Yesterday we went to the Picnic in the Park to celebrate Independence Day in style. It was maybe our tenth straight year going or something; maybe more. Once we find something good, we stick with it! Most of us, anyway: Leah was even more wiped out than the rest of us by our adventures on Cape Cod the first half of the week and our late-night return on Wednesday, so she stayed home. Plus, cotton candy doesn't have the same appeal for her as for some others of us.
And not only cotton candy: pie and ice cream too!
Also popcorn and candy, plus all the food we brought from home for our lunch picnic. So it was a good thing that we had some active pursuits in the bounce house and the field games. Here's Zion taking a fall trying to catch up with the bigger kids in his second sack race heat (he still finished first among the smaller ones).
There was music too, which I enjoyed more than the boys. They're big now, and I appreciated that when they wanted to play on the playground during the Concord Band set they could do it without me there! Lijah is especially impressive. When he wanted a balloon animal, he was able to wait in line by himself for like half and hour, which I never would have been able to stand.
The only downside of the day was that water to play in was in short supply. The fountain was turned off, and the fire department with their hose—usually a highlight—packed up early for some reason. But there was plenty of drinking water for us to quench our thirst after our bike ride to the fair, and refill once again for the trip home.
Harvey's friend Jack came with us, which was super fun, and we met up with a whole bunch of other friends there. It all contributed to a great celebratory day: even without fireworks, it was just what Fourth of July should be.
I've mentioned before about the lack of screens at our house; it remains a problem. On the one hand, we have more windows that can open downstairs—in fact, all but one of them can now!—but no more screens. Less, in fact, since Leah took the screens out of the kitchen window to improve the dishwashing view. And upstairs we've lost a couple to breakage. So as always there's a balancing act between cool air and bugs. A couple big flies are entertaining me with acrobatics as I type this. But it's not too bad: we've got some good fans upstairs, one of them with a built in fan, and we get the house cool enough overnight that the littler boys want to cuddle in blankets when they come down in the morning. Still, I think it's time to get the screens back on the kitchen windows.
Once again we're taking part in the summer reading program at the library. Last year the boys signed up and then didn't do anything else with the program, because all the rewards were for doing reading-adjacent activities like writing letters to authors or attending presentations at the library. We don't have time for that. This year, though, it's all about the reading: there are necklaces, and each child gets to add a bead to their necklace for every 15 minutes read. That, we can do!
It's actually slightly more complex than that: kids can also trade up the 15 minute beads for ever-prettier beads representing more time. An hour gets you a metallic bead, glow-in-the-dark beads are for two hour, and at four hours the prize is a bead that changes color in UV light. And then there's the coveted star-shaped 8-hour bead.
The last time we were at the library the kids stepped up to the counter from youngest to oldest. Lijah was read to a reasonable amount; Zion impressed with his nine or so hours of reading over two week. Then it was Harvey's turn. When the computer showed that he had recorded 24 hours of reading the librarian was a little shocked, and she wondered if maybe someone had missed checking off his time for previous weeks. "No," I said, "I don't think so. It's been 12 days since we've been in... how much is that per day? Yup, I'm actually surprised it isn't more."
Harvey reads enough; or, too much. I've mentioned it before. I was the same way I think. It's easy to see how TV or video games can keep kids sedentary and hamper their imaginative play—I'm sure that in some circumstances books do the same thing. Not to say I'm against reading! But as someone who, given a quiet moments this afternoon, picked up a book rather than getting back to work cleaning the basement, I know it can have its downsides. Certainly in my family I don't see anything to justify the fetishization of reading—positioning as an absolute good—that we see from schools and libraries. But then, we'd read anyway! So I guess it's nice that we get beads for it... oh, and coupons for free used books too! The boys have racked up seven of those between them already. Not that they're interested: who needs to buy books when you have a whole library full of them?
We started off July with a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's beach house. It's a pretty sweet deal; this is the third season they've owned it, and we're starting to get used to visiting. It's nice to know what to expect on a vacation (check out the similarities between the picture above and this one from last year). Of course, we also try and work in some novelty. This trip we stopped for dinner on the way at Friendly's in Plymouth.
