We're having a tough enough time around here with the regular requirements of daily life, so celebrating birthdays as they deserve to be celebrated seems a little out of reach. We did manage to get the waffle maker (which the boys and I tested out with some non-paleo waffles this morning—it works great!) and some cards for Leah, but I still owe her a gift or two. And now Zion's birthday is upon us. The beginning of his birthday, anyway: with our lack of forward planning we failed to reserve a day for his party with his friends, so it's been pushed back until the end of the month.
That was a bit of a failure. But at least I managed an outing this morning to pick up a present for him—one I had been thinking about for weeks! I wrapped it and gave it to him this evening. Leah is better at working ahead and she had something all wrapped up, so it was sort festive; marred only by Lijah's general upsetness and further unpleasantness fighting over the new toys. There was no cake.
But the birthday banner is up ahead of the actual day tomorrow, and Zion has ordered his birthday breakfast. And after breakfast he'll be headed off (along with his brothers) to Grandma and Grandpa's for the day, where I'm sure he'll get some solid celebrations in. Then he has a birthday outing scheduled for Thursday, and he'll have a share of a family party Sunday evening... and there's still the kid party to look forward to. So I think we'll do alright by him.
Then next year I'll be more organized, right?
Zion turns five today! Seems like just yesterday we were meeting him for the first time. No wait, no it doesn't! Zion, you're pretty awesome; we're lucky to have you in the family.
It's been raining here for days, seems like, which is keeping us indoors a little more than we'd like. Not entirely, though! Tuesday was warm enough that when the rain lightened up and the sun threatened to break through the clouds for a moment, we were ready to jump into action. And there are good things about rain, too!
Yes, besides several damp walks we enjoyed some time riding scooters into a giant puddle. Again. Because why wouldn't you?! And when I say we, I mean we; there are plenty of activities that, as a parent, I consider beneath my dignity—but riding a scooter at top speed into a mud puddle is emphatically not one of them. In fact, I can imaging nothing more dignified. Especially since I, unlike both of my older children, managed not to fall completely into the water.
Actually, I think Harvey just sat down in the water on purpose after Zion fell, but the effect was the same. That put an end to the outdoor time, but they were happy enough to jump into the tub—where they stayed for the next hour or so. Water water everywhere; and obviously it continues to appeal!
It's been a while since the boys and I took a serious outing—libraries and toy stores of the surrounding towns have been enough for us for a while. But today I felt the call of bigger and better things; specifically, the big train and the big city!
One of the things that keeps us away from heavy-duty adventure is not wanting to spend money. So rather than parking at Alewife we left the car on a side street a little ways away and walked in. It was all part of the adventure! And as you can see, the boys were dressed for adventuring.
Even before we left the house Lijah was super excited about the train, and I think it lived up to his expectations.
We only went a couple stops, then got out at Harvard Square. We were disappointed by the Curious George store; the University was a bit more engaging.
Harvey especially was interested in what constituted the university—was it a building? Was it the Yard, within the walls? I told him what I knew about Harvard's history and about higher education generally, but there were some things I couldn't explain; like why there was a giant tent set up, empty but for a single ping-pong table (with two rackets and one ball just for us!)
All in all I think Harvard was a little unsettling for Harvey—the younger boys didn't care one way or another, but he couldn't figure it out and felt nervous about not fitting in. I can identify! He did approve of how Harvard starts its name, though.
To dispel any uneasiness, we walked over to a place that's deeply comforting to all of us: the Kemp playground on Cambridge common. It was tons of fun.
On the way back to the train we stopped for italian ice, served up by a gentleman I used to work with who I hadn't seen in years. It was nice to chat for a bit, and the boys appreciated the sugar—so did I, since it kept Lijah awake for the train ride (and none of them noticed or minded that, while we waited on the platform, the man we were sitting next to peed into a cup without bothering to stand up from the bench).
The big city is fun, but on the way back to the car we were all glad to pause for a moment and reacquaint ourselves with the natural world.
All told we were away from home for six and a half hours; I expect everyone will sleep well tonight!
I just cleaned up the front yard—mostly—for the first time in a couple of weeks. It's not that I don't care about the bikes, scooters, and random detritus scattered around; I'd love to have a pretty yard for my own sake, to say nothing of wanting to spare our neighbors the eyesore. There's just so much cleaning up that we have to do every day!
