I was too tired last night to write much about our celebration; I'm still pretty tired now, but I can't let the words go unwritten! So here are some more details.
The boys planned their costumes a long way out this year, but then didn't do much about it and mostly forgot about their plans. But they were pretty certain on what they wanted to be, at least: a bat, a ninja, and a wizard. Lijah's bat costume was along the same lines as Harvey's from last year, and just took a hooded sweatshirt and a half-hour of sewing (on Leah's part this year, thank goodness) to add ears and wing membranes. Zion was a ninja last year as well, but lost every part of his costume; he does own black clothes, but Leah had to make him a new mask and sword belt, while I crafted a pair of wooden katanas. I did that Wednesday, so when he broke one within the first two hours I could glue it back together. Leah made an incredible black hooded cloak for Harvey; under it he wore his Easter jacket and sweatpants cuffed up to look like knee-breeches. And he had a wand. Then yesterday was warm enough that he could go barefoot, to be a hobbit wizard. I wish I'd taken better photos.
Despite the terrible forecast the weather was actually great for trick-or-treating. It was mild—hot, even!—and the rain mostly held off. Despite the warnings we didn't head out until nearly 6, which was as soon as we could get our gang together. We had thirteen kids between the ages of 4 and 12, with one of them in a wheelchair, so there was a wide range of speeds; but with some encouragement we mostly stayed together, and the slower kids didn't have to skip more than one or two houses. There were lots of other groups out after dark, and with that and all the decorations in our neighborhood it felt very cheerful and celebratory. The kids got lots of candy.
We had a potluck with all the folks who went trick-or-treating with us, plus a couple others. There was tons of food, and despite no planning or communication before hand it was all thematically quite unified: chili, chicken tortilla casserole, quesadillas, and Spanish tortilla. Also a couple soups and bread and biscuits. Not that any of that was really relevant to the kids; all they wanted was to get at the candy. They brought it all upstairs to trade (and eat, of course), and after the party Leah and I were witness to the devastation they had wrought. The wrappers you expect, but there was also a good bit of half-eaten—even partially chewed and spit out—candy all over the rug. I guess that's how you know it was a party!
Since all three of our kids were in costumes that were almost entirely black, Leah ordered an awesome collection of glow-sticks. We wore them with pride on our trip around the block, and the other kids took lots of them home, but after the party there were still plenty left for us to play with. So we turned out the lights, put on "Thriller", and had our own little family dance party. Super fun. (That was before we found the candy mess upstairs.)
All in all, it was a terrific celebration. Lots of work—besides the costumes and cleaning I think I did more cooking than I do for an average Thanksgiving!—but well worth it. I'd be happy to do things just the same next year.
There's been lots of rain lately, but the clear days we have had have been wonderful examples of the best fall has to offer. Back at the end of October Saturday dawned so beautiful that we needed to get out and experience it more fully, so we roped in some friends for a walk at Great Brook Farm State Park.
I knew it was a good decision as soon as we turned onto the road to the farm: it was such a perfect image of a fall country lane. Of course, being out of the car is even better. We splashed in the little pond by the barns, watched the end of a college cross-country meet, and walked around a much larger pond to our favorite spot, the bridge at the head of the pond. Sometime in the last month a white pine growing right at the edge of the stream there fell, so of course the boys needed to climb on it. Surprisingly, the most daring of them was Lijah. I was a little nervous, I confess!
Zion might have climbed more had he not been so occupied in shadowing Natalie, who, freed from the backpack, had more energy for running around than all the other kids combined. She still doesn't run very fast though.
We climbed some rocks on the return leg of our loop, then finished the outing by watching chickens while we shared a dish of ice cream. Pretty good. All the best of the season!
This morning we left the house at 7:30 to go and pick up a couple extra kids and drive them to an adventure in the woods. We spent four and a bit hours doing a fantastic open-ended program with Timbernook of Central Massachusetts—the five kids that came in our car plus twelve more made bows and arrows, climbed trees, fortified hilltops, and rolled pumpkins down the hill into the lake. Then we drove home with our friends and played at our house for a bit, then as soon as the friends went home the boys headed right over to visit with a neighborhood friend. I picked them up from their to drive to our weekly Thursday dinner. We got back at quarter past eight. Let's hope we all get some solid sleep tonight!
