posts tagged with 'adventure'

adventures rural and urban

Living where we do we have a wide range of possible adventures close at hand. Last week, a friend invited us out to Great Brook State Park in Carlisle. Leah and I had been before, but not since Harvey was born, so we weren't really aware of the range of kid-friendly farm-visiting opportunities there were available there. But first we had a picnic.

Zion and a friend on a lawn with pond and farm behind them

a fine day for a farm visit

While the big kids and grownups ate lunch and ran around, Lijah enjoyed some quiet time on his own pulling up grass and biting on leaves and sticks. He can get himself around just enough that if he sees something interesting close at hand he has the means to obtain it for himself!

Elijah playing on the grass

almost-crawling freedom

After a bit we headed over to see the animals. There were cows.

a cow looking through the fence at the camera

moo?

Also present were sheep, goats, chickens, a duck, and many many pigeons (the pigeons were of the "wild" variety). There were horses around too; we saw several people riding, which was a much more exotic sight for the boys than the other livestock. There are farm tours at Great Brook sometimes, but not on November Tuesdays, so we had to stay outside the fence.

When we finally managed to tear ourselves away from the animals we took to the trails for a hike. You never know what you're going to get hiking with two- and three-year-olds (we had one of each in the party), but since it was so nice we launched ourselves on a pretty ambitious loop and didn't actually do too badly. It helped that there were lots of dramatic rock features for the kids to observe and climb: climbing energy is different than walking energy, and a couple minutes of strenuous climbing will restore your typical child for at least an equal period of boring walking. Harvey brought his new notebook along so he record his observations.

Harvey atop a pile of rocks in the woods, with backpack and sketchbook

observant explorer

Then yesterday we took off in the entirely opposite direction. On a day with steady rain that looked like it wasn't going to stop, I figured I could take the boys on a train ride: exciting and under cover! Leah dropped us off at Alewife and we took the Red Line to Park Street, where we changed to real(er) train and chugged up out of the tunnels on our way towards Newton.

the view out the front of a Green Line train on the D line

conductor's-eye view

When we felt like we'd seen all there was to see of the D line we hopped out, dashed across the tracks, and jumped on an inbound train not two minutes later. I did have enough time to snap a memento of our visit, a shot of the station at Newton Center... excuse me, Centre. A charmingly old-world structure to be sure.

the station at Newton Center in the rain

looks like a train station

Back downtown we emerged from the subway tunnels to discover that the rain had tapered off to a fine falling mist, leaving us free to explore the city aboveground. At the Library Main Branch we saw lots of tourists visiting but weren't able to locate the kids area or even any books, so we gave the place up for a bad deal (though it's just the place to go if you want marble walls; and we did also find a restroom, which was handy). Then across the street we were confronted with a real live skyscraper.

Trinity Church and the Prudential tower in the misty rain

sky scraper scraping

Harvey's theory was that a town as big as Boston ought to have a toy store somewhere, so I led the party in the direction of FAO Schwartz, only to remember along the way that the Boston location closed five or ten years ago. We looked in to the Marshalls that's now in about the same place, but it's toy selection was smaller than the boys are used to at our local store (have we written about our dealings with Marshalls? we should!) so we pushed on. No toy stores, but a tour of Boylston and Newbury Streets landed us at the Public Garden, where we fed pancakes to the ducks and then had to fend of their increasingly aggressive attempts to get seconds. Zion was seriously nervous; we were all much happier viewing the avian life of the garden from the safety of the bridge.

Harvey and Zion looking over the bridge railing at the duck pond

safe way for ducklings

There were lots of pigeons there too—very pleasant uniting theme to the two adventures!

When the rain started up again we ate lunch in the bandstand on the Common (sharing the mostly-dry space with some homeless folks) and then walked over to Park Street to take the Red Line back towards home.

Both outings were tiring but rewarding; both are worth doing again soon!

more

a morning hike

Harvey and Zion coming up a hill on brightly-lit fall leaves

fall hiking

The boys, Rascal, and I took a hike yesterday a little farther afield: a town forest area that isn't just across the street. Last time we biked there, but with the dog today we had to drive. Which meant a different entrance place, so it was totally new for the boys! Experienced hikers as they are, they were well-prepared.

Harvey and Zion hiking down a sloping path in the pines

sure-footed

Many of paths through this particular woods are up and down steep sandy slopes, and they were fun both up and down and kept anyone from getting bored. It was wonderful to be able to have both the boys and Rascal with me on a walk and not have to worry about the pace either way: even Zion's developing into a fine hiker and moved along at a reasonable speed, and as Rascal approaches his second decade he's willing, if not to walk along with us, to wait up and check in with us from time to time. As happy as we all were with the walking, though, we were even more delighted to come upon a body of water.

the boys on the shore of the pond, watching Rascal in the water

we're drawn to water

Rascal jumped right in and the boys wasted no time in taking off their boots to paddle, but all three of them decided that the water was actually pretty chilly; Harvey stood in the water for no more than a second and Zion barely dipped a toe, while Rascal refused to go in very far after sticks and hauled himself out between each one to shake dry (including once all over Zion's coat; good thing it was warming up nicely!).

After the pond it was a just a little ways back to the car, since we were starting to tire a little bit. The only complaining of the trip came from Zion towards the end of this segment, but as we reached the road and he could see an end to the walking he rallied and finished in good spirits.

Zion looking like a hiker heading back to the car

littlest hiker

Then we were home in time for lunch and an afternoon of further adventures: the advantage of hiking close to home!

more

brief riverine excursion

Harvey and Zion posing in front of the Old North Bridge

old north boys

We took a quick trip yesterday to the Old North Bridge.

the boys climbing on rocks by the river

mostly sure-footed

Even though the weather was in the process of turning colder, the water was an irresistible attraction for the boys. Sadly it was a little too deep to wade all the way under the bridge. While we big boys played, Mama and Lijah got some much-needed resting in, in recovery from a night of disputing nursing frequencies (and in preparation for another such).

Mama lying down by the river with Lijah sleeping on her stomach

restful

There was some disagreeable behavior leaving home, and more as we headed back to the car, but the hour we were at the riverbank was an entirely pleasant time: just what we needed!

Zion, with his hood up, smiling at the camera

good times

more

this year's Honk!

the boys watching the parade, band in background

leftists on parade

This past Sunday we headed into the urban jungle for another year's edition of the Honk! parade. We got there plenty early—by design, because for the boys the wonderful playground on Cambridge Common is as much of a draw as the music and anarchy. And they made the most of it, playing so independently that I didn't even manage to take a good picture: they were too far away! Of course, the parade was awesome too.

tall bikes in the Honk! parade

typical extravagance

Besides the bands there were puppets, protest groups, adults and kids on stilts, and of course tall bikes. It was everything a parade should be, and totally unlike the Bedford Day parade, which is also everything a parade should be. (That statement could stand to be examined further in another blog post.) Actually, there were a couple commonalities: both parades have a big kid component, and new this year Honk had a unit throwing out candy. Just a bit, but it was enough to cement the boys' understanding that all parades everywhere should give them candy.

After the parade we headed into Harvard Square, where we had lunch with some friends sitting on the thin end of the traffic island splitting the two lanes of Mass Ave in front of Harvard Yard. Car-free streets are great! Of course, while they were car-free the streets were totally and all-encompassingly choked with people, so Leah was quickly overwhelmed; and, truth be told, it was even a little bit much for me. But I wanted to take more music, and so, surprisingly, did Zion. And since he could go on my shoulders he was the only one of us who could actually see the musicians the first couple bands we found.

members of the New Creation Brass Band playing

pizza party

There are a lot of fun and interesting bands involved in the festival, but I wanted to hear some real good music so I was happy to find the New Creation band playing an un-advertized set on the sidewalk. The boys and I were even able to find a spot where we could see, and we happily enjoyed a couple great examples of modern New Orleans brass band music. Leah indulged us and waited patiently. I could have sat there listing for as long as the band kept playing, but let no one say I lack consideration entirely! I also found a back way out of the festival throng so we didn't have to struggle through the crowd again, and a quiet bathroom in a Harvard library (though Zion preferred to pee outside, on the library's bushes), so I'm not totally useless as a provider either.

All in all it was an experience, and we're already looking forward to doing it again next year! Just maybe slightly differently.

more

fair game

We went to our state fair this week, the first time I've ever been. I thought we should do some comparative literature as home school prep work, so I read accounts of state fairs in some of our favorite old-timey books: Charlotte's Web and Farmer Boy. Then I asked H&Z to wonder how our modern fair would be similar or different. If nothing else, the prep served to make them EXTREMELY EXCITED as we drove down to Topsfield on Friday morning. The excitement carried over as they navigated the petting zoo and saw a REAL LIVE ELEPHANT!, but it waned a bit as we fought against large school groups to sneak a peak at the prize winning vegetables. After an intense hour of trying to see things in the crowded barns we took a break between the fried food stands to eat our bagged lunch. I asked Harvey if this fair was at all similar to the books. He considered a moment while he munched his sandwich, then noting EB White's description he said, "Lot of food for rats here."

OMG a laama!!!

After a heartening lunch at 10:30am (the crowds made us all want to stress eat) we enjoyed seeing the sheep sheering demonstration and a lazy parade of horses. Unfortunately, the general admission part of the fair was crowded as crowded could be, and the rest of the entertainment was designed to un-self-consciously strip us of as much cash as possible. I told the boys they could choose one ride and one game, because I am not a terrible moster of a mother. They chose the carousel (only if I rode with them, of course) and for $7.50 I hope they enjoyed the living shit out of that thing.

they seem to have inherited my fear of horses, even metal ones

Unfortunately we had a little family melt-down over the midway game choices. Overstimulation lead to poor communication, and it came out later that Harvey really wanted to play the water shooting game but he was afraid to ask how to shoot the gun. That might have been more fun for everyone, and cost $6 for both children to play. Instead Harvey threw a ball at a cup for $5 (!!!), there was a miscommunication with the Carney over how many balls he would get to throw, and the whole thing was over in a second in exchange for a 25 cent stuffed snake.