I admit to some frustration about how much time straightening up takes away from more useful projects. We work pretty hard to restore the house to its ground state, but before you know it it's messy again and we have to do all that work again. Now, it's not that I'm annoyed with the kids—most of the mess is their stuff, but they mostly provide an age-appropriate level of help with the cleaning, when we remember to ask them. Just that I wish we could make more progress solving deeper structural problems or making better systems.
Maybe it's just that we have too much stuff overall. There's certainly lots of rideable clutter—we own ten bikes and six scooters, plus an indeterminate number of plastic ride-on toys. And while—inside at least—everything has its place, there are still an awful lot of things that have to be put back in their place on a daily basis. But getting rid of anything is hard, for reasons both psychological (we like it!) and practical (it would all have to fit in the trash can!).
With Lijah being so difficult these days we're feeling a little under-resourced generally, so maybe that's at the root of the problem. If so, maybe we can look for it to turn around in a month or two. At least we're managing to keep the house liveable, rather than descending into squalor (most days at least), and at least we manage to clear the front yard every couple weeks. It's beautiful clean now, and will remain so until 8:30 tomorrow morning. Or maybe even longer if it's raining!
There are times—oh, there are times!—when the boys' voices annoy me. But then there are lots of other moments when the things they say are fascinating and delightful. Lijah, for example, is improving his syntax and sentence complexity by leaps and bounds; to wit: "I'm not in the play, I'm watchin the play!"
Harvey of course has all the vocabulary. The other evening I mentioned all the good books he'd read, and he replied, "amazingly, I didn't read any books today... just peered into the books Zion was reading."
Those were last week; I had to wait to gather a sample of Zion speech, because he's the middle child so sometimes I have a hard time paying attention to him. But this evening he was digging a hole in the garden and contemplating what he might find if he went deep enough. He has a theory: "It goes: treasure, dinosaur bones, oil, hot lava."
As you can see, there are lots of words around here. It's lovely.
I've had some very productive mornings lately, thanks to my ever-reliable (at least at this time of year) feathered alarm clocks:
I'm not sure whether their behavior is learned or innate, but by making an unholy racket every morning the hens get me up at an ever-earlier hour to let them out into the yard and give them a handful of scratch—at which point they mostly shut up for an hour or two.
There's certainly the possibility that, left unchecked, their predawn noise would wake up the kids in our house; but actually I'm more concerned about the neighbors. Our kids are up at 6 anyways most days, but I'm sure that our immediate neighbors keep more civilized hours. They're nice folks, and I wouldn't want them to take against us and our livestock any more than they already have.
Not that I've had any evidence that they've ever heard the early-morning chorus. In fact, a couple days ago our neighbors on one side had a problem with their car alarm, which went off at around 5:15—and kept sounding for long enough for Leah to get up, go next door, and ring the bell. They didn't hear the alarm, but at least they responded to the doorbell.
My post on facebook about the incident might have seemed a little grumpy—might even have seemed to suggest I'd let the hens make some noise in order to get back at those neighbors. Far from it! I only meant that I'd be less worried about chicken sounds now that I know a car alarm immediately under their bedroom window doesn't bother them. I'm still going to let the hens out though, just in case. And it's not so bad, getting to read or garden in the crepuscular peace.
Especially if I manage to get to bed before 10. Still working on that part.
With apologies for the delay, here are some scenes and moments from the past week.
On Saturday, we finally finished up celebrating Zion's birthday with a party for his friends. It was our first ever themed party.
Since we'd never done one before, our friends weren't sure how we'd manage; and their concern was warranted, since especially in our destroyed-by-tiredness state we weren't really on the ball with forward preparations. For example, I had no idea what I was going to do for a cake until Friday morning. But in the end I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!
Of course, not everything had to be pirate-oriented. Rather than jerked meat we had plain old hot dogs, along with mac-and-cheese and chips. General kid food.
Not being used to themed parties, the kids were all happy running around after lunch, like they would any other time—the only difference is that lots of them were in pirate hats. I really had to work to get their attention for the planned activities. First they painted telescopes and treasure chests.
Next up was a treasure hunt—two treasure hunts, actually, since I didn't want the older siblings to take over all the thinking for the birthday boy and the three other kids he actually invited to the party (there were ten kids total). So the older kids had a picture-based scavenger hunt, while the five-year-olds got to do a real treasure hunt with digging and everything! They only hit each other with the shovels twice (by accident!).
