Lijah and I just about share a birthday, and we marked them this past week. He had some parties. We kicked things off last Monday with a relaxing dinner at my parents' house that ended with a cake for each of us. My birthday was Tuesday, and I was treated to another couple of cakes; and pancakes too, since we also celebrated Shrove Tuesday that evening. Lijah turned five on Wednesday and, as has become traditional, requested pancakes for breakfast so he could have one with a candle in it. The main event was Saturday, when we hosted Lijah's friends for his long-awaited Pirate Party.
He's had a birthday party every year, but you know it's not really the same when you're turning one, or two, or three. Four is the real deal though, and last year felt like our first experience throwing a winter party—which is to say, one where the kids might need to be inside the whole time. I think we got it now. The pirate theme absolutely demanded a treasure hunt, and unlike the one at Zion's 5-year-old pirate party it would have to be indoors. I had my doubts the kids would be able to interpret the maps I drew of our house, so I enlisted parents to help if needed (not big siblings—that would have been a disaster!). But it turns out Lijah is great at reading maps! And while he still can't find something lying on the ground if he's standing right over it, his friends were prepared to handle that part of the task. There was plenty of gold (twix bars) to share at the end of the hunt.
Besides the treasure, we also had lots of arts and crafts supplies available, which were appreciated by adults and kids alike. And there was lots of food. Especially potato chips. With all my planning for indoor fun, the weather was actually pretty nice Saturday, so after Lijah opened his presents we all went out to run around and ride bikes on the street. The best part of March is making snowballs with your bare hands... just for target practice though. No fun to be hit with a snowball while wearing a t-shirt!
We capped the celebration week with one more party, this one at Leah's parents', on Sunday evening. Lijah got a yellow sweatsuit with a tiger face on the hood; he may take it off in a week or two, maybe.
Harvey said today he's tired of winter. Mainly it's because he wants to be able to stop wearing boots. It can't be too bad: he was barefoot for the bike ride back from the grocery store this morning. But I think there's still too much snow on the ground for his comfort when it comes to abandoning shoes altogether. Besides that, though, the weather has been charming. I love the late winter, and we took full advantage of it today. Besides our morning's shopping—for vegetables and trousers—we spent a good chunk of time in the middle of the day outside, then capped things off with a walk before supper.
The walk was Zion's favorite thing today: he had a great time stomping through the soft snow, sinking up to his knees and rolling down piles (all without putting his hands down, since he wasn't wearing mittens). Lijah reported enjoying watching Pokemon, but if he had thought about it he might have mentioned the delightful half hour he spent playing pirates with me in the yard while Harvey and Zion worked on improving one of the tree house platforms. We also cleared out the old raspberry canes. Spring is on the way.
It's a good thing we went outside lots yesterday, because today sickness kept us inside most of the day. It wasn't too terrible: we had a fine relaxing day, and read lots of Norse mythology. Before he started feeling poorly Harvey drew a comic called "How Odin Got His Eye Patch". Then the boys all fell asleep by 7:30, one in bed and two on the couch downstairs. So I didn't get to read bedtime stories. The lack made me very aware of how much time our bedtime routine takes up every evening. Without it, I was able to do the dishes, clean up the books and board games, finish a woodworking project, and clean off the boys' desks. Yikes, that sounds like a lot of work! I hope they're better tomorrow evening...
We celebrated the equinox in the best of all possible ways today, by getting out into the newly springlike world on bicycles. The plan was to picnic by Fawn Lake, but the clayey mud on the path and Zion's flu-related shortness of breath stopped us before we made it that far. Never mind, we found a nice soccer field for our lunch, and running around (for short periods of time, interspersed with rests) suited our energy level better than hiking would have anyways. It was lovely to be outside.
Besides the outing, we also observed the day by taking down the paper snowflakes and baking equinox cookies, activities which are now traditional. We didn't make flowers to replace the snowflakes, though, unlike last year; instead our art time was taken up with illustrating adjectives. Not seasonal, but just as fun. Since friends came over in the afternoon and stayed for dinner we also didn't manage to follow through on my plan of building a bonfire and burning the snowflakes... maybe we can do that tomorrow.