Neither mama or Harvey was very pleased with the fair at that moment.

Look, none of us want to throw away our money. There are so many useful things a mama could do with $5. But I share a dirty secret with those rare people whose love language is gift giving (all 8 of us in the world - hang in there sisters!) I actually LOVE spending money on my children. The more frivolous the better. I don't know why - it doesn't quite make sense. It's the easiness of saying yes, the rush of handing over my cash, the joy of looking at their smiling faces and thinking, "I love you more than financial reason."

Of course we're poor, and I'm trying to teach them values, so I don't do it as often as I'd like. Still, considering how much I adore those boys, I could fantasize about being MORE frivolous. My love for them is something that can never be budgeted. Symbolically speaking, a $5 ball throw does not even come close.

Still, this kind of spending is not fiscally responsible, and once we left the fair grounds I transformed that wasted $5 into a veritable homeschool unit. First we discussed the amount of enjoyment that came from playing the game and getting the prize (minimal, because as Harvey noted "it was over so quickly.") Then we stopped by our local real farm and noted the things you could buy for the same $5. TWO whole bottles of chocolate milk (not counting the glass bottle deposit because of trying to keep things simple.) Zion also noted that feeding the goats scraps there doesn't cost any money. And for good measure I took some pictures amidst the pumpkins - a free photo opp with precious lack of interlopers in the background.

our favorite place, ahhh calm sigh

I don't know what Harvey will internalize about money growing up in this family. I cannot present him with a unified theory, as I don't have one myself. I try to do a lot for free, but sometimes act like I've suddenly entered a duty free zone. I try not to stress about money, but truthfully I stress about it a lot. I don't know what Harvey will make of all of this. I'd like him to have both a sense of thrift and a feeling of abundance. Maybe the state fair is the wrong place to teach this. Or maybe it's the perfect place.

don't put all your eggs in one basket. The brownest take first prize.

more

more Independence

gold and blue fireworks

boom! crash!

On the 5th our friends the Guileys texted us to invite us to a fireworks display in Acton, postponed from the 4th due to the weather. It would start at 9:30. I was intrigued, Leah aghast. But since she had another offer, for a ladies craft night, the boys and I were free to be grossly irresponsible and take them up on the offer.

our concert-watching spot, with pond down the hill behind

a nice spot

After some difficulty finding where we were supposed to park, and a lovely walk through the woods from the approved parking location to the fireworks venue, we found a fine spot to set up our encampment. The event was at Nara Park in Acton, which turns out to be a pretty fancy spot, with a large man-made natural amphitheater (does that make sense?) and an impressive stage for the concert which was to precede the fireworks. The back of the amphitheater featured a long steep hill, which the boys enjoyed tremendously while we waited for our friends to arrive.

Harvey and Zion scooting down a long steep hill

they also rolled down

As people trickled in I was surprised by the crowd; apparently this Acton celebration is really a thing!

lots of people sitting on a hill watching a concert

some of the crowd

Catching the concert spirit, we did some energetic dancing to the music of a Beatles cover band... a little too energetic for me! The boys wanted to keep up the craziness but I told them to save some energy for when their friend Taya arrived, because I knew she'd want to run. And she did!

After another half-hour or so of dashing around the hill (while I sat quietly and enjoyed some adult conversation) the kids calmed down enough to want to explore a little further afield. I was glad to go along with them.

Harvey, Zion, and Taya posing on a bridge over the marsh

I told them to stand still for a second

Nara Park is also a local swimming hole, and the pond had a very Cape Cod-esque bridge across the marshy, non-beach side. There was also a little gravelly cove, and you know what that means!

Zion and Taya by the shore of the pond throwing stones

disturbing the calm

These three kids sure enjoy each other's company!

Harvey, Zion, and Taya hugging under the half moon

they like each other

As dark fell we reined in the kids, and took some time to pay a little more attention to the music—and to the great display of light-up hulahoops and other flashy toys decorating the widespread crowd.

the lit-up stage in the dark

just like a real concert!

Then of course there was a the main event. Harvey was delighted by his first real fireworks display, and Zion was happy enough to watch them from behind my back. I offered to hold him on my lap but he declined; he clearly preferred to have my body between him and all that airborne fire.

fireworks lighting up the treeline

a fine end to the evening

If we could have been magically transported home after the fireworks ended all would have been perfect, but unfortunately we and a couple thousand other people all had to get to our cars, and get said cars out of the parking lots, with our worn-out kids. There were some other distant rockets going off as we headed down the hill; Harvey and Taya wanted to see them but Zion had had enough: "I tired of fireworks." When we got to the lovely walk through the woods it was charmingly illuminated with strings of work lights, but it was also extremely crowded. We stood still for several minutes while people figured out how we were all going to fit on the narrow path.

lots of people milling around in the dark

at least it was a cheerful crowd

Then of course once we reached the car I didn't even bother to start the engine for half-an-hour or so; the people who had pulled out right away got in line and didn't move an inch that whole time. The fireworks ended at 9:45; it was 10:55 when we finally made our way out of the office park where everyone was parked onto the main road.

Not that I mean to complain: the boys were both long asleep by then, the evening (midnight?) air was lovely and cool, and there was music on the radio. All in all, it was a great time, and now our Independence is properly celebrated.

more

day camp

Did you know we're running a free, unaccredited day camp? We are! Today was our first day. We had eight kids (and one additional parent to help out), and after some playing, a snack, and a lesson on identifying poison ivy, we went for a walk in the woods.

kids running down a forest path

and away they go

The kids all carried their own backpacks with lunches, water, and other supplies; well, most of them. Zion didn't manage to make it to the end of our street with his on, but no worries, we had strollers along to portage any cast-off gear and tired kids (and despite dumping the backpack Zion needed to be in the stroller himself most of the way—but that's fair, he was the smallest one there).

Besides getting tons of exercise the kids also did some naturalizing. Harvey even brought his new magnifying glass along, and was very interested in the dragonfly larvae he noticed in the horse trough.

Harvey looking in the horse trough

curious explorer

The walk was probably close to a mile, and Harvey walked—and ran—the whole way, so he was tired out after all the campers left mid afternoon. I don't know what Zion's excuse was; I guess fresh air itself can be powerfully soporific.

Zion, Elijah, and Harvey asleep in our bed

rest time

All in all it was a great time, and we're looking forward to doing it again next week! Let us know if you want to be part of the fun: there are still spots available!

more

(strawberry) field work

some of the berries I picked

strawberry season!

The fields at Parlee finally opened after a cold spring, so we took our first picking trip of the year this morning. Well, most of us did; Leah and Lijah stayed home. She says she has too many bad memories of trying to do pick-your-own with an infant, which is more then fair. But the bigger boys were excited for the adventure!

Harvey and Zion, with backpacks on, heading towards the strawberries

ready for anything, including picking strawberries

They brought their backpacks so they could carry their own lunches, water, and, in one case, diapers. Harvey showed his seriousness by getting right down to picking berries, not all of which ended up in his mouth.

Harvey's head peaking up above the strawberry plants

the plants are big and healthy

Zion was only serious about eating. The only berry he put in his basket was almost entirely white; a little of it was green. But he enjoyed himself!

Zion studiously eating a strawberry, among the plants

just one more

We met the Stevenses there, and I was very impressed at how well elementary-aged children can contribute to the family welfare through their labor. The younger boys, working together, chipped in a tiny bit.

Harvey, Ollie, and Eliot in the strawberry patch

sort of helping

But the best part of the whole trip was that Grandma Judy came along. After she picked her own four quarts and helped Harvey with some of his one, she gave the little ones something else to do while we finished up the harvest.

Grandma Judy reading to Zion, Ollie, Harvey, and Eliot

alternate entertainment

Between all of us we ended up with 32 overflowing quarts: besides Grandma's we took home 12 and Bridget and co. had 16. It was a true team effort, and we were all proud and tired.

Harvey and Zion posing with the strawberry haul

they're meant to be smiling

Now I suppose I have to make some jam!

more

Are you happy with what you're doing?

I had a lovely day today meeting a friend at Walden Pond. Our children splashed in the water, climbed the sandy slopes, and laughed together in the sun. We all took a long walk around the pond, which not only counted for homeschool science but covered our daily allotment of aerobic activity. We even discussed the bible (a little bit). A perfect Friday for two stay-at-home mothers. Who could imagine a day gone better?

exploring the pond

And yet.

There was this moment. We were standing next to the water watching our children, lovingly but firmly ensuring that they didn't drown. This young couple ran into the water. She was wearing an athletic bikini, sports bra top and boy-shorts bottom. Still plenty of room in the middle to show off her six-pack abs. They dove into the pond baywatch style. And me and my mom friend? We stopped talking and just stared. Not with jealousy exactly... but with something.

What would I give for a body like that? That young, that fit, that sucked in together all compactly? Where you could roll a marble from clavicle to kneecap without it getting stuck in a pillowy pocket of fat?

What would I give to run and dive into the water, and just start swimming? And just keep going? Forever if I wanted to?

The money. All the money. But it's not a money thing. I can't go back to a point in my life when all I had to care about was myself.

And as if reading my mind, my friend said, "I'm probably happier now. Being a mom."
"She probably doesn't even enjoy it that much," I agreed. "She probably thinks her butt looks big."

