Our South African friends Jo and Eugene are in town for a few weeks. They're staying in Cambridge without a car, so Saturday afternoon they came out our way to borrow sufficient bicycles to transport two adults and three smallish children. Came out by bus—the dreaded Saturday 62/76 route that takes an hour to get here from Alewife. They're much more adventurous than us clearly; never mind the 40-hour trip from Cape Town, we wouldn't even be able to handle the bus! The kids spent a wild couple hours playing in the yard while we grown-ups caught up with each other. (The kids didn't need to catch up, since not even the oldest of them remembered each other. So they could just get right into playing together.)
It was interesting spending time with the kids. Over five years adults don't change so you'd notice, most of the time, but two-year-olds turn into seven-year-olds, which is pretty dramatic. And never mind Eli and Hana, who we'd never actually met! But since I follow their blog I've seen pictures of all of them at least monthly, and heard about their adventures—so it felt just like picking up with any other kids I know and see every once and a while. Strange.
Jo wrote a post about the early stages of her travels, and our bikes feature at the very end. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that our cargo bike longs for more than the regular run to the library or Whole Foods, so I'm glad it'll see some action from a family that really knows how to adventure! Look for that in the June update—Jo, I expect to see it in a timely fashion!
Last Wednesday the boys watched Shreck with Grandpa David (ever their source for all varieties of cinematic experiences). They came home singing "I'm a Believer", and were surprised that I knew it given my firm denial of anything Shreck related. So I told them it was originally by The Monkees, which led us into a discussion of that curious group's origins. We ended up on Youtube to compare the Monkees and Smash Mouth versions of "I'm a Believer", and then went on a tour of late-60s rock and pop taking tunes from The Monkees, The Archies, The Beach Boys, and Little Richard. This was all over a couple days. The point, though, is that we've been thinking about "I'm a Believer" a lot.
At first I didn't mind it. It's a fine song, after all—a good one even. But a couple days ago I started to resent its constant presence in my mind, especially over the sleepless portions of the last couple nights. I don't think I've had a song so stuck in my head since Frozen. Yesterday I put on some other music and told the kids they weren't allowed to sing it any more. Of course that doesn't entirely work—Zion in particular will sing it on purpose when I say things like that—but it helps. So the mania is already fading.
I don't know how much of the problem is due to the song's inherent catchiness—the songwriting chops of Neil Diamond and production expertise of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart—and how much is just the fact that we focused deliberately and intensively on it for a couple days. Probably a combination of both. But either way I'm not liking it. At least with Frozen there's four or five songs, stylistically pretty different, that took turns in my brain; there's not so much to "I'm a Believer". Oh well, I suppose it could be worse. It could be "Last Train to Clarkesville". Or "Sugar Sugar"...
Unlike our friends Jo and Eugene, we are not international travelers. Not only do we never leave the country, we hardly ever pass beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Heck, some months we never leave Middlesex County! And of course there are many days spent entirely in our own yard and neighborhood. But that's ok, because there's lots to do around here. Like making smores after a picnic dinner.
To be honest, we've had a pretty slow couple weeks, adventure-wise. I haven't taken any pictures yet this week (except of the foxes, who are always around). Instead we've been working and playing around here—planting plants when it's not raining, doing math, refining our home-made board game. And of course eating outside whenever we can. And it's keeping us satisfied, especially when there's rhubarb pie for me and marshmallows for the kids. That's all you need, right?
A few moments from the past week, not exclusively of Lijah.
The first heat wave of the summer has struck (that one in February didn't count) and we're responding with less clothes and more dirt.
Besides enjoying our sandbox and hose-derived mud, the boys spent an hour or two yesterday evening playing at their friends' house across the street. They just finished up a renovation and still have two good-sized dirt piles just crying out to be climbed. While the bigger kids amused themselves with ball and imaginative games, Lijah just grabbed a hoe to use as an ice-ax and headed up one of the mountains... again and again and again. I made sure he had a nice bath.
Today the baths are already over with, after an even sweatier day hiking in the woods and walking around town, but with the heat fading a little bit in the twilight the kids are all back out in the dirt. Oh well, the bedding will wash. And though they do clean up alright, they're pretty cute dirty as well!
Another post about Lijah, since I get to spend so much time with him these days. He likes to play imaginative games with us—well, sort of imaginative. Mostly it's about deciding what character he wants to be, and then announcing it repeatedly. For a while it was pretty simple: a cat, or a pirate, or spiderman (in rough chronological order). But then he started to get a little more baroque. For example, on the playground the other day he and I (with a little assistance from Zion) played a rousing game of robot pirate bugs.
Then yesterday it got even more confusing, when he decided he was a robot dinosaur pirate baby. I said I could be the mama, so after a little while—and I should reiterate just how many times he announces what he is, to the point that it forms at least fifty percent of the play dialogue—he said something like, "ok, I'm the baby robot dinosaur pirate baby and you're the mama robot dinosaur pirate baby." I guess it makes sense at some level, and I was happy to roll with it for a minute or two until he changed me into something else. I can't wait until he's writing stories down someday...
On Monday, our homeschool gathering day, it was super hot. What to do? Go on a hike! The kids, I confess, weren't enthusiastic at first; they didn't believe me that the woods is the place to be when it tops 90° on the mean streets of the suburban concrete jungle. As soon as we got out there they saw the appeal.
There are lots of woodsy spots in town, but our favorite one is around the old reservoir. (If you look over the posts with the hiking tag, it's pretty much all there.) While most of Bedford is pretty flat, it has fun hills to keep things interesting. Lijah was interested—he walked the whole way, except when it was too steep and he slid.