The treasure was bead necklaces and chocolate—those Hershey miniatures that look like gold bars. That was Leah's idea, and it was a great one. Finding the treasure stirred up Zion's acquisitiveness, so then we went inside so he could open his presents.
There was some good stuff, including a stomp rocket that occupied the crowd for the next half hour.
Then his new lego sets took over Zion's attention; lego-building is less communal, but they made it work.
Some of the kids—like Harvey—really really wanted to help, but Zion wanted to do it all himself, and we managed to make it happen. He also blew out the candles himself (in three puffs). But we all could share the cake!
And also the apple pie that I made on Zion's request, only to have him say, at the table, "actually I meant pumpkin". Oh well.
The party started at noon and was still going pretty strong at 5:00, when we packed up and moved venues—rather than making dinner we thought we'd just head over to another party we were invited to. We brought what was left of the cake and stayed until almost 8:00. So I trust Zion now feels properly celebrated, and can start acting like a five-year-old!
As seems to be the case most of the time, we're feeling pretty busy and exhausted around here. I've had many moments during the day when I blinked and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep for a couple seconds. Which is why it was even more frustrating than usual when, at the beginning of the week, I had a couple nights where I was up for what felt like a considerable amount of time, too stressed to fall asleep. What was I stressed about? Oh, work, some; and homeschooling; but mostly the garden. There's so much that I should have done and haven't! Amateur farming is hard work. Luckily, there's always the asparagus.
I think I planted our asparagus patch back in 2008 or so (and then I added some more plants in 2011). As I've mentioned before, it was a little work to get set up, but now we just sit back and let the deliciousness pour in. It's lovely, and all the sweeter when I see how much asparagus goes for in the stores. I think I've picked about $40 worth so far, and it's still coming in! Do you have an asparagus patch in your yard? You should!
(In researching for this post I find I write nearly the same things almost every year. I don't remember any of it. Must be memory loss from never sleeping. Stay tuned: more excitement about asparagus coming May 2017!!!)
Some scenes and moments from the past week of summertime fun.
The moments I posted yesterday could have easily included many more delightful photos of Lijah enjoying the summer weather, because he sure did! Friday evening he had a nice time in and out of the wading pool and hanging with some fun people.
At Julen's house he got to join with the big(ger) boys in their squirt gun battle. Julen's dad is a good sport, not like Lijah's.
And of course, when we're spending all day outside we can't go in to cook dinners, so plenty of hot dogs for those who like that sort of thing. Though actually, Lijah is off hot dogs these days—maybe he ate enough last summer to last him a couple years—and onto buns. Sometimes they double as telecommunication devices.
And then there are several photos that I'd love to caption, "Guess what? Chicken butt!". Except we've already reached our quota of naked pictures for this month. Stay tuned: June is just around the corner!
When the morning rain trailed off after lunch we decided to treat ourselves to an extra special walk with the dog—especially since it's been impossible to take regular walks around here with the whole family all together. There's always a fuss of one kind or another. We thought that a trip to somewhere kind of new would be just the thing to put a new spin on walking together; and so it proved.
At Great Brook Farm state park there's a farm and cows and fields and woods, and we wanted to see it all. Lijah started the hike off determined to be carried, but when his brothers took off running down a big hill he changed his mind. It's kind of a toss-up which is preferable from a family hike perspective: it's less work when he moves under his own power, but also considerably slower. Oh well, he needs the exercise.
Oh yeah, there's also ice cream—made on the premises from milk milked on the premises. The boys enjoyed a cone each, and I enjoyed the last two thirds of Lijah's and couple bites of Zion's. Good thing I didn't get one for myself! After the ice cream we explored the pond below the farm; when the boys yelled for me to come and see thousands of tadpoles I thought they were exaggerating, but actually they probably weren't.
Rascal didn't care about the tadpoles, but he was a big fan of the water. He went in a clean pond to get started, and then a spectacularly muddy one ("he looks like a different dog!" said Zion), then a clean one again.
Then he lay on the grass to dry off when he wasn't begging for licks of ice cream.
All in all it was delightful, and nobody cried until Lijah did in the car the whole way home. Then he went to bed before dinner and woke up as the other boys were going down at 7:30 and took several more hours to get back to bed. So that colors our view of the outing, ultimately; but I still think it was worth it. The boys want to go back soon; I think we can make that happen.