I love my kids, love love love my kids, but still most of the time I would rather be exercising. Pretty much every moment of the day, if you asked me what I'd like to be doing that would be the answer. Whenever I see someone running I think, "Now THAT'S the life." I don't know if I'm really not getting enough exercise, or if there's just no amount of exercise in the world that can counter balance the emotional output needed to parent three children under five.

I had years, YEARS, in high school and college and grad-school, when I could work out as much as I wanted. I could ask myself "What do I feel like doing today?" and then I say Run! or Swim! or Lift Weights! And then I just, like, DO THAT THING. And it didn't blow my mind at the time. I didn't marvel at THOUGHT becoming ACTION without passing through additional steps called PLANNING and CHILD CARE. I probably didn't even appreciate it that much. I probably got pissy when my workout wasn't THAT fantastic.

My body? It used to be like a muscled marble run. Did I stare at myself in the mirror saying, "You, Leah? You fucking OWN this town!" I most certainly did not. I complained that I couldn't get thinner.

I was stupid, maybe. Or maybe we're always stupid.

Because now I look out from my baby-bearing-body, and I think, "I want to swim across this lake!" But in 20 years I'll have all the time I want to pursue athletic goals, and I will probably miss wearing a baby on my chest. I'll probably give anything to cary a little baby around the lake. I'll probably even look back wistfully, wishing I could have one more cuddle with this precious little baby, the one I'm currently forgetting about to fantasize about middle-age triathlons.

he just started sucking his two fingers

There is something about life that is wildly unbalanced, that we have to do all the wonderful things in intense spurts such that we're unholy sick of them. We say cliches like "Youth is wasted on the young" and "Enjoy them now, they grow up so fast," and hearing such things is maddening not only because it's banal but also because it's TRUE!

I want to swim and not worry about other people drowning, and I want to run without the feeling that I'm running AWAY from someone, and I want to climb mountains and slide down them as an active participant creating my reality, not just as a sherpa facilitating someone else's.

Hey Mom, can you hold my sword as I slide down this mountain? k thanx

And I'm sure when I do that I'll look around and wonder where everybody else went.

more

outing recap

It seems like all I can manage these days is posting contentless pictures. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily: it means we've been doing things worth photographing, and also not spending too much time in front of the computer. On the other hand, I like writing. And the life of frantic and exhausted business is sometimes a hard one. But I don't let business stop me from doing fun things!

Harvey and Zion climbing up a wooded hillside with sun coming through the trees

mountaineers

Thursday morning the boys and I headed out to check out a garden plot we might be able to farm this summer. It looked good, but examining it took only two minutes; hardly a proper outing; so we filled out the trip with some woodsy exploring. The hard part was finding a way into the woods, but once we managed that we had a very pleasant walk of about a mile through an interesting boggy woods. The boys are starting to trust me when I say that, wherever we happen to wander, I'll be able to get us back home. They do still ask, though.

Then today we drove over to Lexington to take in some early Patriots Day festivities. The Army Old Guard reenactors were in town, and we enjoyed the show once Zion was convinced that they weren't shooting at us, nor would they come too close.

some US army reenactors firing their guns

boom

Leah stayed home on the first occasion to talk the the midwives and confirm that Elijah is growing at a tremendous rate, and on the second to clean the house for the big party tomorrow. Despite appearances, I do have some responsibilities, and we do do some things together. But not in the last couple days!

more

early spring expedition

the expedition mostly looking at the camera

pausing for a photo

Spring is here, signaled by hard rain yesterday afternoon and much of today. So rain boots are the thing. Thursday the Stevenses were over and Eliot had his rain boots—I mean, "puddle jumpers"—and so was very disappointed to find out that the day was too cool and dry for puddles. So we suited up and all headed out for an expedition into the boggy marsh.

Harvey's and Ollie's booted feet in the marshy grass

squishy underfoot

There, naturally, we found puddles galore. It was wonderful for those of us with proper footwear, though less so for the ones in snow boots or sneakers. Luckily Bruce is big enough to be able to find alternate routes, and alternate entertainments!

Bruce crossing a log above a boggy spot

careful!

(And also big enough not to complain too much after he fell in and soaked one foot).

As well as our time in the marsh we also had lots of good walking on forest trails. Even though they were pretty icy, everyone did very well—and Zion did very well being carried in the backpack for that part of the trip, after some initial reluctance (read: "screaming"). We brought Rascal along too, and he had a wonderful time, roaming widely and checking in just enough to reassure the kids that he hadn't run away. Not that he was easy to spot at any time.

Rascal in the woods, and hard to see

he's in there somewhere

I was very proud of Harvey, who's turning into a fine hiker. Thanks to the backpack Grandma got him he can carry all his own supplies now, and it also helps him really look the part! We're looking forward to many more hikes to come this spring.

Harvey with backpack, rain boots, and stick

happy hiker

Edit: Leah took better pictures with her camera than Bridget or I did with mine. Here's one that should have been in this post to begin with:

five kids and one dada (with another kid in the backpack) marching through the marsh

the expedition's progress

more

Surprise trip to the Concord River

Over the weekend I suggested Dan take a bike ride to get away from the children (um, projecting much?). His bike saw my "take a break" and raised to "and never come back!" by popping a tire in the middle of Concord center.

And so it was that the whole entire family took an impromptu trip to the Concord river.

not alone anymore

We got to see that big float of ice hit the bridge, and the boys had a ton of fun running around the monuments. If it wasn't for the chilly weather, Dan's wet feet, and my exhaustion, we might have even PLANNED such an outing.

mama and her three boys

Whenever plans go awry I find myself overwhelmingly thankful for the character of my husband. He hardly ever shows disappointment, he can turn his expectations on a dime, and he seems to have a limitless capacity for waiting around while I wrangle three kids in coats into a van. Or maybe he just stoically holds his complaints. All I know is that while I would have had the countenance of a storm cloud sitting beside the parking lot with wet feet and a broken bike, Dan looked like a beautiful ray of sunshine when I pulled in.

Whether he's turning a cold afternoon into a fun family outing, or hugging children who need a time out, or putting a fussy baby to sleep by leaving him in his car-seat and turning on a Sousa march (I can't believe that worked, by the way), Dan reminds the rest of us that life can be filled with love and sunshine. And we all love him madly for it... even if it means fewer breaks.

more

We got out!

The weather today was beautiful and our kids needed an outing, so we piled into the new minivan and headed to the Discovery Museum in Acton. Did I mention we bought a used minivan? We did and it's incredible.

lyelye enjoying the spacious interior

We got this car 5 days before the baby was born. Just look at all the stuff we can store, baby included! And that's not even counting the two back seats.

the cool kids sit in back

This is where the kids sit. At the moment I snapped the picture we were getting a bale of straw thrown into the trunk. Now that there's straw scattered all over the floor the van really feels like home.

The only problem with the van (well, outside the environmental impact of driving at all) is that I have to get out of my seat to hand the children food. I find I'm doing this between one and several times a trip, and we haven't taken many trips so far. At one point in our journey today I was squatting in the middle of the van handing Zion his water bottle, when the road suddenly turned and I was thrown against the side door.

"Are you okay?" Dan asked. I nodded as I struggled to my knees.

"Isn't it good we have so much room in the new car?" Harvey exclaimed brightly, "that you have room to kneel down, Mama?"

Once at our destination, the boys enjoyed the children's museum with their friend Eliot.

since we're members we feel like we own the place.

While Elijah enjoyed sleeping in the sling.

being places makes him sleepy

The weather was so warm that we could even eat our picnic lunch outside! Despite the piles of snow everywhere there are signs that spring is coming one day.

warm despite the snow

Baby E stayed toasty in the sling with an added blanket outside just in case.

glad to be outside

After lunch we took in the discovery science museum, where there are nice soft lounge chairs for mama to sit in. I mean, something something the boys did science.

discovering

It was a fun day, but by mid afternoon I was ready to get back in the van. Adventures are tiring, especially when interspersed with nursing and poopy diapers. Luckily there's a nice long spring ahead of us. Here's to time for adventures and resting both.

more

exploration pictorial

Harvey and Zion sliding  (carefully) on pond ice

on the water, kind of

I took the day off so Leah could go to a dentist appointment, and the boys and I seized the opportunity for another adventure. We went in search of water, since the last trip didn't deliver so much in that direction; today we took the bike so we could get a little further afield and explored Hartwell Brook, the Shawsheen River, and the Old Bedford Reservoir. Without any further comment, here is our adventure in pictures.

Harvey and Zion in the back of the big bike, well bundled up, outside our house

ready to go

still in the bike, pausing on a bridge overlooking a small river

over Shawsheen River

a kid-free view of the wintery river

a little downstream

the boys posing in front of the Page Rd bridge over the Shawsheen

a pause from playing on the bank

the boys climbing up timber stairs set into a steep hillside in the woods

off the bike...

Harvey and Zion walking on a leaf-covered woodsy path

... and into the woods

Zion sitting astride a big fallen tree trunk

this was his boat for a while

the boys examining a spruce seedling

checking out a baby Christmas tree

a sturdy plank bridge over a tiny stream

this stream is too little to have a name

the frozen surface of the Old Bedford Reservoir

the big water

Harvey standing on the ice

proud of his winter exploration prowess

Harvey standing, Zion fallen down on the ice

oops! still fun though!

Zion got up and, better-mittened, stayed out on the ice until I convinced the boys it was time to head home for lunch. Can you believe it: a three-hour outing and only one small container of crackers for a snack?!

I promised them we'd go back later this winter when the ice is thicker and we can slide all the way across the pond. We're all looking forward to it.

more

a walk in the woods

Harvey in the marsh looking down at a stream

we found the water

Because today was cold, bitter cold, and there was so much church, we didn't do much outside. But yesterday was fine and the day stretched empty before us, so we went exploring in the woods.