I promised the boys I'd take them to Friendly's when I got word that the last one around here would be closing; then we didn't make it before they actually did close. Happily they're still hanging on in a few locations, one of which was just moments out of our way off the highway. My turkey club supermelt and Reeces sundae tasted exactly the same as when I had the same meal the last time I ate at Friendly's, ten years ago. Consistency is a selling point. We reached the house just in time to walk down to the beach for the sunset.
We spent most of the next day on that same beach—splashing in the water, lazing in the shade of the umbrella, and paddling the inflatable. The sun was super hot, and I was a little nervous after getting a sunburn at the pond a couple days previous, so I didn't have quite as much fun as I might have otherwise. Just enough to get a little sunburn.
The next day Harvey and I started the morning by cycling into Welfleet to get some bread so we could make a picnic lunch. We tried to take an off-road path, but within a dozen feet of the entrance we were swarmed by masses of deer flies. The road it was. I enjoy the riding in Truro and Welfleet: the roads over the rolling dunes feel like downhill both ways. To me, at least. To Harvey the way home felt pretty uphill. He didn't die, though!
Picnic in hand, we loaded three bikes in the car and headed to the other side of the Cape to see some ocean waves. Coast Guard Beach is the best place for free beach parking; Harvey, Zion, and I could bike from the visitor center, and Mama and Lijah took the bus (which Lijah enjoyed for its own sake!). The waves were pretty small when we hit the beach at around 10:30, but as we swam and played they gradually ramped up. Never huge, but definitely big enough to play in!
One was so big it knocked Lijah over, so he retreated to the blanket, where he promptly fell asleep. Vacationing is hard work!
On the way back to the house we stopped for ice cream, then managed to stay awake to enjoy a lovely cookout and a peaceful evening drive home. We got in the door at around ten; I think I'm still tired from all that fun. I should have taken a nap too.
Harvey's actual birthday was a long time ago, it feels like. Time stretches in the summer. But now, a full 23 days after he turned ten, we brought his birthday season to a close by finally throwing him a party.
It wasn't just disorganization or laziness that led to the delay—the reason we held off on doing something in June was that his friend Jack would be away then, but back in July. Jack usually travels all summer, so I don't know that he's ever been to one of Harvey's parties... so naturally it seemed worthwhile to schedule the celebration on a day he'd actually be around. Of course, after we'd made that decision disorganization and laziness played their part in keeping me from actually inviting anyone until it was very nearly too late. Happily our friends are flexible and were all able to make it to a party at lunchtime on a Saturday with five and a half days advance notice. Good thing, because they would have been sad to miss it!
Harvey chose a board game theme—well, board and card game. He wanted a chessboard cake, but since I didn't know if I had the technology to make that happen I proposed something a little simpler. He was fine with the idea; I think it came out pretty elegant.
The party started at 11, and nobody was too concerned about board gaming. Harvey was mostly just delighted to have his three favorite friends together in one place. Since naturally we invited families, Zion and Lijah had people to play with too, leaving the adults to relax and chat. Harvey wanted hot dogs and coleslaw for lunch; I grilled 28 hot dogs, which was just barely enough. After lunch the play started to get a little violent—the ten- and eleven-year-old boys we know are partial to sword-play—so we redirected the kids towards the games inside. With the food and the adults outside, there was plenty of room in the house for games of Ticket to Ride, Zingo, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh to all happen simultaneously. Only one of those led to violence, so that was good.
It was all so much fun it was almost time to go before we remembered cake and presents! Luckily, after we did that half of our guests were still able to stick around for another hour or more. That's what we like to see. Thanks for turning ten, Harvey... Happy Birthday!
Last Thursday was the first of four summer concerts here in town. When they published the schedule I was pretty underwhelmed, but when Thursday afternoon rolled around we headed up anyway... it's hard to pass up a party! And I'm glad we did, because it ended up being a fantastic time.
Besides the big slide and another bounce house (well, bounce obstacle course really) there were big Connect Four games and corn hole, and lots folks to hang out with: it seemed like almost everyone we know in town was there! And then of course there was the music too, which was surprisingly better than I had expected. I don't always trust the quality of "Caribbean music", but The Kolors Band had enough bass in the mix and plenty of energy to make things fun. I wanted to dance, of course, and the band wanted everyone up and dancing... sadly, in Bedford people don't, generally. But you can always count on kids, and once the band realized that nobody else but the kids was actually going to interact with the music they gave up on the rest of the crowd and had a little dance party for under-tens (and me). Here's Lijah getting down; you can also see us for a couple seconds in this video!
