squeezing the summer

While we're starting to think about fall and school around here, we aren't ready to let go of summer yet—and the last couple days we've been working on enjoying it to the fullest! On Thursday we took a picnic up to the playground and relished in the cool evening breeze after a hot humid day. Then at the library we were delighted to stumble upon a party celebrating the end of the summer reading season, and got to enjoy a popsicle dessert—several popsicles!—and some loud crazy family entertainment from the Toe Jam Puppet Band.

the boys watching the antics of Toe Jam's Vinny

grippingly entertaining

I was impressed with Harvey, who raised his hand at almost all of the (many) volunteer opportunities but never got picked; with Lijah, who despite the volume and zaniness gradually moved off my lap into the second row with his brothers; and with myself when I volunteered to go up front and try hula-hooping. At least I had Lijah there to help me. Zion was cool too.

Lijah, still, surrounded by kids trying to catch bubbles

still amidst the craziness

It was a beautiful cool evening, and besides the music it was super fun to hang out with lots of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. After the show lots of the families drifted over to the playground, and Harvey continued to show off his confidence as he jumped right into the game the other kids were playing. It was dark and we were tired as we biked home, but I couldn't imagine a sweeter evening.

kids jumping for big bubbles against the evening sky

setting bubbles, day is done

Then yesterday we got to be part of the last day of summer camp for the year: the traditional group ride to an ice cream place. Despite the staggering humidity it was fun to ride on an urban bike path through Cambridge and Somerville, and we enjoyed delightful stops at a grassy embankment and a playground, where we had lunch.

kids and a parent rolling down a steep grassy bank

1, 2, 3, roll!

Harvey, Zion, Ollie, and Eliot on a bench having lunch

hot lunch

Of course, the best stop was the last one, at JP Licks in Davis Square for ice cream. They boys said it wasn't as good as Bedford Farms, but it was still nice to share the moment with friends.

kids eating ice cream in Davis Square

ice cream party

Then after a long rest time to recover we closed out the day with a lovely pizza picnic dinner with friends here on our lawn. We took the opportunity to make some farm-school co-op plans for the coming year, because there's no mistaking but that fall's around the corner; but we're loving summer while it lasts!

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camping 2016: family hiking

the Archibalds posing atop Parkman Mtn

the family that hikes together poses together

Here are some more words about our camping trip. It may be a bit much but we appreciate the record ourselves, even if it doesn't have so much appeal to the wider world. We do a lot on vacation, and it's nice to be able to revisit it!

Our first full day in Maine this year we broke from tradition to eat breakfast at the campsite, rather than going into town to the Cafe. It was partly to save money, and partly because thee two-year-olds aren't the easiest crowd to wrangle in a crowded restaurant as they wait half an hour for their first food of the day. It was cool enough when we woke up that I enjoyed lighting the fire, and the bacon, eggs, and toast went down well. The only unhappy moment came when Leah realized she had forgotten the filters for her Aeropress. The little boys had no such concerns.

Lijah and Henry working on coloring pages by the remains of the fire

after-breakfast entertainment

As for the bigger ones, they're such old hands at camping that we could leave them entirely to their own devices.

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan sitting under the trees far away from us

doing their own thing

While the kids played we packed lunches and snacks, then we hopped in three cars and headed to the day's trail. We meant to hike up Bald Peak and then Parkman Mountain, but in our enthusiasm we reversed the order; all we cared about was that we were going up.

Nathan, Zion, and Harvey climbing up the steep trail

upward and onward!

And up and up; as per Harvey's request, there was lots of steep scrambling on the trail (but no ladders). The boys were full of energy and handled it all without a problem. They totally earned their top-of-the-mountain snacks.

Harvey and Zion at the top of the mountain getting snacks out of bags

snack at the top

Lijah, too, did a great job; he didn't have to walk, but he had to allow himself to be carried in the backpack, which was probably even harder! He had a moment of rebellion when it was time to get back in after our first mountaintop start, but I was able to enthuse him enough that he remounted without any real screaming. Zion was ready to go too.