We don't do it as often as we should, considering that the woods are just across the street from our house; that is, we don't bring the boys to explore enough. Leah and I are there daily, though generally not exploring particularly unless Rascal is feeling unpleasantly adventurous. Since the last time we went for a family hike was when we were in Maine, Zion thought that we should be able to walk to the water. So we tried.

Tried to find water, that is: he had nothing to do with the walking part and Leah carried him the whole way. I did coerce him into taking a few steps when we were almost at our goal, though, which he consented to because he was eager to fish.

Zion using a big reed stem to pretend to fish in the stream

fisher of muck

Of course when there's water Rascal needs to go in it, even when it's just six inches of water on top of about a foot of stinking black ooze. Even he quickly regretted his rashness when he realized the situation.

Rascal walking in the marshy pool

he can't resist water

Also of course we don't go on any adventures without food. Look at the cozy spot we found for our picnic!

sitting on fallen trees in the marsh grass, food spread around

dining en plein air

There was much more to the walk that was not marsh: most of the way is just regular woods, but there were plenty of occasions to stop and examine leaves, fallen trees, and a fire-pit filled with ashes and beer cans. Those weren't photographed not because they weren't interesting, but because we actually didn't have a camera along with us, as you can see from the lamentably poor quality of the pictures above. Except for Zion not wanting to walk it was all a joy and a delight. Next time he might have to; at the rate the weather was going today he'll be a big brother before we want to be out there for our next picnic!

more

take a walk with us

Since the arrival of the cool fall weather, our dog Rascal has been extremely, what's the word? Needy. He needs a walk in the morning (at least 30 minutes, please) before Dan leaves for work. He needs a walk as soon as Dan gets home, indeed he starts barking for one up to an hour before then. And often, additionally, he needs a walk sometime in the middle of the day when a walk means bribing two children into the stroller, two children who are happily doing something inside.

You know that giant yard that we fenced in at great expense so the dog could go out ANY TIME HE WANTS??? Not good enough for him. He sits at the door barking and then when I open the door for him he looks up at me like, "What is this BS? You want me to go pee BY MYSELF? Out there? But that's just not STIMULATING enough for me."

I am trying to love Rascal and deal with his needs without seeing them as a personal affront to my health, sanity, and self determination. It is a struggle.

In the meantime, I am trying to figure out non-food-related bribes to get my children in the stroller for a mid-day walk. A stroll to Bruggers can cost $10 for the three of us!!! But you know what's free? Fishing!

our local fishing hole

A brook runs under our local bike path at a spot not half a mile from our house. It's a good place to sit and stir the water with long sticks, if the weather isn't too wet or cold.

casting out, or catching something, I'm not sure

Harvey and Zion like to hook leaves on their long sticks and offer them to me as fish. Then I am obligated to take the soggy things off the end of the stick and say, "Num num num."

what can I see to bark at from here?

Rascal waits rather impatiently for the rest of his walk. I tie him a little ways from the stream or else he dives in after the sticks and gets the kids all wet. So he whines until I can't stand it anymore. My goodness that dog.

Fishing with sticks is so much fun that my kids pretend to see fish even in driveway puddles.

I think there are some minnows in here.

The children are so adorable in their enthusiasm for catching pretend fish, that it's almost enough to make me suspend my irritation with another creature barking at me. Almost.

more

fair enough

Harvey and Zion on the back of a 1911 fire truck

helmeted and ready

Fall is fair season. The rhythms of the year demand it: folks are done with most of the hard work of growing our food and they want to kick back and have some fun, and maybe show off a little of the awesome stuff they've grown or made. Not that any of that applies to most of us anymore, of course, but it's sort of hard-wired into our emotional calendars. And I suppose it's fine, when we don't have prize hogs and giant pumpkins handy, to satisfy ourselves with old-timey fire trucks and modern tractors to ride on.

Harvey in the driver seat of a tractor, still wearing the fire hat

no line to drive this one

Actually, there was a fairly big pumpkin at the East Village Fair in Lexington, where spent a few hours this past Saturday, but it wasn't very big nor was it at all photogenic. There were also some great games run by young people, a wide variety of foodstuffs available at exorbitant prices, and some high-quality used items for sale. We picked up six good YA and/or Harvey read-aloud paperbacks for three dollars.

the boys looking at hand-made wooden toys

beautiful and expensive

Of course, besides the fire truck and the tractor the boys were most interested in two things that strictly speaking weren't part of the fair at all. The little store at the Lexington Waldorf school is full of wonderful toys and craft materials that they could have browsed for much longer than we allowed them—Leah and I agreed that it was wonderful except for the prices and the presence of the occasional questionable item like the "witch/wizard staff of power".

Then of course there was the playground, with its Noah's ark play structure; that was another good half an hour. But you know, as much as we would have enjoyed those two things any other day we happened by, there was something about the fair atmosphere that made them even more special. Just look at that smile:

Zion smiling through a porthole in a playground ark

hi there!

More fairs still to come; we'll keep loving the fall.

more

apple picking

some Empire apples up in the tree

lots like these

We went apple picking today. Harvey had been wanting to for some time—the leaves turning brown on our newest apple tree made him particularly nervous that the season was passing us by, so he was glad that we finally got organized to go.

Zion standing on a hay bale wearing a cape and crown

dressed for the occasion

Of course, besides the apples there was also the hay maze and goats to feed.

Harvey negotiating with the machine for some goat food, with a girl looking on

sharing the fun with others

There were at least three school groups there with us, so there were plenty of other kids around. Harvey didn't mind at all, and was happy to share the project of getting the goats their food. First you buy it (he brought along his own money for the first time), then you put in on a conveyor belt and turn a wheel to send it up to the goats' platform above.

Harvey turning a steering wheel to make the conveyor move

you turn this here...

two goats eating food off the conveyor

... and these guys get food

Then it was off to the picking itself. The school groups had finished lunch by this time and headed off to the buses, so we didn't have to fight the crowds.

Mama, Zion, and Harvey walking down the path towards the apple trees

dusty orchard roads

Unfortunately, there was some fighting from Zion and he didn't actually make it to the apple picking. Maybe he was too disappointed in the lack of hayride to want to go on. So Harvey and I pushed on alone; luckily apples pick pretty fast so we didn't leave Mama to her own devices for too long and were soon on our way home with half a bushel of Empires and Jonagolds. That should satisfy the kids' apple-eating needs for a couple days at least...

more

Discovery photographs

Here are some pictures of my beautiful children enjoying their childhood at the Discovery Museum yesterday. I was probably a little harsh in my blog post last night... I do enjoy doing fun things with them. I enjoy it more when I've slept and eaten and when I'm not sick. But who doesn't enjoy life more under those circumstances? Plus Dan cleaned the kitchen and folded a tub of laundry after I went to bed, so if I'm still complaining under these circumstances I'd have to be the worst human being ever.

working on a shared masterpiece

sailing the Assabet River

Discovery has a new exhibit on wind where the kids can make foam shapes and play scarves fly in all manner of blowing things. I took so many pictures there I could practically make them a brochure.

windblown

so much fun!

This morning I took my kids on a walk to the train-tracks where they played and played, and I watched them and watched them, and I didn't feel that life was as pointless and frustrating as I did yesterday. Not having a fever and a migraine certainly helps, then. One should never discount the obvious.

more

country close to home

the big bike heading down a narrow country lane

hard to believe this is in Bedford

In the absence of the camping pictures, which it occurs to me I neglected to finish posting, here are some shots of our most recent adventure. A few days ago I discovered a hidden treasure right here in town (well, mostly: it's on the border of Bedford and Billerica), a narrow country road that wends its way between woods, mansions, and several horse farms. Seeing the horses, I knew I had to bring Zion out to see them, since he's definitely a fan. So yesterday we headed over that way for a late-afternoon ride.

several horses in a small pasture

horsies for Zion

Zion was pretty excited to see the horses, even if we didn't indulge him in the opportunity to ride one—or even to get out of the bike to get a closer look, poor little guy! He fell asleep on the outward leg of the trip, but luckily the road past the farms was so bumpy that he woke up on his own and didn't miss a thing.

just another horse in a pasture

horses everywhere

It's pretty amazing to me that there's this totally rural corner of town hiding out there that I didn't manage to learn about in the first eight years or so that we've lived here. Aside from being very indifferently paved the roadway is barely wide enough for one car, at least in the northern section, and it's just the picture of a country lane. Further into Bedford it gains some width and a double yellow line, thanks to the condos that infiltrated the neighborhood when one of the horse farms divested of some property. But things are still pretty horsey even at that end of the street.

the big bike passing by a sprawling horse farm, with white barns and fences

the posh sort of farm

Though there was much more to explore—the road goes by an area of town forest adjacent to the Great Meadows preserve, and there are some nice looking paths back there—but we decided to save further adventuring for another day. It was already very much the longest purely recreational ride that Leah has taken on the big bike, and we were also drawn home by the thought of supper. Everybody else was doing it!

close-up of a black horse grazing

nom nom

more

Fourth of July

our picnic spread and grandparents

fun, food, and family

Like we do, we celebrated the 4th of July this afternoon by attending Concord's Picnic in the Park. This time some grandparents met us there, so it was extra special. They brought chips!

the Concord hook and ladded truck parked on the field

that's where we were

We rode our bikes there; I think this is the first time we've been able to get there under our own power in consecutive years. What happened to our baby-production schedule?! Leah had the boys in the big bike, and I hooked up the trailer to bring our considerable pile of possessions. Chairs? Sure, why not!

It was very hot—it still is very hot as I compose this post—but the boys had a great time and didn't complain at all. Helped by a tantrum-induced nap an hour before we left (really! he two-year-olded himself to sleep!), Zion was able to keep going strong the whole time.