The show closed with a full 15 minutes of limbo madness, as pictured here. Amazing! There's no way tomorrow's show can possibly be as good. We'll probably still go anyways. Yay for summer music.
I've been meaning for some time now to create a place just for my writing about Pokemon. Because I know it's not central to our story here! I've now done that. Follow that link if you want to read many words about the card game that occupies so much of Harvey's and my mind some days. Or don't, and wait for me to write here about the other things we do, like explore the woods and streams of Chelmsford. That was today. Both are good!
That other blog is just getting going; it doesn't look as nice as it should. I just wanted to get it good enough for me to start writing, and worry about aesthetic improvements later. Harvey is already wondering how many readers we'll get—how people will find our about it, and if they'll be interested in the content. Good thing I'm married to somebody who talks about SEO for work!
It was super hot here Friday and over the weekend. Hot enough that it was all over the news, with heat warnings and cancellations and everything. The official word was that it was dangerous to be without air conditioning, so those of us who don't have were directed to visit the mall to seek relief—and, presumably, to pick an AC unit from Sears or whatever. I'm on the record pooh-poohing similar panic around extreme cold weather, and while I don't know that I've written about it I've certainly talked about how I don't care for the heat, as a general thing. And you can bet we don't have AC. But I want to say, it wasn't that bad. I don't even think it topped 100°F.
Sure, there was some humidity. Sure, it was probably close to 100°F inside our house by Sunday afternoon. It wasn't really enjoyable. But sitting in front of the fan, or outside in the shade, was totally fine. And by this morning it was already much cooler; in fact, I needed to get up in the middle of the night to get the comforter off the floor since I was getting chilly. Right now it's 66° in Bedford and raining, and tomorrow's high is forecast at 68°. I think we survived it. And now I'm looking forward to the kids complaining about being cold tomorrow morning!
We're diving into planning for our annual camping vacation, which, as in years past, has led me to remember that I never finished writing about last year's trip. In fact, I thought I hadn't even started, but in looking back I found that I did describe the first day. Since we've got to get it out of the way before we have more stories to tell, here's the next chapter in the account.
We woke up to a cool misty morning, so I was very happy to get a fire going to warm things up and start piling up the food. Eggs, bacon, and bagels were fine; leftover roasted red peppers from the previous night's pizza made things extra special.
There was lots of excitement for hiking among members of the party both young and old, and it translated directly into productive energy for the 4-year-olds, who hit the steep and bouldery bottom section of the trail up Pemetic like there was candy waiting for them at the top. 4-year-olds can hike considerably better than 3-year-olds—like, way more than 25% better!
The Pemetic SW trail is super interesting, and delightful when you're going up. There's lots of fun scrambling, and the kids' favorite part is one section where the path divides and you can choose to come up through a gorge, or on a more open, dryer path above. The big kids picked the former, naturally!
Maybe there wasn't candy at the top, but besides the beautiful views the boys—and all of us—were rewarded at the top with a delicious lunch. I suppose it wasn't quite rewarding enough for Lijah though, because he couldn't manage any enthusiasm for the summit photo.
The way down the south ridge of the mountain is totally different that the trail up the northwest side. Going down the granite rocks we could walk with almost a normal gate, as we took in the views of the islands off of Northwest Harbor. I would not recommend doing this hike the other direction.
We didn't have the quickest start in the morning, so by the time we finished up the hike we were ready to head back to the campsite. It was my turn to cook, and I cooked tortillas over the fire, which if I do say so myself was pretty amazing. I had the dry ingredients all mixed up ahead of time, which was great... but once I set everything up I realized I hadn't brought a rolling pin! Never mind; a few minutes work with a saw and my pocket knife gave me a perfectly good home-made roller. It worked so well I even brought it home when we packed up! Only I was too busy whittling and cooking to take a picture, sorry.
Naturally, the kids spent the late afternoon in the pool. Like you do! More uniquely, we also found time to play some Pokemon.
Then it was early to bed for the Archibalds, without even a peek at the stars. Camping vacations are hard work!