, though—we went home on the road to avoid that nonsense.

Zion sitting on an ice block

cool on the ice