Zion's sweaty face

sweet and sweaty

Harvey, of course, is always a trooper; at least when he's out of the house, that is. They enjoyed the music and watching a very entertaining juggler (who performed in air-condition comfort) but I their favorite part was playing with the sand toys at the playground

Harvey and Zion pushing sand toys at the Emerson Park playground

this activity was in the shade

Although an all you can eat buffet enjoyed while sitting on Mama's lap isn't anything to be sneezed at!

Zion on Leah's lap, enjoying his picnic

everything he ever wanted

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

more

bonus travel

Grandma Judy with her sisters

three grandmas

We took a short trip to Ithaca this past weekend for a Greig family reunion, which gathered all the children and grandchildren of Grandma Judy and her sisters: the three daughters of Betty and Douglas Greig.

Zion and Mama on the riverside

drawn to water

It was a long trip on Friday, but the boys were great in the car. We only made one significant stop, in Greene, NY, where we visited two of our favorite things: a library and a riverbank.

When we finally got there we made ourselves at home with the Ithaca Archibalds and did our best to adapt ourselves to their wild college schedule. Staying up past 10:00 wasn't too hard for the boys thanks to the long nap they both took in the car.

Harvey, Zion, and Nisia on the footbridge looking down at the river

ooh, more water

The next day we headed out to the reunion, which was at a state park. The centerpiece of the park was a creek, which was naturally fascinating to the boys and cousin Nisia—and even more than usual because this creek had cars driving through it at frequent intervals.

a car driving through the creek at the ford

a car in the water!

There was also a swimming area, but it was closed due to recent heavy rains. We did check it out, though, and made several trips to the restrooms located in the changing area. Harvey told me, "it's a bathroom but it looks like a castle."

the changing rooms at the state park, built imposingly of stone

castle bathroom

Of course, there was also lots of good food there. Grandma Judy organized and saw to it that there'd be lots of cold cuts, but everyone who came brought something delicious. I did my best to try some of everything.

some of the food at the reunion

a fraction of the spread

The day also saw a brief celebration of a couple birthdays: Uncle Tom and my cousin Doug each got to pretend to blow out the candles on a fair-sized carrot cake (we all brought food; nobody brought matches).

Uncle Tom holding cousin Nisia

birthday boy and almost birthday girl

The party might well have been over then, but nobody could resist the allure of the open field and playground adjacent to the wooded picnic area.

a view of the playground accross the parking lot

paradise in the distance

The young kids enjoyed the impressive play structure while athletic young adults (aged 12 to 50) played some ultimate frisbee, observed by those with more sense and dignity.

Zion snuggling in Mama's arms

running out of steam

The very young were pretty worn out by this point, but anyone who wanted to leave had a tough argument to make when there was still so much fun going on.

Harvey and Grandpa Dave on the swingset

still going strong

Of course, all good things must come to an end and eventually we headed home—for another oh-so-late night, this one enhanced by a game of Scrabble and sports on the big-screen TV.

Sunday we enjoyed a terrific morning at the Ithaca Vineyard church—any service that concludes with a pot-luck brunch is fine by me! But after a few more precious minutes playing with Nisia in the kids church room we had to hit the road and bring our tired boys home to a place where they'd be able to sleep. Of course, they got a head start in the car—in Zion's case within five minutes of our leaving and continuing for the next four hours or so.

low visibility on the Castleton-on-Hudson bridge

with the wipers at full speed

The drive was a little more eventful than we might have hoped thanks to a fierce thunderstorm just past Albany. The downpour was so bad that we actually pulled over for a couple minutes, until we got bored of standing still and ventured back out into the maelstrom.

The boys were a little more discontented going home than they were on the way out, but were mollified somewhat when we stopped at a rest stop on the Turnpike; when Leah and I, also pretty worn out, suggested that McDonalds fries might be a possibility Zion perked right up with an, "and chicken?!". So we did that. He liked it.

Zion smiling

better now

Of course that wasn't the end of the whining, but we did make it home eventually. It was still light so the boys jumped right on their bikes and took a few laps around the street before even going inside. Travel is great, but it sure is nice to be home.

more

a weekend in the life

Zion in his swim suit and swim hat at the pond

summery

Last Friday at work folks were asking me if I had any plans for the weekend. I didn't have anything exciting to share: like most times, all I could say was something along the lines of, "hang out at home, enjoy the sunshine, maybe do some gardening..." Looking back, that's pretty much how it went. But it occurs to me to write a bit of a narrative about how we spent our time, because I have to justify my lack of expansive weekend plans somehow!

We got up nice and early Saturday morning; around 6:00 for me, as Leah reports. I spent some time outside enjoying the cool of the morning then read for a while while Leah played with the boys, then I made us a breakfast of pancakes, ham, and fried potatoes (well, the potatoes were only for me). Then more playing—it was Legos, if I recall—until around 8:45 when Leah headed off to exercise with her dad and we boys took Rascal out for a stroll (with stops for playing, or course).

Zion and Harvey playing around a minuteman statue

celebrating independence (the boys are in the picture somewhere)

When we got back at 10:00 it was so hot that Harvey reconsidered his plan of riding bikes and we huddled inside til Leah got home. Then we initiated preparations for the year's first trip to Walden Pond, preparations that were slowed significantly by a missing Pow-Pow (the working theory was that Harvey left him at the park, but a trip out there to search turned up empty; don't worry, we found him behind the couch later).

Our relief from the heat was delayed still further when we found the pond closed due to overcrowding. It was just before noon then, and we had to wait until 1:30 for it to reopen. Luckily we keep a Mass Audobon membership for just such an eventuality, so headed over to Drumlin Farm to have our lunch and hang out for a bit.

Leah and the boys (wearing their swimsuits) walking towards the bird enclosures

alright as a second choice

Of course, we took in the sheep and birds while we waited. Zion is a big fan of sheep.

Zion looking in at the sheep pen

many reets!

Back at the pond at the appointed hour, we waited for a while in a line of idling cars (sorry, Thoreau), then dealt with a bathroom emergency (compounded by some bathroom obstinacy) but eventually, by about 2:15, we made it into the water. It was lovely. We stayed a while.

Leah and Harvey in the shallow water

this is the life

We headed home a bit before 5:00. Had dinner, did a little work in the garden, played for a while—neither parent can actually remember this time period in any detail. Should have started this write-up sooner. Clearly, we went to bed at some point.

Sunday morning much the same; hanging out in the garden I picked the first strawberries of the season. We left church around 8:30; for the first service we were each teaching Sunday school, Leah with Harvey and Zion and I in the 4th-grade classroom. Then we played on the playground for a little while, but the heat kept most of the kids away so before long we went in to the second service; the boys played with toys while we pretended to listen.

We planned to meet up with some friends for lunch but none of us are much for planning, so we just wandered towards Mass Ave and eventually ended up at an Indian buffet, where we gorged and chatted for an hour and a half or so. Then we faced the long walk back to the car, which we almost completed; I only had to do the last two or three blocks by myself to bring the car back to the stragglers.

After a brief stop in Arlington to drop off plants and pick up compost and other trash we made it home a little before 4:00, with both boys sound asleep. We read and relaxed for a while and then decided that, in the interest of ever getting them to bed, we'd better wake them up before it was too late. Happily the weather was cooling quickly and they were happy to get up and play outside for the next several hours while I worked in the garden and Leah got some things done inside. A picnic supper was involved, before a few raindrops chased them up to the porch.

Since I was trying to get a whole lot of things done before the forecast rain I kept working outside until 8:15 or so, then we put the boys to bed. I would have happily gone to sleep myself then, but I was writing this blog post and waiting for the bread I somehow managed to bake while doing some of the above activities to cool enough to put away so I stayed up a bit. I also finally got hungry for dinner at around 9:30, so I was glad to be still awake for that.

So there you have it; our weekend, such as I can reconstruct on Sunday and Monday evening. It may be, as I just described it to Leah, the longest and most boring blog post ever, but not all history is exciting. And it was all good fun at the time.

more

Woolapalooza 2013

For the forth year in a row we went to Woolapalooza to see the Drumlin Farm sheep be sheered.

if Zion can't pet it then he doesn't care for it.

I do love a good festival, but navigating all those people and the attractions and the food lines, I got plum tuckered out. I look forward to the day we have our own sheep, then every day will be a festival! If by festival I mean exhausting non-stop work.

snooooooze

That's how I felt by the end of the afternoon. Still, it's good to get out on the farm; the more routine, the better.

more

Bethany house of prayer

On Good Friday we were invited to participate in a Stations of the Cross walkabout at the Bethany House of Prayer in Arlington. We'd never been before, but it turned out to be an awesome location — a little monastic retreat center in the middle of suburban Arlington Heights.

does it have a dinger?

The small campus tucked among normal suburban Arlington homes includes a modern living space for the Sisters of St. Anne-Bethany, a large stone-clad chapel that's used for programs and retreats for both church groups and interested individuals, and an intriguing statue garden. The garden was the site of our prayer walk on Friday.

ooh! rocks!

HighRock church provided the readings for each station and Dan and Ms. Katie (who is a member at HighRock and turned us onto this event) bravely engaged the children around the story and prayers.

Harvey wants to make sure PowPow gets the full effect of the holiness

In between the readings there was plenty of leeway for exploring the garden.

Zion makes a new friend

There was a stone amphitheater with some books laid out, an irresistible draw for my boys and the young Mr. Nathan.

multi-sensory faith experience, pshaw. We just want to read about it.

