Regrettably delayed, a few moments from the past week (not including today, which was filled with charming moments!).
There's a new indoor play-space that opened up last week around the corner from us. It's attached to a toy store and has all kinds of props for playing house or store, and building toys, and a gym to run around in. But as great as it is, it's still only the second-best play area we've explored in the past week. Because the Discovery Museum in Acton finished up their new addition.
We love the museum, and have spent many happy hours there (for example). That said, Harvey's getting a little old for the "Childrens" section—the fun runs out a little quicker than it used to.
And the big-kid science discovery portion doesn't open until afternoon. So we thought we'd check out the new addition, for which we had no expectations at all. It is amazing.
The centerpiece is a "treehouse" suspended a story above the ground and reachable by wooden bridges. Inside the barn-like structure is the most beautiful all-natural waldorffy space I've ever experienced, warmed by sawn-board walls and light streaming through the mismatched collection of windows. Neither words nor pictures can do it justice—especially after 9:00—but I try.
Every aspect of the space was so delightful—the tables, the natural-wood blocks, the rag rugs, the tree limbs used as structural elements—I didn't want to leave. When the boys and their friends finally dragged me out I found that the exterior space is just as charming, filled with lots of the same attractions that we love at the Kemp Playground, but even better for being basically in the woods.
There's a bouncy bridge, blocks big enough to build a house you can fit in, a web to climb on, hula hoops, swing, balance-beam trees... and if that's not enough to interest the bigger kids signs point the way towards a 2-mile loop you can hike through the adjacent woods.
I'm pretty much in love. Hopefully we'll be able to find time to go back soon.
Last year September was so warm that we were able to enjoy the pond all the way to the end of the month. Not so this year, and not only did the early chill mean I was disappointed in my hopes of getting Harvey really swimming before the end of the year—it also felt like our beach days were cut off suddenly and unexpectedly. So I was glad when it got suddenly warmer for a few days in early October!
Circumstances kept us away from a pond visit on Thursday, but this past Friday was even hotter so after lunch the boys and I packed up and headed over there to meet friends. While the air was hot and summery, the water was not—but it wasn't chilly enough to keep out the brave Archibalds! (Harvey and Lijah being the bravest when it comes to cold water, though I was the only one to put my head under.)
You see Lijah in the water there, unlike our last beach outing when he confined himself to the bucket. He didn't just sit, either: he chased me all around, going chest deep without any hesitation. The difference is that it wasn't the ocean. He won't even have me call it the beach: "not the beach, Dada, this the pond". He doesn't trust the ocean.
But for the rest of us a pond beach is still a beach. And the best thing about an October beach trip—besides the lack of crowds—is that by this point in the season the boys know just what to do, and what they needed to bring. And with their backpacks they can manage it all themselves.
Or maybe it's just that they're growing up? Just think of all the great beach outings we'll be able to do next summer! Though given that we had a freeze last night, I think we're probably all done for this year.
Lijah is growing up—moving from toddler stage to pre-schooler in the ever finer gradations of American marketing—and he's starting to lose some of his cutest mispronunciations. He can say Ls now, for example, when he remembers; so no more "yibary" (or "Yaya" to refer to himself). I wish we were videoing him all the time.
But he does say a lot of words—talks all the time he can get a word in edgewise in our talky home—so there are still lots of language features of note. One interesting development is how he's started changing the "ah" sound at the end of polysyllabic words to more of an "aow". We hear it most in "Mamaow" and "bananaow" (hundreds of times a day each) but it also occurs in less frequently spoken words like "Dadaow".
Why does he do it? I have no idea. Generally, he tends to get less intelligible when he speaks with greater emphasis (no Lijah, talking without closing your mouth does not actually make you more persuasive), and it may be his latest quirk comes from something like that. He also seems to be pretty interested in the sound of words generally, and in the sound of his own voice, so maybe he just likes the effect.
Something else that's been amusing us lately as the weather turns is how he talks about being cold. Until recently he pronounced /k/ as /t/, like the baby polar bear in the joke ("my tail is told"), so when he copied Zion's exaggerated fake-shivering it came out as, "I'm t-t-t-told!". He's got the /k/ now, but I guess he internalized the beginning of that stock saying as /t/ so recently we've heard, several times, "I'm t-t-t-cold!". Although I laughed in delight the first time and told Leah about it, in Lijah's hearing, so it could be he's doing it on purpose now for effect. And I don't have any idea how aware he is when he adds even more emphasis: "I'm t-t-t-freezing!"
Probably pretty aware. Look out for more jokes coming soon.
