All our little ones are Mama's boys: it takes them a couple years to appreciate the finer things Dada has to offer (like lego-building help and board game playing). But while Lijah would much prefer to spend time with Leah, at least around the house, he does occasionally deign to hang out with me. And am I ever glad of that, because he's about the cutest!
He needed some more t-shirts, and a friend providentially provided: a whole load of little boy shirts with all the sorts of messages marketers want for our male youths. But I love how this outfit gives him the look of a real farm kid! We don't have dirt bikes, but he makes up for it by being daring on the slide.
Yup, as long as I let him get wet or dirty or take something apart, he's happy enough to be with me... for at least 20 minutes. Aren't I a lucky father!
A moment from the week.
It's not just our day camp that's been occupying all our attention these days. Summer days are full of all sorts of adventures, and by the time the sun is headed down towards the horizon and we're ready to sit still, it's time to go to bed (especially now that I've learned that blue light in the evening negatively affects one's sleeping patterns).
But if I don't write about it, did it even happen? Our brains are so muddled these days there's no chance we'll remember these two weeks next year without written evidence, so I'd better find some time to get blogging again!
A moment from the week.
Besides Lijah hanging out in the wheelbarrow, this week saw a few more moments worthy of note. Harvey's been very aware of his teeth.
He had two that were a little bit loose, and when he fell on a rock he knocked one out and loosened the other a whole lot more. He's praying every night that it doesn't fall out when he's asleep.
On Tuesday we celebrated cousin Nisia's birthday. The boys have a great time whenever they see her... about once a year. We took a picture of all the Archibalds together to commemorate this year's meeting, and demonstrate that we're all equally awkward in posed photographs.
Camp continues apace.
It's all great fun but a lot of work, and we're not at our best all the time. We're working on getting what rest we can, where ever we can find it.
Yay for summer.
There are lots of reasons that summer is different from the other seasons here in the squibix household. A notable one is my shower schedule. See, when I'm heading off to work every day, it seems only polite to shower in the morning. It's just what folks do. And it works because in the winter when I get home it's just about dark already, so I don't get much chance to get very dirty. But summers—when I'm home all day with plenty of gardening, home repair, and soccer with the boys to occupy my time—it's another story. This time of year, on hot busy days the idea of getting into bed all begrimed with the residue of the day seems unthinkable. So I shower in the evenings.
Because as far as I can tell sleeping doesn't get me particularly dirty. Sure, sometimes when I wake up my hair isn't entirely presentable, but that's what hats are for! To be honest, I'm not sure how the practice of morning showers arose; folks who bathe their children regularly (I know, who does that?!) do it at the end of the day, since that's when they can see the dirt. It just makes sense.
On reflection, I'd bet you there's some correspondence between morning showers and the growing share white-collar workers in the economy. You just can't get that dirty in the office, so there's not that visceral need for a bath when you finish up in the evening. But since Americans need to shower daily, folks don't just dispense with their ablutions altogether—they just move em to the morning.
It's probably not a big deal. And I'm sure none of you cares when I shower (as long as I don't skip too many days in a row, since I too am an American). But when I think about it for too long I start to resent that morning shower. An evening shower is an indulgence for the showerer: it was a hard day, but with the work over the labor's stains are washed away. Showering before work strikes me as more of an offering for the corporate masters: as if they'll only permit you to offer your time if you prepare yourself like you're going to a wedding. Which, in this economy, may well be true. But I don't have to like it, and at least in the summer I don't have to lump it either.
Fight the power! Long live the evening bath!
At bedtime I almost always ask the boys about their favorite part of the day. I like to pray thanksgivings with them, and it's nice to know what they might feel particularly thankful for. Of course, as I ask I'm pretty sure what I'm going to hear for an answer: "I don't know, what did we do today, again?" Coupled with the other frequent bedtime question—"what fun thing are we going to do tomorrow"—and it's enough to drive a parent to distraction.
In their defense, I must say it's not as bad as it sounds. In Harvey's case it's his natural caution about not wanting to answer any question wrong that's holding him back; what if he forgot something that he should have enjoyed?! But most likely he recalls it all. And Zion's always hard-pressed to name something he didn't love about our day. "Playing with our friends" is almost always his first answer, when he remembers anything; but then when I remind him of the other events of the day he cheerfully adds them to his list of favorites.
So really, there's plenty of gratefulness to go around... even when I have to dig deep to find it!
When we moved into this house ten years ago, it was in much better shape than it is today in lots of ways, but it was seriously short of flowers. The landscaping we inherited could boast of no more color than rhododendrons a couple weeks a year. Bit by bit, I'm working to change that.
We appreciate the variety, and I hope the neighbors enjoy it a little bit—in compensation for some of our other landscaping failures—but the biggest winners are the birds. The headliners the last few weeks have been the hummingbirds that feed from the bee balm (those red flowers in the picture above). They're always thrilling to watch, even when I see them every day (they're also completely unphotographable with my skills and equipment, and really tough to point out to the kids). I've also been noticing goldfinches enjoying the seeds of the black-eyed susans, and house sparrows are currently nesting in the wisteria vines. Blackberries aren't flowers, but they're another aspect of our landscaping that attracts birds: specifically some sort of gray jay-like bird with a call that sounds like a cross between an upset baby and an upset cat. Anyone have any idea what it might be?