All in all I was amazed how many little corners of peace the sisters packed into under an acre of garden space. I hope friends invite us back here again!

more

Things to do with a baby: take him on a quiet stroll

"So," Dan says, walking into the bedroom where Zion and I are playing. "Rascal wants to go for a walk, Harvey wants to ride his tricycle, and you want to go to Whole Foods. Any way we can combine these things?"

I stare at him blankly. It is absolutely freezing outside, I have a million things to buy, and he wants us to walk a mile to Whole Foods.

"Dan," I say, "You've seen my list. I'm shopping for the WHOLE WEEK. I'm shopping for Bible Study on Wednesday, I'm shopping for batch cooking. There's no way we could put all that in the stroller."

"We can take the wagon too" he says, always solving problems.

"Five heads of broccoli," I say reading the first few lines off my list, "Seven apples. Two heads of kale. A gallon of apple juice. TWO WHOLE CHICKENS..."

Dan stares at me blankly. What kind of a hippy am I? Am I just going to drive the car to the stores like all the other moms? Am I really THAT lazy? Do I even CARE about the impact of my actions? Do I want my children to still have an environment when they grow up?

"Okay, fine, let's go before it gets any colder."

Harvey on his tricycle, Dada pulling Zion in the wagon

the great procession

Dan holds Rascal and pulls the wagon, while I monitor Harvey and push the empty double stroller. It's cold, but Harvey is warmed by his pedaling and Zion is warmed by asking every ten seconds if we are REALLY going to Whole Foods.

"Ho Foo???"

After a minute Harvey stops, gets off his bike, and picks up a dandelion. I feel like the best parent in the world! We are walking to get our food! Our child is getting exercise and exploring nature! A minute later he stops again to pick up a broken nip bottle that someone has thrown from the window of their car. I feel like the worst parent in the world. I am exposing my child to exhaust pollution and now biohazards to boot because this is the SIDE of the ROAD more than it is the sidewalk.

We pass over the brook and they throw sticks in the water. Again I am a good parent.

Eventually we make it to Whole Foods.

I pick Zion up and discover he is wet from pee. We go to the bathroom and Harvey whines he doesn't WANT to be in the bathroom he WANTS to get a muffin. We make it through the diaper change and get into the store which is packed bumper-to-bumper with carts. I throw in the five broccoli and Harvey reminds me he wants a muffin. I locate the apples and Zion screams that he wants a cheese sample. I tell them rather harshly that I need to pick out vegetables or nobody gets any treats. "Sorry Mama, sorry" says Harvey because he is a good sweet child or because that is his newest form of manipulation. (If so it works like a charm. He always sounds so contrite, and so they do get their cheese and muffin.)

45 minutes later (yes, it took that long and I was going QUICKLY) we head outside to pack the wagon with our groceries. Zion notices a box of blueberries at the top of one bag and he grabs for it despite wearing his mittens. The box drops and spills a million pricey organic blueberries all over the sidewalk. I say I'm fed up with food shopping and Dan yells at everyone to get.in. the.stroller, and Harvey cries because he can't eat a chocolate chip muffin with mittens on.

Boo. Hoo.

Amazingly, the groceries just barely fit in the red wagon plus stroller, and we manage to make it home. I feel like a good hippy parent, though I wish the adventure itself and not just the concept of it had been more life-giving. Dan reminds me that it would have been just as harrowing had I gone by car.

The thing about living out our values with kids is that some seconds are beautiful snap-shots worthy of a "this moment" photo still, while others prove the depths of our sinful nature, and these seconds just follow one after the other. Trying to process it all makes me tired.

Though that doesn't capture how nice it was when he picked up the dandelion.

Maybe I just shouldn't hit the shops on a Saturday.

more

Gaining Ground

Last Saturday we went to an open house at Concord's Gaining Ground. Gaining Ground is a volunteer-staffed organic farm which supplies produce to local food pantries. We've personally sampled their cabbage, squash and raspberries, so we were excited to take a look at the operation. When we arrived a hand-full of volunteers were planting garlic, the last crop to go in this year.

no chickens in that house unfortunately. They're all headed to local hungry bellies.

Dan helped spread marsh hay over the garlic while the boys and I wandered about the farm. I enjoyed messing around in an empty bee hive - I've read so much about bee keeping but never actually handled the frames before. The children liked seeing the tractor (obviously) and were amazed by the wide array of tools being stored outside.

Harvey says: We have that shovel!

In the pavilion where the workers eat their lunch there's some kind of swing hanging from the rafters. It sinks with a spring when Harvey gets on, so I feel like it might be some sort of scale.

for swinging and weighing?

We chatted with some of the farm bosses and then explored a field they are allowing to lie fallow. They preserve the soil on their 17 acres with a combination of crop rotation, soil-fixing plants, and animal assistance. I asked if they used pigs to help with some of the invasive plants species and the farmer told me, "You'd be amazed at how much poison ivy they'll eat."

Zion in a field, hood up, looking at Dada and Harvey ahead of him

turns around to view his land

Even though our children were not their happiest or walkingest selves during this trip, I found the visit to the farm incredibly refreshing. Just being on a big farm, looking out over beautiful fields and all those tool-filled junky parts in between, it breaths peace deep into the restless parts of my soul. I know some people wish they could live by the ocean, and when I visited the painted desert with Oona she said "This is MY COUNTRY!" I'm not very moved by the ocean and less so by the desert, but set me up in a nice farm field where it smells like poo and the horizon is obscured by a row of trees and I feel like I've come home.

But lest I get too wistful driving back into the suburbs, I took a picture of the chore list they had posted in their volunteer pavilion.

too much to do

Spread compost in back 1/2 of middle field. Take the irrigation out. Paint composting toilets. And I shudder to think of what is indicated by the single line that just reads "barn." Yes, I may long for a farm one day, but my list of chores is plenty long as is.

more

locally-made hurricane porn

On Tuesday we toured the hurricane devastation in Lexington. For our part the only devastating thing was that the farmers market we had biked to was closed. In an effort to keep up the kids' spirits we toured the fallen down trees on the public green.

crash!

conquering the heights

We also saw a tree that had already been sawed apart. Harvey tried with to put his foot up on the stump, lumberjack style, but it did not yield to him.

ehn ehn ehn

And we saw the big big holes that the branches of the tree made when they hit the ground.

woops! careful

By the library more trees were down.

too big to put in our house for Christmas

But the babes were getting tired so it was time to head home. We only had to ride under one fallen tree and over another to get there!

more

Halloween Hayride

Wilson's Farms is a gigantic high-priced farm-stand-mega-store just down the road from the houses where Dan and I grew up. In our youth Wilson's offered an annual haunted house which one walked through by the power of one's own shaking feet. There were spooky scenes at every turn and sometimes one of the mummy or zombie statues would lurch from the wall and GRAB YOU!!! They actually paid one of their employees to stand there very still to scare the crap out of an unsuspecting child every minute and a half. For us as kids the haunted house was a big deal.

Now that I am a parent, I think of this haunted house as someplace I would NEVER LET MY CHILD!!! Perhaps times have changed, or perhaps toddlers never went inside anyway. In any case Wilson's has reformed its super scary ways and replaced the house of horrors with a more family-friendly "haunted hayride." The hayride is a fraction as scary, like if the original haunted house was 100 and the hayride was 1.

more exciting than scary

We had to go to Wilson's Farm anyway this week to pick up a CSA for Grandma who was out of town. At home I mentioned to the boys that there might be a hayride on offer. "Habide? Habide?" Zion shouted excitedly. I wasn't sure if he knew what it meant - the Drumlin hayride was weeks and weeks ago - but there seemed like a chance he might remember. Sure enough, when we parked the car in the lot above the Wilson's field Zion pointed to the tractor bumping around and excitedly yelled: "HABIDE!!! HABIDE!!!"

His excitement could not be contained. Even getting in line was an overwhelming experience and both Zion and Harvey raced right to the front.

come on Zion! We're almost there!

Harvey had a bit more of the nervous variety of anticipation. While waiting in line we had this conversation.
Harvey: "Can you hold me?"
Me: "On the hayride, or now?"
Harvey: "Now!"

There are several Halloween "scenes" displayed in the field, though seeing them from the vantage point of a tractor certainly takes the sting off any potential scariness. There were some aliens and some ghostly farmers, though the high-point of the ride is a VW Beetle turned into a giant spider. In the foreground you can see a kiddie car stuck in her web.

the real scary thing is actually owning a Volkswagen.

Both children felt oh so grown-up on this trip. They walked down the line by themselves, they mostly climbed onto the tractor by themselves, and Zion sat next to me on the hay rather than on my lap. I had this impression on the ride, as I do in stray moments when I'm not taking a direct care-taking role, that we were all enjoying this experience equally, no one violently or needily imposing on anyone else. We were like a real grown-up family, just peacefully sitting side by side.

riding as a family

It doesn't always last long, but it's a really nice feeling when I get it.

If you want to partake in your own halloween hayride, the ride is free and open today, Monday and Wednesday, or until the world ends in flood.

more

Honk!

the Forward! Marching Band in action

red for a reason

We love crazy leftists and we love marching bands, so when our friend Luke came to church just to let us know about a festival combining the two we just had to go, nevermind that we were completely unprepared. Honk! was calling!

I suppose that improvisation was in the spirit of the thing anyhow, and the timing worked out perfectly for us to get to the Cambridge Common just in time to catch most of the parade. And what a parade it was! Bands, puppets, bands, anti-Zionist chanters, and more bands! Also a roller-derby team and people on bicycles. There were only two issues with our lack of preparation, one of which was our lack of a proper camera; moving parade units are hard to photograph effectively at the best of times and impossible with a cell phone camera with no zoom and a three-second shutter delay. So you'll have to take my word for it that it was totally awesome and may have spoiled us for any other parades, ever.