With a kindergartener and a second grader around the place we can't fail to note Columbus Day. So this past Monday I told the boys a story in three parts: how Columbus "discovered America"; how Columbus Day came to be a holiday and Columbia a symbol of the American spirit; and how there are so many things wrong with Columbus, his story, and our celebrations of him. The flaws are too numerous and tedious to describe here—check out this famous comic on the subject if you're interested in reading more—but suffice it to say, we're happy learn about Columbus—the good and the bad—and join with the citizens of Cambridge and many other cities in celebrating Indigenous People's Day instead.
Although, when it came to the snacks it was Columbus who won the day. See, Harvey is into doing themed snacks these days, and he had a great idea for some Columbus Day boats, which he put together with only a little help from Mama.
The Santa Maria was for him, of course; Zion was delighted with his Pinta.
They were both disappointed that our little child was napping, and they didn't get to make him a Niña; Harvey planned to later in the day but the opportunity didn't arise. But that doesn't mean he let go of the idea of nautically themed food! At dinner—a dinner planned without anything like art in mind—he instantly saw the possibility of another vessel under sail, and created a tomato boat (with quesadilla sails) on a sea of corn.
I don't know how much about Columbus either of them will retain from the work of the day. But I do think we've established a good groundwork in the names of the ships, the year 1492, and the fact that Columbus was a jerk. That seems age-appropriate.
A week ago the boys and I headed into Somerville to take in the music and enchantment of Honkfest 2016. They were excited when we set out—we have prior form in Honk enjoyment—and we had high hopes of meeting up with friends and taking in several hours of quality bands.
Unfortunately, while the festival is pretty child-friendly, the boys weren't particularly festival-friendly. With a bunch of busy days and late nights over the previous week they were pretty worn out. Certainly, except for Lijah—who was also charmingly decked out in forehead eye-patch for the occasion—they weren't up for any wild dancing.
Even a stop at a playground didn't excite them for very long, and pretty soon Zion was in the trailor and down for the count.
Harvey had enough energy to keep upright, but without Zion to play with he wasn't too pleased with things either (nor was he pleased with the food choices I had available). So we said an early goodbye to friends and headed out—though I did have to stop to check out one more band.
And I'm glad I did, because The Party Band was my favorite of the day. We'd seen them a few weeks ago in the Bedford Day parade—where I thanked them for bringing some real music to the event—but it turns out that the group then was only a portion of the whole band. All together they put out some impressive sound, and Lijah and I enjoyed it to the fullest. Or he enjoyed it until he fell asleep on my shoulder: I guess it was a little too much like his old bedtime music for him to hold out. He's heavy, asleep, but I managed to hang onto him until the end of the set, at which point I dumped him in the copilot seat and we headed for home. There was some considerable mirth at our passage—two sleeping kids amidst all that noise was apparently more outlandish than any of the other wild sights of the festival—but Harvey and I were too grumpy to appreciate it.
In retrospect, though, it was a fine outing. I heard some music, the boys didn't whine too much, and we learned that they can do parades (especially parades next to playground) much better than crowded hour-long sets. Next year I'll do the Saturday part of the festival by myself... or maybe Lijah can come with me, if he asks nicely.
I've written more than once about my degree of nervousness around unschooling. Mostly it's not about whether the boys are learning, but rather two other things: how well they can demonstrate that learning to other people, and the pace and scheduling of their skill acquisition.
For example. Because he lives with obstinate introverted anarchists, Harvey has become increasingly reluctant to "perform" in any situation where he's not completely comfortable. This is a problem when he needs to do a math pre-assessment for us, or when he needs to follow teacher directions in Kids Church, or when I try and get him to answer any single question he thinks I already know the answer to. No Socratic method for this boy! Zion, similarly, needs to work on how to hold a pencil and make marks on paper in any sort of deliberate way. But since he can't draw the pictures he wants, he won't work on it at all!
But maybe you see my mistake in the previous paragraph. It's all those "needs to"s. Because of course, from any rational perspective none of those things are strictly necessary at all. In one of those posts linked above (the one on "once") I mentioned worrying about the 4-year-old Harvey's pencil grip and artistic ability, and now he's a totally confident draftsman whose work often impresses (and sometimes confuses) unrelated adults. Not that he's an artistic prodigy by any means; just that he's comfortably middle of the pack. I have no doubt Zion will follow a similar trajectory—just maybe a little bit later, since he does lots of things later. He doesn't need to "practice"; more experience will do the trick.