Zion, holding his tiger, leaning on the backpack with Lijah in it

carried and carrier

I didn't take nearly as many pictures on top of Bald Peak, where I think we had lunch; it's always thus for the day's second summit. I did manage to use my phone to snap one of Leah, celebrating her freedom on her first hike in five years not carrying someone!

Leah by the sign at the top of Bald Peak

she proves we did it

The way down was just as steep, and the boys (and some of the adults!) found that controlled sliding was the best way to manage the grade safely. Harvey wore two big holes in the seat of his pants.

Harvey sliding down a steep rock face

and this wasn't even the Giant Slide Trail

By the afternoon it was pretty hot, and we were all footsore and happy to make it back to the cars for a bit of a rest. But back at the campsite the boys quickly revived and got ready to hit the pool!

Zion, Harvey, and Nathan doing a silly pose in their swimsuits, goggles, and life-jackets

silly swimmers

While some swam, others cooked dinner, and as the sun started to get low in the sky we sat down to a lovely meal of pasta and meat sauce. We'd all earned those carbs—especially the little ones, who permitted us to have so much fun.

all five of the little kids eating pasta at the low table

kids table

Yes, they all know how to do this camping thing!

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at the art show

fiber art by a 10-year-old

creativity on show

Our friends who are running a day camp this summer also hosted a kids art show Saturday afternoon. It was wonderful to see the variety of art on display, created by kids ages two to twelve: drawings, paintings, sculpture, poetry, fiber arts, and cartography. There were maybe a dozen artists involved, and a good crowd of kids and parents there to take it all in.

kids and adults looking at the art

appreciative audience

Besides the static display, we were also treated to performances of storytelling, jokes, and live and recorded music. Lijah took advantage of the projector for some impromptu performance art.

Lijah playing in the beam from the projector

illuminated

Many but not all of the kids involved are homeschooled—and all of them could be, given the dedication they showed to their artwork. They didn't all know each other going into the show; while they didn't leap to connect with each other, there was definitely a feeling of shared kinship as artists.

two boys playing with lego art together

artworking together

We weren't organized enough to be part of the show (I think we were the only family in attendance without a name or two in the program). Or I should say I wasn't organized enough; as soon as he heard of it (on Friday afternoon) he rushed some lego models and experimental cooking into production for the display. For my part, I was inspired by many of the pieces with ideas for the upcoming year of learning. There's another show planned for the winter; the boys are looking forward to being there with lots of their own art to show off!

Harvey and Zion looking at some illustrated poetry

impressive work

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moments from the week

the full moon rising over our backyard

august moon

Images and moments from the past week.

the boys among many others dressed up as Jedi knights, lined up with foam light-sabers

jedis in training

corn, tomatoes, basil, pesto spaghetti, and bread on the table

easting summer

Lijah crossing a rope bridge thing on the playground

doin it himself

a hen in the living room

interloper, looking for cheerios

a small bouquet of flowers in a half-pint jar

our yard's bouquet

Lijah reaching up to see the food on the table at the art show

art show spread

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looking forward to school

I wrote most of the boys' homeschool plans today. Two of them this time! We're all excited to get started with the school year; a couple days ago Harvey groaned when he heard that school in Bedford starts September fifth, because that seemed like much too far away for him. We probably won't make it that long. It may be kind of silly for us to follow an academic calendar, with all our big unschooling talk, but we do like new beginnings. There are high hopes for this one on all sides.

I can't speak to the hopes or excitement of the public school kids, but at least in this town they're heading off to a school that has some right ideas about transportation. A press release published in the local independent paper recommends kids get to school by bike or by foot as a first choice, or by school bus if that isn't possible. The last couple paragraphs take up the less preferred option: "If your child cannot walk or bike or ride the bus, DRIVE, BUT ONLY IF YOU MUST" (emphasis in original!). The piece mentions the dangers cars pose to kids, congestion, and air pollution as reasons to leave the car at home. I think we have a long way to go before everybody gets the message, but it's great just to have it out there so prominently! Almost enough to make me want to send my kids to school so they can bike there. But no, we're keeping them here: there's so much fun in store!

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