One of the coolest parts—well, besides the marching cello and the anti-Scott Brown buffalo totem—was the presence of tons of kids. It made me worry that we were doing our boys a disservice by not involving them in crazy alternative lifestyles until Leah pointed out that we do some tolerably crazy things ourselves and, besides, we have plenty of time yet. I can tell you that we've been practicing music at home pretty much non-stop since!

the Church Marching Band in a crowd of happy hipsters

all types in attendance

After the parade we pushed through the crowds to Harvard Square, where Honk! combined with Octoberfest to produce the biggest festival we've ever experienced. We heard some music, chatted with friends last seen at a parade in Lexington, and had a surprising amount of money sucked out of our pockets in the interest of feeding ourselves and supplying Harvey with amusements. You'd think four stages of live band music plus break dancers, costumed freaks, and more people than we've seen in the last six months would have kept him entertained, but the Thomas-inspired road train ride proved to be completely irresistible and returned in Harvey enjoyment well more than the six dollars it cost. We didn't pay for the bounce house, though, so some tears for that.

But it was starting to rain by then anyways, so under our umbrella—hey, even improvising we come prepared!—we made our happy way back to the car. Which of course broke down half-way home, but that's another story.

Next year's festival is already on our schedule—or would be, that is, if the dates were actually published yet—and next time we'll bring our own food. Perhaps we'll bicycle there as well.

more

Concord Museum

This week was a bit disappointing. I've been sick, and I deal with it poorly. Whenever I'm sick I get like really angry at the institution of motherhood. Like really? This is the plan, species? I just take care of my children all day and all night every day and every night until they kill me?

Also my car wouldn't start and the oven broke and the barefoot running shoes I ordered for cheap on ebay turn out not to fit and not to be returnable. And when Harvey was yelling at me because he wanted to put on the huge clown running shoes and splash through puddles (what? no!) I threw my tea cup on the pavement just to hear it smash and feel like I had the power to break something that wasn't a child.

To make a go of good parenting, on Wednesday I piled the kids into Dan's loud but working car and headed to the Concord Museum. We'd never been before, but it's right down the road from us, so I figured if it was a bust we could get out quickly. Also it's free thanks to the reciprocal program attached to my Discovery Museum membership (thanks again Grandma!) and the website said there was some stuff for kids.

The stuff for kids turned out to be a scavenger hunt printed on a piece of paper, so Zion waxed a little antsy and tended to scream "NO! NO!" whenever I read from a plaque out loud. Harvey, on the other hand, had a fantastic time finding the things pictured on his scavenger hunt paper, and he really seemed excited to make connections between the things he saw in the museum and the other historical places we've visited in the area: Mary's house at the Minuteman National Park, the North Bridge, and Henry's cabin at Walden Pond. I personally was excited to see the ORIGINAL FURNITURE from Thoreau's cabin, but Harvey was more confused than anything else. The replica cabin has actual furniture too, he says.

that bed is smaller than Harvey's!

Also, Harvey stared a long time at the sculpture of Henry David Thoreau before asking me why he wasn't a bear.

The Concord Museum also has in their collection 50% of the lights that were used to signal "two if by sea" at Paul Revere's behest. In the picture below you can see Harvey folding down the tab on his scavenger hunt that had a silhouette of the lantern on it. And patiently listening to me explain how the Back Bay area of Boston used to be under water.... I don't always plan these lessons out for concision.

so, they actually did come by sea... even if the museum only owns one of the lanterns

Zion was getting really bored by the time we got to the upstairs part of the museum. There he was entertained briefly by a game of checkers, but Harvey kept yelling at him to put the light ones on the light squares and it seemed like an hour in this museum was enough for one morning.

the black ones go on the black squares and the white ones go on the white squares... don't you know how to play checkers?

Since the museum visit was free, and since the kids polished off their snack of two apples and a big hunk of cheese in like seven seconds, I decided to stop at Whole Foods on the way home. A small Whole Foods shop feels free to me because if we get snacks from the right sections of the store than they're paid for by food stamps. (Well, Dan will disagree with me on the "free" issue, since we have a finite number of food stamps dollars per month so it's not really "free" and we should budget astutely. I say Yes, but I'm talking about a cup of berries and a muffin, and if I don't have to take $3 out of my wallet right then it's free to me.)

After our chocolate muffin snack we ended the free part of the outing and went into Marshalls to get both boys some waterproof shoes. That set us back $30, but at least their feet won't get soaked every time they go outside and they were so happy with their new matching shoes that they made me put them on their feet as soon as we got outside the store.

now let's jump in some puddles!

We got home around noon, and the boys immediately started hurting each other while I screamed at them that their behavior was unfair because I take them to do so much fun stuff even though I HAVE A FEVER so YOU SHOULD REPAY ME BY BEING GOOD! (Yeah, logic that totally works on a 1 and 3 year old whose mom is yelling at them.) Then I broke my tea cup in the road and Dan managed to come home before anyone called DSS. Dan very sweetly took both boys on a walk with the Dog and he said Harvey was talking fake history the whole time: "This train track was build in four-ten..." etc. So I guess it's not all awful. They say the sun is supposed to come out tomorrow...

ed note: I would hate for someone to read this post and think: WTF? What is her husband doing that she has to bitch and moan this much? That would convey the wrong impression. The truth is that Dan is working his hardest 100% of the time. When he's home he's playing with the kids and helping with the housework CONSTANTLY. It's just that there's a shitload of work to do, and we have two kids who are attention whores. Who hate to listen to THE SAME STORY AT THE SAME TIME. Which is to say, if there are two parents in the house they will make work for two parents in the house every single second. But I'll say this: even though raising children can be very difficult my husband is a wonderful partner who (unlike me) always remains loving to every member of our family and never loses his sense of humor.

Also, Dan reminds me that I have a VERY hard time when I'm sick, and when I'm well I can tote the kids around no problem and I even have fun doing it. And if I complain when I'm sick I have no one to blame but myself; if I wanted to be healthier I could ween Zion and get some sleep. I don't do it because attachment parenting is a lovely and gentle way to transition children from babies to kids and if it works when I'm healthy I'm willing to have it completely not work when I'm sick, as long as I'm sick less than 1/3 of the time.

more

a week in the life

Each week is filled with a lot of adventures around here, many of which go un-blogged because not everything is interesting or striking enough to merit a full blog post. Often I blog something not because we went to the farm and I took a picture but because we went to the farm and I felt something touching or troubling or judgmental, and the blog post wrote itself. So beware children, if you are looking at your young lives years later through this bloggy filter you are already one step removed from your real experience. But I digress. I thought I'd jot down notes about a week's worth of adventures and present it here as a sort of "Week in the life." If nothing else, to show that I do something when I'm not blogging and it seems like I'm not doing anything.

Monday:

I thought we would have a Montessori morning and do stations. Stations are just about the entirety of my knowledge of the Montessori method — but I had read a quick description somewhere and I figured if I put out a lot of different things for the kids I could get 20 minutes to sit and eat breakfast quietly. Of course, the kids only got as far as the pouring station, because it was a new thing, and the blocks station was really just me putting their blocks onto the floor, and then putting them back into the box. I went into the whole think kind of on a whim, because I was tired and wanted to have a minute to myself, so I just screamed, "Let's do stations!" and grabbed some things to pour with and didn't really think through what would happen if I introduced several jars of rice and beans to my living room.

Yes Miss Jo, that's the last of your nicely labeled chickpeas.

After they mixed up the rice and beans and chickpeas they wanted to cook them, so I got down a pot and helped Harvey measure the water and pour the things in, and then they looked at me like "What Next?" and I realized that even though I had gotten lunch started early I hadn't really gotten time to relax and also there was rice all over the living room floor. But, lunch was cooking!

Zion's friend Nathan came over at 8am and we walked to the playground and library. In the afternoon we played in the street for a looooong time.

Tuesday:

I promised Harvey we could go on a train ride when Dan started working again, so good to my word we left first thing in the morning for a trip into the city.

the train! the train!!!

I chose Harvard square as a destination because it's the shortest hop I could think of and Zion doesn't really enjoy riding on a big shaky monster. Harvey was super excited about everything about the train: the elevator at the station, the map of the stops, the advertising and the windows and ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING! IT'S A TRAIN!!! Compared to that the "destination" was sort of unimportant, so it ended up that we paid $12 in transportation to visit the Curious George Book Shop in Harvard Square for an hour. I tried not to be sore about the cost - it wasn't me who wanted to go anywhere on the train after all. And my kids were wowed by Curious George story time.

infotainment

After some confusion about the return trip (Harvey: "Why do we have to get on the train again?" Mama: "Wait, it costs $2.50??? OMG where's the card machine.") We made it safely back to our car. While I put Zion in his car seat I caught Harvey looking over the edge of the parking garage, and I remembered my childhood trips to the Science Museum, how the parking garage was almost the most exciting part because it's like half open and half closed - a weird building trait for being so high up. Harvey pointed down to the parking garage across the street. With wonder in his voice he asked, "Can we go THERE next time???"

new outfit courtesy of auntie Oona

Personally I dislike the city and the cost of getting into the city. I'd much rather take a relaxing drive into the country or stay in Bedford and go someplace we can walk to. But I'm happy to put my preferences to one side to make a magical morning for my sweet first born. The way he bounced up and down when I said we were going on a train... priceless. Also I was well rewarded for all that external stimulation; when we got home they played quietly with playdough for so long that I was able to straighten and vacuum the whole downstairs.

quietly intent

In the afternoon we played in the street for a long time.

Wednesday:

In the morning we played in the street for a long time.