In a perfect world, that would be that. Unfortunately, we really do need to make a portfolio, and showing progress via assessments is kind of useful. So how can we combine that sort of artificial process with the real learning the boys are working on? I don't know... that's what I'm working on! Today, we did our morning schooling at a friend's house, and worked companionably on our separate tasks. In the middle of his math, though—that pre-assessment, third try this year—Harvey got frustrated and stomped off. And Zion, as the youngest school-age learner there, was disengaged from any formal activity the whole time. So we gave up, and played instead, then had lunch, then walked to a playground. Then we drove home and had a rest, then Harvey and Zion played legos and fought, then we played catch and baseball (while Lijah listened to books on the ipad and Leah painted the interior trim). Then the boys played on the new swing while I fixed the fence, then they played in our neighbors yard while we made dinner.
Then I reminded Harvey that there was still that math to finish. He pulled it right out and got to work. Zion asked me if he could do some math too, so we talked about place value while Harvey worked independently. Zion did some drawing on the chalkboard. Lijah came over and asked to do math too; we gave him some dinosaurs to count, and he counted two and three. Then we thought up rhymes together. Lijah wanted to take a bath and wanted Zion to join him, but Zion wanted more math; he only went after I promised him "math in the bath". After our bedtime story together Harvey took a flashlight into his bed so he could keep reading his Magic Treehouse book, until I cut him off at 8:00.
So that all worked out pretty well. Besides just good luck and a little bit of patience, I think a new organizational scheme we just started may have helped things along. But it's brand new, so I'll let it settle in for a while before I start bragging about it... it's not the first new scheme I've come up with! Tomorrow is day two. We'll see how it goes (but don't expect an account this complete every day!).
So I've had things I wanted to write about here, but instead of concentrating enough to find words I've been reading about the presidential election—and, last night, watching the debate. I never watched a debate before; why on earth did I think it was a good idea to watch this one?! I'm so ready for this all to be over. Or really, I'm ready to cast my vote in a cathartic rejection of the horrible Donald Trump. And more: I'm really looking forward to voting for Hillary Clinton.
I've never voted for a Democrat for president before, since I've always felt like there were better options and—especially since I've only ever voted in Massachusetts—I don't see any need to worry about tactical voting or even electability. But this time, not only do I want to send the Republican candidate to a crushing defeat in which every vote counts, I'm actually excited about voting for the Ds. Clinton may not have the best music (though you'll notice that her media and design team is immeasurably better this time around!) but as I slog through the disgusting rhetoric swirling around the campaign I'm more and more convinced that only one candidate this year offers a truly hopeful message of what we can accomplish all together.
I voted for Jill Stein last time, and I agree with her positions and respect her passion—but for whatever reason I've found her frustration and aggresiveness off-putting this cycle. I figure: Greens can't win, so why don't they take the moral high ground and talk about how their policies for saving the human race will bring us all together? As it is, maybe if we smash the Republicans enough the next four years will give politicians an opening to start seriously addressing climate change—to say nothing of racial and economic inequality. That's where we're at for national politics.
There's lots more to say on the subject, but my point here is really that politics is occupying too much of my time and brain space lately. So enough for now!
As the weather turns cold again, we have more incentive to turn on the oven. And the bread is never ready to go in first thing, so more often than not we get a dessert out of the deal. Today we had friends over who are experiencing the same thing at their house, so after lunch the kids got to choose between brownies, apple crisp, pound cake, pumpkin spice chocolate cookies, banana chocolate chip muffins, and pumpkin bread. They were so overwhelmed I felt bad and let them have a little bit of their top four choices. Life is good at our house these days!
Last week my parents were out of town, so on Wednesday instead of going to their house the boys came in to work with us. Leah took them to a friend's house nearby in the morning, then we had lunch together, and then it was my turn to watch them while she worked. The first thing I did was make them do some schoolwork (because it's still October—and I needed to finish up a couple things myself). But then we headed out into the beautiful fall day to explore new playgrounds.
Danahy Park is right around the corner from our church and workplace, but it's still not the closest playground, so the boys had never been before. At first sight they were unimpressed with the play structure, but delighted by the grassy expanse. It made them want to play golf.
Besides the grass there are also a few woodsy and marshy nooks, so it feels like a place you want to explore. And explore we did!
When I got tired of managing the pace disparity between Lijah and the other boys I shepherded them over to the play structure, where they managed to find things to do after all—especially when they let themselves be engaged by a braggy four-year-old who wanted someone to play with. Then school let out and the crowd got a little overwhelming; but it was fun to watch all those kids show off their complete comfort with the playground they visit every day. We might go again sometime too.