This evening the boys and I took in a band concert at the high school in town. Well, most of it; we ducked out a little early, 8:00 being pumpkin hour for some of us. The show featured all the wind band performers Bedford Public Schools have to offer, from 5th graders to high school. It's impressive how far the kids progress over that span! Unfortunately we missed the high school wind band, the organizers having decided to save the best for last (and/or reward folks for sitting through the performances of less-accomplished players). But we did get to hear the big kids playing in the marching band and the jazz band. Surprisingly, the marching band was much better. Not more technically proficient, maybe, but they sure sold their Buckjump a lot more convincingly than the jazz kids did with Blue Train. Learning to swing is hard.
If only the concert had started at 5:00 instead of 7:00, we would have loved the whole thing! It's hard being out of step with the wider scheduling of our culture...
Monday is generally the one day of the week when I go in to the "office" at the church where I work, so it tends to be a day full of sitting (well, aside from the bike ride there and back). This past Monday saw more sitting then ever: after supper I went to a meeting for our homeschool coop, then dashed directly from there to Bedford's Annual Town Meeting. So three meetings on the day, all pretty different—but all positive and rewarding.
I started off with a department meeting at church. I love working with the kids there, and I get to collaborate with great people, so that meeting was entirely fun and relaxing. I was a little nervous going into the coop gathering, since we're kicking off a new semester and I wasn't sure if we were even going to have anyone in the group this spring. I'm a little more in charge than last year too, so I was paying attention. I needen't have worried: we had a fine crowd, and all of us were excited to share our ideas for the things we can do together over the next couple months. The calendar's already filling up—in fact, we have our first outing together tomorrow morning.
Town Meeting is a completely different feel. Where the coop group is looking to work together and came into the meeting ready to find common ground, there's lots more dissension in the high school auditorium when the politically active members of Bedford's citizenry gather to deliberate. It can be stressful sometimes, hearing people's strong views (especially when said views are completely wrong!). But again, I came out of the meeting feeling really positive. All the people there were passionate about wanting the best for our town, even if they disagreed about what that was, and while their arguments were occasionally passionate (or even sarcastic) there was also a sense of shared responsibility and camaraderie that was fun to be a part of. And I'm really glad that there are these folks going to every town meeting and holding the Selectmen to account; I'm the least fiscally conservative person you'll ever meet, so I'm there to vote for all the spending, so it's good that there are some grumpy old folks ready to make sure we really need a handicap ramp to the front of Old Town Hall (I hope we don't; that one didn't pass).
Still, as interesting as it all was it may have been a little much for one day. Today we went hiking. That's more my speed.
Even though we live in the suburbs, there are lots of wild places around to explore (wild enough for us, at least, despite the ubiquitousness of road noise and old stone walls), and the last two days we visited two new-to-us woods. Yesterday we went out to Concord to visit the south end of the Estabrook Forest, which I learned about at the coop meeting on Monday. We climbed Punkatasset Hill, which may be only 290 feet high but is steep enough to be exciting—especially when Zion and I took, oh, a 20-foot sliding fall down a portion of trail called the "ski hill". On the other side of the hill we found brooks, marshes, a deep pond, and a lovely meadow where we had lunch and played in the grass. The woods are much bigger, and paths reach all the way up across into Carlisle to reach Rt 225; I want to go back later and explore much further!
This morning we met up with some of our coop partners for a presentation at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. I enjoyed hearing the ranger talk to the group about signs of spring in the woods, and specifically vernal pools; Harvey and Zion report that they didn't, but both of them raised their hands to offer answers or comments several times so it couldn't have been too horrible (Lijah just called out without raising his hand, especially after he got a big laugh from the crowd for his first comment). Following the lesson we were directed outside to look at a real vernal pool. Amusingly, the ranger had us drive the half mile—if that!—to the pool, which he told us was too far to walk. It's not entirely spring yet so the pool life wasn't in full swing, but we were able to net a few macro-invertebrates (a new term I learned!) and watch them swim around in tubs. The adults were interested at least.
All that took just an hour and a half, so when everyone else left we took to the trails to get some walking in. Unfortunately I hadn't prepared by reading that Wikipedia page I linked above, so I didn't know what the reserve had to offer and the trail we picked at random was pretty dull. By the time we realized where the pond was we were about done—tired out from all the direct instruction—so we didn't even get to check it out up close. If only we had headed straight there—and if only I had realized there were WWII bunkers hidden in the woods!—we may have had a longer and more adventurous visit. Oh well, next time.