Last time I wrote about the chickens, we were having trouble getting the younger ones to go back into their coop. Well, I'm pleased to report that they've now mostly got it figured out. As before, it seems like the death of one of the older hens reshuffled the pecking order and helped the remaining chickens feel more like one flock. Now the nine of them are running in the same direction when I let them out, and for the most part they're all running right back when I call them. I got them put away in just a couple minutes when we needed to leave for homeschool Park Day at 10:30 this morning; what a relief.
It did take a couple minutes rather than 30 seconds or so because there is still one of the young hens that isn't totally sure about joining her elders in the coop (she's a Barred Rock, the first one we've had since our initial batch of hens oh so many years ago). The others run right in, but I need to do a little bit of work to corral her in the right direction. It's either than she's too smart to submit to being shut in all day for a few pecks of scratch, or too dumb to find the door. It's hard to tell with chickens. She may well be the bottom of the pecking order; the Buff Orpington, the former lowest hen, did the same thing in her younger days. If that's the problem, she just has to wait: the next batch of younger hens should be around in 19 or 20 months!
When he's not yelling or whining, Lijah is a joy to be with and his sparkling utterances light up my life. Like this gem from yesterday: "there once was a man from Peru, who dreamed he peed in his shoe. That's poetry!"
Earlier, I asked him to please join me in cleaning off the table, since I was ostensibly helping him with his job. "I will," he told me, "but first can I finish taping up my mouth?"
As part of our program of home education, I try to have us make calendars every month. It has something for everyone: it's practice writing numbers, it gives anyone who cares a chance to look ahead at the month and see what we have scheduled, and it's a project that we can start and finish in one session. And of course, when you make a calendar you need a picture for the month! So part of our task is thinking of an image that can represent the month. Two out of three kids agreed on what that is for November.
Of course, the fact that I'm writing this post now shows that our November calendars were a little behind schedule. Ideally we'd make the calendar for each month before the previous month ends, but that's hard—I'm not super aware of a month drawing to a close (and then I go to write the date and realize it's not October any more). And at the beginning of a new month there are always things happening! Friday, November 1, we were away at Book Club; Mondays the boys are with their grandparents, Tuesday the 5th we were at Timbernook; Wednesday we had to rest; and Thursday we were figuring out how to live together and get things done. So on and so forth.
But on Tuesday, November 12, I finally got organized enough and we got the thing done—less than halfway through the month! And just in time to realize how little time there is before Christmas. Yikes! They came out well: Zion and Lijah did hand turkeys, Harvey drew a cornucopia, and I painted dead fields and gray skies. It may have been late, but I'm pretty proud of my November!
In former times I had no qualms about wanting to make pumpkin bread all year long. Since then I've expanded my baked goods repertoire so it's now a more seasonal treat... and this is the season! The best thing about pumpkin bread is that, since it's clearly bread rather than cake—just look at the name!—you can eat it for breakfast. Which we did yesterday. Then, since it's packed with sugar we had it for dessert after lunch and dinner.
We had the first loaf with dinner the day before. We hosted friends and made roast chicken and mashed potatoes, so it all felt very Thanksgivingy. Our friends brought pumpkin cookies for dessert which weren't any sweeter than the bread, but they did have frosting on them.
Here's the recipe, if you want to try this decadence for yourself. Super easy.
Preheat oven to 375°. Beat together in the stand mixer:
1 cup oil
2 1/2 cup sugar
1 can pumpkin
Combine in a large bowl and whisk all up:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
Add to the wet ingredients and mix til combined.
Bake in two ungreased loaf pans for 55-60 minutes.
At bedtime today Zion realized he was missing his baby tiger stuffed animal. He thought it was in his sweatshirt pocket; when he found his sweatshirt (which took quite a while) it wasn't there. The last time he remembered seeing it was this afternoon when he brought it on our trip to the library and playground. So never mind that it was dark and wet, and that my bike had a flat tire that needed pumping up before I could get anywhere, I headed out to try and find Tigey. At the playground I despaired at finding a four-inch-long orange blob amongst all the wet leaves (tigers' camouflage really works!) but still looked around with a flashlight for a while, without any success. Then I looked in the library; at the lost-and-found there I did pick up a couple of hats that had come from our house some time in the last month—we had no idea they were missing—but no Tigey. So I went home. Putting my bike away I noticed that Zion had never brought his raincoat inside like I had asked, so I picked it up and right away noticed a squishy lump in the pocket.
What did he say when I brought him his beloved animal? "Oh yeah! I remember that it wouldn't fit in my sweatshirt pocket!" This is parenting. At least we have those hats back!