Last Sunday Harvey celebrated his birthday with his friends. He wanted a Lego theme, and he was only interested in inviting five peers—which meant that, with siblings and parents, we had 14 kids and eight adults sharing the fun. As a group of mostly homeschoolers, the kids would have been fine entertaining themselves, but a themed party needs activities and I was there to make them happen. We started off with "brick tag" (blob tag, but more thematic), and then I invited anyone interested to try and spell out "Happy Birthday Harvey" with the big pile of Duplos we'd dumped out on the lawn. They managed it, and even added an exclamation point!
Up next was dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. After we ate it was time for the main event: the building contest. The kids got together into teams—well, mostly; the bigger kids all chose to work alone—and I asked them to think of a theme they'd like to focus on for the contest and write it on a slip of paper. Picking out of a real hat, I drew "castles", and they were off!
Harvey picks his friends well—almost all of them, ages six to eleven, could have kept building indefinitely. As it was I let them go for about an hour, which gave the adults some nice quiet conversation time to themselves outside. Unfortunately, the judging process—which I left to them—was a little disappointing. They didn't entirely appreciate the energy and effort the kids put into their creations, so the prize delivery was a little underwhelming for the kids. Still, Harvey and Ollie's flying castle-ish pirate ship quite deservedly won best in show... and then we had cake. I wished I could have gotten the frosting on a little smoother, but even with the indifferent texture I'm still going to go ahead and say it was the best yellow one-by-two brick cake anyone there had ever seen. And pretty tasty too: chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and buttercream frosting. Harvey approved.
So he's totally eight now. And we have even more legos in the house. Maybe we should have given some away as party favors?
Like we do, we celebrated Independence Day at Concord's "Picnic in the Park". Our descriptions of it over the years are so glowing that we enticed several other families out to experience it themselves, and it was nice hanging out with them a bit—but we also had some lovely family time.
Once again we biked in, all together this time, and once again we brought our tent. It's so nice both as a source of shade in the big baking field and as a home base to dump all our stuff. When we're hanging out at a picnic for five hours we need to really set up camp!
None of our experience was particularly patriotic, in any explicit way (which is fine by me!). But it was, as always, wonderfully small-town American. We did a sack race and a three-legged race.
We listened to music, enjoyed boughten popcorn and Italian ice, and jumped in the bouncy house (well, Zion and Harvey jumped; Lijah wasn't feeling it and they wouldn't let me in). Harvey decorated a little wooden train with paint and stickers. Zion and Lijah played with Julen on the playground. But the most fun of all was the fire truck and its hose. Last year I think the kids just ran in the spray; this year they were much more intimately involved.
We approached the firemen as they came back after a break, so there weren't many kids around. That meant Zion, Julen, and Lijah each got to take maybe a dozen turns with the hose; Harvey got five or six when he showed up too. They had a great time. Getting sprayed was plenty fun too.
As we were cycling home it occurred to me that we hadn't talked at all with the boys about the meaning of the 4th of July. Did they even notice that this fair was connected to a particular holiday? Maybe not—definitely not, in Lijah's case. But how much could he understand about the Declaration of Independence, anyway? I don't think it matters. The important thing is, we're free to have a good party. Happy summer, and happy fourth day of July!
You may have noticed in yesterday's post that Lijah wore a fleece winter hat to the 4th of July entertainment. I guess he wanted to top Monday, when he wore long pants—also fleece—and a long-sleeved shirt for our hike in the blazing sun. Well, at least we didn't have to worry about sunburn.
Who knows why he does the things he does. All we know is that he's determined. Always determined, in all things: he now finishes every sentence with a grumpy pout. I should try to take a picture. Some times we do need to try and convince him to change his mind—like when he wants nothing more than to break his brother's toys—but his need to wear winter clothes is more or less ok with us. Sure, we try and suggest more seasonably-appropriate attire, and we make sure to bring a sensible change of clothes on all our outings in case he relents. So far he hasn't, really, even when prostrated by heat. I carried him for a while on Monday's hike, since he couldn't really move he was so overheated. I figure he knows his own mind, and there are few enough areas where he really has control of his life, so this isn't the worst thing. Plus the hat is super cute!
With so many kids around us on a school schedule, it makes sense for us to follow suit. And summer does seem special, anyway. But just not doing school doesn't make it special enough—we spend lots of time not doing school! No, to truly mark summer as distinct we need to do... summer camp.
Last time we ran a summer day camp program, back in 2015, it was fun but a little overwhelming. So this time I'm operating on kind of an invitation-only basis. That means it's only my fault if I get carried away and invite a whole lot of kids.
For our first outing, back on the last Monday in June, we biked a couple miles to Bedford's biggest pond, Fawn Lake, and hiked around it. Pausing of course to have lunch!
With Leah at work I was a little worried about how Lijah would cope with the crowd—and with my divided attention—but he did fine. With plenty of good models around he sees himself at a pretty capable adventurer.
