snowy day

Harvey, Zion, and a friend posing in the snow

snow-day gang

I got my snow!

snow falling in the yard

everything pretty again

What a difference from a couple days ago; even last night, as I worked in the yard to get things ready for the snow, it was warm enough that I was comfortable in my shirt sleeves. Today we were comfortable in snow suits.

the boys playing in the heavily-falling snow

rough and tumble

It wasn't that cold, but it was snowy and wet, and the boys spent several delightful hours outside. They would have stayed longer yet, but all their friends had to go in.

Harvey and Zion just inside the front door, still geared up and covered with snow

that's after I made them shake off outside

The snow stopped just before sunset, and the clouds parted to let a ray of sun through to illuminate the snow-covered trees. A perfect end to a beautiful snowy day!

the tips of the snow-covered trees lit up by a break in the clouds at sunset

everybody else posted this picture on facebook


hippy picture book suggestion

In a world full of kindergarten stories and princess-dress stories and robot-boy stories, I take note when I come across a picture book that I think shows off good counterculture values. Take mental note, that is... unfortunately, when I don't actually write down any of the titles that particularly catch my attention, I can't remember them later when anyone asks. If anyone were ever to ask. That changes now!

In Building Our House, Jonathan Bean describes, from his older sister's perspective, how his parents and their friends built a timber-frame house for themselves. The watercolor illustrations beautifully portray the passage of the seasons as the work goes slowly forward—though significantly faster in the book than in real life, as an author's note at the end explains! The narration is wonderfully matter-of-fact, just as you'd expect from a child of parents who could ever conceive of such a thing. Wiring and insulating mid-winter "while the drifts pile up"? Sure, isn't that just what you do?

Bean and his family aren't all-out back-to-the-landers: the first step they took towards developing their property was to hook up to municipal electricity, and an electric range is pictured (along with a cookstove at the center of the house). So they aren't as hard-core as some people we know. But they sure aren't taking the typical route to home-ownership!

Harvey and Zion love the book, which we got from the library, and we've already read it six or seven times. It might be worth buying, though I may prefer to save my Jonathan Bean dollar for another book of his that I learned about while searching for an image to include with this post. Called This Is My Home, This Is My School, it features the house whose construction we just lived through serving both those roles.

In the Author's Note that ends Building Our House, Bean closes:

Of course, a homestead would not be complete without a large garden, fruit trees, pets, woodland, and a stream flowing through a mysterious marshland. Add to that the wise love of two parents, the companionship of three sisters, and a practically lived faith, and it's hard for me to think of a better place to have grown up.

Sounds good to me!


whining about warmth

It's been startlingly warm here the last couple days. In my incredulous descriptions of the weather I've moved through "spring-like" to "summer-like"—what else could I say about a day like yesterday that saw us playing soccer and riding bikes in t-shirts?

Lijah out on the street in bike helmet and t-shirt

and proud of it!

Most people around here have been just delighted by the pleasant weather. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that it'd be fine—perfect!—if we had a snowless winter with the temperatures never dropping much below 50°F. While I did enjoy all the time we spent outside the first half of the week, I can't agree. If you ask me, winter is broken, and it's a big problem.

On one level the trouble is immediate. Lots of things in our ecosystem here depend on the temperature swings we're supposed to have over the year: bulbs, trees with dormancy periods, hibernating amphibians. Snow on the ground protects dormant plants (like my grass) and slowly replenishes ground water. And cold weather in the winter kills pathogens that could otherwise multiply and damage trees. Even when we do have cold snaps mixed in with warm temperatures it can cause trouble: enough warm days and flowering trees will start to bud. When it gets cold again the buds will die, and that means no apples in the fall.

And then there's the big picture. However we feel about our local climate personally, an ever-warmer planet is bad news for everyone in the long run. You've all heard about sea-level rises, local extinctions and crop failures caused by unusual weather patterns, and ever-stronger storms thanks to the energy all the warmth injects into the atmosphere. "Yes, but!" people tell me. "It's so nice right now!"