The trees' shade and the damp forest floor alone were wonderfully cooling, but the beat-the-heat highlight of the adventure was of course the pond. Rascal spent maybe an hour in the water, where he was comfortable for the first time in days. Nobody else went in in—the mud bottom and pollen-covered surface discouraged them—but it was lovely to sit by the cool water.
It was so pleasantly cool that the big kids had the energy to run and frolic and generally go twice as far as the adults and pre-schoolers. And even climb a tree for real, when we found one someone had kindly provided with spikes.
Havana is a climber; she went all the way up... and wished there were more spikes so she could get even higher!
It was a full morning of adventure for us all. We came home for lunch and spent the first part of the afternoon in quiet recovery activities. Then, so as to avoid cooking, we walked to Whole Foods for an early dinner. Lijah was in the stroller—I couldn't make him walk another mile—and he didn't last long before he fell asleep. When we were all set with the food I tried to wake him up to eat, but it proved impossible: neither shaking him nor pulling his eyes open had any effect.
Must have been a good hike.
We've got ourselves a pretty nice neighborhood. The boys and I came back from the pond and had about half an hour to rest before school got out and kids came knocking looking for Harvey and Zion to play. I got to hang our with Lijah for a while, then Leah came home and spent some time with him while I made supper (timed to coincide with supper next door, natch). After we ate all three boys ran off to play so Leah and I could relax on the porch for half an hour before getting to work on evening chores—dishes for her, weeding for me.
And if that doesn't all sound a little to 50s-perfection to you: yesterday the gang caught a toad to play with. Life is fine here at midsummer.
Last week Harvey saw the first ripe strawberries in the garden and proclaimed, "yay, that means it's going to be my birthday soon!" Let's hear it for a homeschooling curriculum that prioritizes teaching natural and agricultural rhythms for reference over actual dates! So Harvey knows well that his birthday falls in the midst of strawberry season.
Our strawberry harvest has been coming in well, and so has the birthday fun for our biggest boy. He kicked off his celebrations with a party at Grandma and Grandpa's last week. They gave him a gigantic Lego set that took him two days to put together; it hasn't been demolished yet, which must be some kind of record. On his actual birthday yesterday his parents failed to offer him any gifts or other birthday delights, as seems to be typical for us lately. But we did write "happy birthday Harvey" on the schedule chalkboard and let him be in charge of meal planning for the day. He picked oatmeal for breakfast (I had mine with strawberries, but couldn't convince the boys to switch from their usual banana) and peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich for lunch (the rest of us had pb-and-jam like boring regular people). For dinner we were guests at friends' house, but per Harvey's request we brought along chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert.
His party with friends will be Sunday afternoon. There's a Lego theme, and I'm very much looking forward to making the cake and taking part in the building contest. Also playing with all his presents!
Happy 8th birthday Harvey, and may your 9th year be as fruitful as our strawberry patch!
While weeks go by in a flash these days, it seems like forever ago that we started this year's "school year". Well now it's done: yesterday was the last day of school in Bedford, so we sent off this year's progress reports into the formless ether of the Bedford School System. It felt even more formless than usual this year, since I couldn't find an actual email address for the principal at the boys' putative school, so I had to use the web form. Presumably she'll get it; I don't imagine she cares very much either way. Which is fine, because neither do we. Both boys made lots of progress this year, some of which is even reflected in their school reports. You can read them for yourself if you're interested: Harvey and Zion.
I had some hopes this year of doing a mid-year report, and I'm disappointed that I didn't. Not because I feel like I should be sharing more information with the school—it's just that writing down all the things we did makes me think of even cooler things that we could have done. So a mid-year check-in would have spurred us to even greater heights! As it is, I'm starting planning work for next year right now. (OK, maybe after I sleep a little bit: I was up late last night scanning work samples.)
I don't know how different our "summer vacation" will be compared to our regular year. But it's nice to mark the end of Zion's kindergarten year and Harvey's 2nd grade, just as all their friends from the neighborhood are finishing up their school year. One big change is that all those kids now get to experience the freedom we have every day—and our boys are ready to have fun with them them! Happy summer.
We've got a lot going on around here lately. Here are some moments and images from the past week (not counting today...).
Summer means lots of adventures, and lots of adventures means no time and energy to write about them. So I have a bit of a backlog. Way back last Saturday all the Archibalds rode (or ran) the 2017 iteration of the Bedford PMC kids ride. This year we got the Stevenses to join us—well, four of them; Luke was off on a significantly more substantial ride of his own. Ollie thought five miles was about his speed, so Harvey was happy to take a third straight turn at the five-mile course alongside him. It was totally a breeze for both of them.
Back at the festival later I heard from a couple people about how hilly the course was. And as a volunteer I was a little nervous about some of the riders in our group who didn't seem to be very confident on their fancy geared bicycles. The Archibald-Stevens gang was plenty confident: even 6-year-old Eliot, who joined us at the last minute, only had to run up one hill. Just like Harvey when he did the ride for the first time as a kindergartener. The rising third-graders ended the morning making plans to do ten miles next year.
Zion wasn't quite so confident. He's not feeling like he's ready to ride without training wheels, but he hadn't been riding much with them on either. Why would he, when I carry him everywhere in the cargo bike! But come the morning of the ride the day's excitement gave him plenty of energy to get himself to the start line under his own power. After that the half-mile course wasn't as much of a challenge!
On today's adventure he was back in the blue bike, along with his friend Nicholas—the two of them making plans for their own ten-mile PMC ride next year. I told them maybe three miles first, but you have to admire the enthusiasm.
We raised some money for cancer research too, which is cool. Yay for charity rides!
Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!
(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)
After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.
Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?
As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.
Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.
Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.
(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)
Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.