All the kids felt capable; it was great to see them running and exploring and taking risks and communicating. My co-counselor Bridget and I did our best to give them free rein, even when they started negotiating street crossings on their own on the ride home.
That's just what summer camp is for: confidence. That, and spending four hours outside on an outing and then running to play outside some more when you get home. Check and check.
Last Monday we went on another day camp excursion. With a clear hot day forecast, I wanted a trip that would be cool and comfortable. So we started out with a lovely 3-mile bike ride through the shady woods.
Our destination was Concord's Great Meadows bird sanctuary, which is mostly water. I'd never been before, and assumed all the wetness would make it feel cool and refreshing. Not so much, as it turns out, since the main thing we noticed was the lack of shade.
Still, there were lots of cool things to see, and not just birds: we also spotted a young snapping turtle, a frog, and lots of interesting plants. And there was water here and there to play in, like the pair of concrete fords someone built back when cars were traveling those paths.
My co-counselor this time was Elizabeth, and she'd visited the sanctuary lots of times before. She guided us to a lovely spot by the Concord River where we could have lunch—and we never would have made it that far without her promise of good things ahead! Then the post lunch walk back to the bikes was entirely manageable.
As was the ride home, once again in the shade. After all our sweating and exertion Harvey and I thought it would be fair if we detoured slightly for a stop at Chip-In Farm to look at the animals and pick up some emergency sugar rations, in the shape of 25¢ of penny candy per camper. That's why we have that big camp budget.
Zion ran all day, Harvey walked and talked, and Lijah survived in long pants and long-sleeve shirt (I carried him a fair amount, to keep him from dying). They all felt very summery.
The end of last week we were on vacation on Cape Cod. That's the sort of thing you can get away with when you have a house to visit there. We had two lovely summery days and one foggy rainy one, and we attacked all three with vacation energy.
We got to Truro after lunch on Thursday, and spent most of the afternoon on the beach. Unlike last time, the water in Cape Cod Bay was plenty warm enough for swimming.
Besides spending lots of time in the water, Harvey also got to practice keeping the acrobatic kite aloft. Grandpa appreciated having someone else interested in it.
Zion's role was to launch the thing again when it crashed, which he enjoyed. He and Lijah also made sure to take plenty of time to just sit and relax.
The next day was cloudy and drizzly, with serious rain in the forecast. Harvey and I brought our bikes; thinking we wouldn't want to miss better weather with the family later we figured a damp morning would be the perfect time for a ride and headed out. Our first big stop was Welfleet center, where of course we visited the toy store.
Then we explored a woodsy path that led us just about to Rt 6; seeing it we figured we might as well try the other side of the Cape and see if we could make it to the Atlantic Ocean. We did—not that we could really see much when we got there.
At least it wasn't pouring rain, though the drizzle that had started up as we approached the beach led us to change into our swimsuits a little early, to save our clothes from a soaking. We had the beach to ourselves, and we played in the waves and watched a seal swim just a few yards away, but we didn't stay long—I was a little worried the skies would open. Naturally, soon after we left the beach the rain dried up and started to get hot as we picked our way towards home. It ended up being a 14 mile ride—here's an approximation of our course—and Harvey did great, even with all the hills he had to walk up.
After lunch at home the torrential rain showed up, but by dinner time it was clearing up again. How about another walk on the beach! Rascal swam and swam, then decided he was done.
Saturday we started to get bored with playing in the house and going to the beach, so we went out for a hike. Unfortunately even the hikes on the Outer Cape are pretty beachy.
Great Island in Welfleet is a lovely place, but it wasn't quite what our tired kids were looking for—especially when the flies started biting. So we beat a retreat, a little acrimoniously. Never mind, on the way back to the car we got to see two tortoises and five hundred fiddler crabs, and watch the tide race in, which cheered us all up immensely. Well, almost all of us; Lijah actually fell asleep in the carrier.
We had planned to meet Grandma and Grandpa in Welfleet for lunch—with our hike ending early we had some extra time, and while Leah relaxed with the sleeping boy and an audiobook the bigger boys and I set out to explore Welfleet Harbor. Only we didn't get very far, because we had to build a sandcastle strong enough to stand up the incoming tide.
(We actually did it, too; on the way back to the car later we saw we had built it right exactly on the high tide line. Beat that!)
After a lovely lunch we did explore the harbor, and Zion decided he was in love with the waterfront. I know the feeling. He and I at least felt pretty relaxed and vacationed at that moment.
(Unfortunately then we had to go back to the house and pack up, which didn't go as well as we could have wished. But we made it home, and we learned some lessons for next time! Which might not be for a while... right?)
I'm going to take a little time off from writing here to try and catch up on some other things. I still hope to post pictures, though! I'll probably be back at the writing so soon you won't even notice I stopped.