It may be that I'm a horrid curmudgeon (probably true). It may be that I secretly or not-so-secretly enjoy it when things are difficult (definitely true). But I would suggest that "nice" is what you make of it, and that there are many pleasant aspects of a bitter cold winter buried under feet of snow. And for people who really can't stand the cold, there are many places in the world—in the United States, even!—where really cold weather is rare or nonexistent. Massachusetts isn't supposed to be one of them, and to damn us all to climate disaster for the fleeting pleasure of a summer day in February is bad policy!

(Alright, I know what you're going to say: we don't have a direct personal input on climate change, so why not enjoy warm weather while it's here? Or more to the point, why not enjoy it without complaining up a storm like me? Because not complaining makes us not change anything. If we think that 57°F after 9:00pm on February 3rd is crazy, we might consider redoubling our own conservation efforts to do what we can to slow global warming. That, or write a whiny blog post about how everyone else is wrong. Every little bit helps!)


realistic simulation

At almost-two, Lijah is starting to have some real significant periods of solo play. It's lovely! It generally takes some intervention to get him going on something but if he's not hungry or tired he can, once launched, entertain himself for a good half-hour at a time. A couple weeks ago the little plastic dinosaurs were his favorite independent play toy; now it's his Duplo farm.

Lijah playing with animals and the Duplo barn, using the trampoline as a table

modeling the social interactions of the animals

Like Harvey (and unlike Zion) Lijah is very vocal when he plays. But while Harvey at that age narrated his stories, Lijah mostly sticks to dialogue. Dialogue that hews pretty close to the familiar for him.

"No no no!"

"Wait up, Cow!"

"Let go! Give it back!"


Charming, except that sometimes—often—it's hard to tell the difference between Lijah calling "Mama" and the calf or the baby duck doing the same. The volume of his in-game cries is certainly about the same as the genuine article. Of course, I err on the side of ignoring him; and no worries if I guess wrong, because I'll hear about it soon enough!


two Monday outings

Lijah swinging high in the baby swing, brothers heading up a hill behind him

spring adventure in winter

To let Leah start the week off with some solid hours of paying work, the boys and I are doing Monday morning outings these days. It's wonderful for all concerned, especially since our Sundays now feature a lot of stressful child-care for Mama and a lot of stressful church management for me; we're quite happy to reverse the picture (and subtract the stress!) on Mondays.

Last week I took the boys out to Jam Time in Maynard, an indoor play space for kids one through six that features lots of great toys and climbing things. And a ball pit.

Lijah in a sunbeam in a ball pit

sunny ball boy

Everybody had a great time (though I was needed so little I wished I had brought a book along). The play structures were lots of fun for the bigger two—Harvey got some solid practice in on the monkey bars, Zion learned how to slide down the fire pole, and they both enjoyed the super-quick smooth wood slides. Lijah spent an hour or two playing with a fireman and some plastic horses, with a few breaks for more active pursuits. It was all wonderful but for two things: we were exposed to some strong gender-normativism from some of the other kids there, and it set me back $30.

Today it was back to free adventures. With the weather bizarrely warm—practically summery—there was no reason not to go to a real, outdoor playground, and since we also wanted to visit the Arlington library we picked Robbins Park in Arlington. Though its main attraction, the giant slides, were closed for winter, there was still plenty to do. While the school kids in their playground across the street packed what fun they could into their 15-minute recesses, we ignored the bells and whistles as we ran and climbed and swung (and had a picnic). The boys even made some friends, who in true boyish fashion started out as enemies—or attackers, at least. Not that it was so crowded we couldn't escape other people when we wanted to.

Lijah running down a big hill towards the playground

room to run

After a while it was on to the library for some quiet time, and then a toy store for some desiring time. We stopped in to see Grandma and Grandpa on the way home, a delightful end to a fine adventure (especially since they always give out snacks). All that, and we still got home mid afternoon, in time to do plenty of housework before dinner. A successful Monday all around.