None of these birds—with the exception of the house sparrows—would have had any place in our yard of ten years ago. It's not a big deal, and I didn't set out to make a bird-friendly environment, but I like having them around. Just like we want to offer hospitality for people I'm delighted to extend it to birds as well.
A moment from the week.
I had a chance to do some weeding yesterday. As I hand-weed I enjoy noticing what I'm pulling up: some weeds are old adversaries that I've been struggling with for years, others are easy to get rid of, and some are pretty or interesting enough that I wish I could leave them to grow—and sometimes do. Yesterday I noticed a weed that I remembered from our "community garden" plot last year, but which I hadn't ever seen in the yard before. But even with all that observation, I really don't know much about most of my weeds—most notably, I couldn't give you a name for hardly a one.
I wish that weren't so. Knowing a thing's name helps me remember it, categorize it—really notice it in a different way. Take plantain—not the banana looking thing, but the broadleaf weed that you probably work to keep out of your yard. It's everywhere, and it can help treat ailments from diarrhea to poison ivy rash, but for a long time I only noticed it when I was trying to pull it out of my lawn until I learned about it on a historical nature walk with a third-grade class (I've long since given up caring about even non-medicinal lawn weeds, by the way). Now I notice it all the time. Or black walnut: there are several trees around the center of town, but it wasn't until I learned what they were that I even noticed the hundreds of nuts! And what about elderberries? When you learn what they are and what you can make with the flowers and berries, you'll suddenly notice that they're everywhere, free for the foraging! (I noticed after I bought two plants for our yard.)
Even when there's no immediate advantage to knowing something's name, it's nice to have a label to hang your noticings on. I discovered that bird I wrote about the other day is a gray catbird, and just knowing the name and a few facts has let me pay much better attention to the pair in our yard. It was a site called whatbird.com that clued me in: it lets you put in what you know about the bird—color, size, head shape, and location in my case—and gives you a list of possibilities to look at. Now I just need to find something similar for weeds.
Of course, even better would be the chance to hang out with someone who actually knows this stuff. Can you imagine what life must have been like before we got all our learning from the internet? I'm amazed birds or weeds even have names any more... that the knowledge hasn't just disappeared in the last 50 years, leaving each individual to make up their own descriptive names: "spiky grass weed", "lawn cabbage", "lemon hearts". Although sometimes that works: I totally would have gone with "gray cat bird" if I had to come up with something myself. But it's nice to have confirmation!
On Friday the boys and I took a walk in the woods and marshes across the street.
The cranberry bogs we slid on last winter are all dried out now—for the summer or forever remains to be seen—so we thought we'd have an easy time of it, and maybe even be able to cross the brook for the first time ever. There were certainly some pretty sights along the way.
But there was also hot sun and bugs and, worst of all, vast stands of grass with tiny barbs all over its leaves. It's growing everywhere that in another summer would be wet, and pushing through it with the day camp group on Thursday we ended up with cuts all over our legs. Friday we had long pants, but Zion and sometimes even Harvey had to watch out for wounds to the arms. So when we reached the brook we called a halt for a snack and headed back, defeated.
Still, it was a beautiful hike and we all enjoyed most of it.
Saturday we ventured into downtown Boston, against Leah's much better judgement, to take in a little bit of very loud music at the Copley Arts Festival.
Despite the crowds we were able to meet up with some friends who, settling in for the long haul towards the start of the day-long proceedings, had texted us where they were hanging out (sadly, we missed a different group of friends who were there at the same time). Being country mice, we didn't spend much time in front of the stage, instead seeking out some slightly quieter spaces with a little more room to play.
And of course, we also took in the sights of the big city.
Half of the reason I wanted to go was to give the boys another trip on the train, the first since our adventure back in November. They were appropriately appreciative, even when tired out at the end of the day.
Lijah turns out to be a big fan as well: he was shining with excitement and delight all the way there. That the same excitement kept him from falling asleep on the way home—despite a great and obvious need—until just before our last stop was unfortunate but maybe predictable. We'll give him another chance in a couple months.
As I mentioned the other day, two years ago we planted two little elderberry bushes. They were just little things their first year, in real danger of being destroyed by kids playing ball, but the next year they shot up wonderfully, and produced lots of flowers and then berries; only I didn't know what to do with them. This year the yield looks to be double what it was a year ago, and even though I still don't know what I'm doing I went ahead and cut the latecomers among the blossoms for elderflower syrup.
We followed (roughly) the recipe on this page. The first step was pulling all the flowers off their stems, and Harvey and Lijah set to the task with a will.
(OK, so Lijah was more interested in eating the flowers, but he was still totally part of the process.)
I'm not clear what I'm going to do with the syrup, besides give it away (two half-pints already gone!), but I tried some in some soda water and it was pleasantly refreshing. We'll make more next year.
Naturally, the flowers we picked means that many fewer berries from the plants. But there's no shortage, so in a month or so there will also be elderberry syrup and jelly available for interested parties.
Tuesday I took Lijah out of the house early so Leah could have some quiet time after a rough night. We biked down to the river.
It was a beautiful morning, and the mist was still rising. Of course Lijah only cared about one thing.
I enjoy sharing moments with that little boy. As nice as it was experiencing the scene in that first picture, it was even better with him.
A moment from the week.