In the afternoon Grandma Beth took me and the boys to Brookline to visit the Great-Grandmas in honor of Yom Kippur. Despite a 40-minute drive either way the kids were super good and sweet and little rays of sunshine for all the old people who saw them going in and out (to say nothing of their actual great grandmothers.) I didn't take pictures because, I dunno, this sort of trip is a little overwhelming to me, especially the city driving. When we came back I took a tylenol, and then later drank two mudslides and after that I was ready to do Wednesday night bible study. Unfortunately or fortunately non-Archibald attendance was limited to Mr. Kyle, so we ditched studying the bible and played a board game called Stone Age. I almost won but in the end Dan won, and by the time I went to bed at 10:30 I was sober enough to co-sleep.

Thursday:

I needed a nature break after the previous two city days, so I took the boys to the Minuteman National Park, which might be one of my favorite places in the world. The rolling fields, the field stone walls, even driving through Concord to get there soothed my soul. When I was training for the Cape Cod marathon I ran in the national park at least once a week and I love it there so much, I feel like the perfect job for me would be to live in the 1775 house and act as a full-time historical interpreter. I would have to wear a cap over the dreads, though.

scaffolding and sand amidst natural beauty

The boys hung out in the sand pit next to the burned out house. I had expected Harvey and Zion to run the dirt paths with abandon — we've given up walking them and the dog together because Zion wants to get down and walk and sometimes dig in the dirt on the sidewalk and sometimes roll on neighbor's grass. It's very adorable but not really fair to the dog. So I thought this would be a fun nature walk just for the kids, but Zion was all "I'm a clingy baby today" so mostly I held him while pushing an empty stroller. Harvey wanted to investigate the old chicken coops, and as we approached I said, "Looks like the doors are all closed up." And then I said, "Doors! Closed up! Harvey, I forgot to put the chickens back in their cage before we left!"

So we didn't stay as long as we might have. When we got home the chickens were still pecking happily in the yard, but they weren't upset to go back inside either.

In the afternoon we played in the street for a long time. Well, Dan was home on a half day so he played in the street with them while I filled out some paperwork and typed these notes and did some laundry. Then we all went up to the community dinner followed by the playground. Zion, despite being sleepy on our nature walk, didn't nap at all the whole day. At one point Harvey said, "Zion, when do you think you want to go to sleep?"

Friday:

It is raining. The children insist they must go outside and play anyway.

not quite enough water to float the boat

Zion refuses to put on Harvey's old rain boots and plays a good three minutes before he realizes his feet are wet and cold. Then he decides the raindrops on his forehead merit a constant chorus of "ow" so we go inside and wait for Nathan to arrive. Then it's off to the museum!

Museum worker: "There's a 30-45 minute wait." Me: "I have a PREMIUM membership." "Oh, well go right ahead in, then." (THANKS GRANDMA!!!!!)

the only time I could get them all in the same shot

The kids had an awesome time in the packed museum, though Nathan doesn't have that same stick-with-the-pack instinct that I expect from my kids, and I had to do a lot of running and grabbing to keep them in the same room at the same time. I found myself wishing I had en empty museum that they could wander as they please. It wouldn't be any safer, but they'd be free from the eyes of other parents thinking, "Who does this child BELONG to?" Seriously, if you can't let them run free in a completely child-proofed environment made for toddlers.... but social mores are what they are and doubly so in public places.

Due to the rain there was no playing outside in the afternoon, but an evening outing to Small Group rounded out the day with extra stimulation for Harvey. Zion was overly cranky and we spent Saturday doing a lot of resting as a result.

Looking at the week altogether like this makes me feel a bit overwhelmed by all we do. I'm a little bit sick going into this next week and wondering how I'm going to do it all with half the energy. Then again, I find the daily grind of housework more overwhelming than anything else, so leaving the house is a nice escape for me as well as for the children. Most importantly, the more interesting things I provide for them to do, the happier they are, the less they whine at me, the happier I am.

more

Lexington 300

On Saturday we headed up to Lexington for our second fair in as many weekends, this one a special event to celebrate the town of our birth's 300th anniversary. Well, sort of: the town was actually incorporated in 1713 (after being first settled in 1642), but folks want to celebrate so much that they're planning to drag the thing out from now until May of next year. And more power to em, I say! They had a big tent.

a long white tent with a tall part in the middle

kind of a "medieval encampment" feel...

Despite the gray morning the fair, part of a day of "opening events", was very well attended.

the crowd inside the rectangle of tents

bustling

It wasn't quite as interesting as Bedford Day as far as exhibitors, unfortunately. Bedford Day is awesome, sure, but for an event that presumably occurs only once every 100 years you expect a little more oomph. Nevertheless, we were entertained well enough. At noon the organizers did their best to get the entirety of the Lexington population out onto the high school football field for a photo, which meant that the tent crowd cleared out a little bit, and we took the opportunity to peruse the crafts.

a variety of quilted crafts on display

I want to make ducks like those

The lines also died down a little for the food vendors, and we picked up a few items. Harvey chose a giant M&M cookie and Leah a sandwich; Zion was satisfied with a pancake from home, which he ate with a fork.

Harvey and Zion snacking

fair food

His favorite part of the whole experience was trying to ride Mama's bicycle.

Zion astride Leah's bicycle (and the arm of a bench)

trying to skip some steps in the progression of bicycling skills

He was less enthusiastic about watching dancing and musical performances inside a hot (the sun had come out by then) and crowded tent, so after a bit of entertainment we dragged ourselves away and headed home. Good times; where is next week's fair going to be?

two British regulars from behind

colorful antagonists

more

Bedford Day 2012

a float featuring the Bedford flag

historiographical symbolism

Saturday was Bedford Day, and we were as excited as ever to take in the parade and fair. The big local news this year was that the famous Bedford Flag is being shorn of its apparently unhistorical white fringe, as shown in float form above. To the extent that you can see it through the crowds, that is; we were sitting right on the curb but still found ourselves blocked by several rows of young people who moved in to gather the candy that nearly every unit throws out to the audience. Not that we minded too much, since at the boys' age they appreciate a bit of buffer between themselves and anything too novel.

Zion watching the parade

intent

It certainly helped that the parade was much quieter than in years past. While it was still well full of fire trucks and DPW machinery they were much more gentle on the sirens and horns than we've come to expect, something that we appreciated as much as the kids. Besides all the heavy equipment we also got to see Boy and Girl Scouts, corvettes, soccer players and karate trainees, and local politicians. Great small-town fun!

Just as wonderful was the fair, where we filled up on hot dogs and fried dough (on top of the parade candy; it was a tough day for my stomach), bought a few books at the library sale, and donated three dollars to our neighbor's basketball fundraiser. Harvey got to play a bean-bag toss for that last one, and got one of his four tosses in—his first-ever carnival success, and better than I ever did! Zion reached into the prize bucket too, with less justification, but since he's so cute he got away with it. I believe both prizes were lost before we even thought about heading for home.

Harvey and I lasted a little longer than Mama and Zion, but we mostly spent the extra time playing in the playground—well, he did, while I sat outside the fence and read a book—which isn't so different from a regular day. The playground was a whole lot more crowded, I suppose. Good times all around; the day could only have been improved if the people of Bedford were the sort to want to see craft tables and livestock, neither of which put in any kind of appearance this year. Oh well, we have both of those at home.

more

wedding party vacation

the view of the lake from the porch

nice weekend spot

This Labor Day weekend we were lucky enough to be offered an all-expenses-paid trip to a New Hampshire lakeside, in order to celebrate the wedding of our friends Sara and Josh. Uncle Tom and Aunt Nellie had a cabin in the wedding camp, and we didn't have to be asked twice to drop by.

looking down at the boats, dock, and happy boaters

our private cove

Usually when they see water the boys jump right in, but here the boats were a potent distraction.

Harvey at the bow of the canoe on the lake

intrepid boatman

Harvey did great on his second time on a boat, and then also on his third, fourth, fifth... etc. I was glad to head out with him each time. Zion wasn't sure about being out on the water, but he loved the miracle of buoyancy, which let him push his big brother around.

Harvey in the canoe, Zion pushing it

Zion is in the water

Then it was on to the wedding itself, which was also outside.

the crowd walking up to the wedding site through the birches

attractive church architecture

It took some climbing to get up to the site of the ceremony, but the view at the top was worth it—as encouraging home-made signs along the way proclaimed.

the view down to the lake over the heads of the wedding audience

the chapel's not bad either

Outside weddings are well suited to our children's temperaments. Harvey could get some private time when he needed.

Harvey sitting up on a dirt road in his wedding clothes

he wanted some distance

Zion distracted himself by lying down and kicking his feet in the dirt. It was dry enough that the dust brushed right off.

Zion lying on the ground in his wedding clothes

he doesn't mind getting dirty

The reception was back down the hill by the lodge. After a little acclimation (and a lot of hors d'oeuvres) Harvey jumped right into socializing.

Harvey and a new friend playing in the grass

new friends

Those two were well matched, and spent a happy hour carrying dirt, swinging sticks, and knocking each other down. But even new best friends were no competition for cousins.

Harvey running with Nisia in tow

this is called dancing

After hours of partying we started to feel bad for Rascal and made an early exit, unfortunately before pie but just in time to get on the road to our hotel while there was still a bit of light.

the sunset over the wedding reception

gone the sun

Good thing because there's no cell reception up there so navigation was by paper map, and there were some wrong turns in the empty wild darkness before we found our way to refuge at the Best Western in Mt. Sunapee. Relative refuge, at least, because fireworks and a loud party—with bonfire!—right outside our window kept us mostly awake until about 1:30: in solidarity, it turns out, with the folks back at the wedding who similarly partied long into the night.

This prejudiced us against the place a little bit, but Harvey—who slept through all the commotion—was thrilled in the morning both by the big tv and the complimentary continental breakfast. I would have taken some more pictures but my camera ran out of batteries moments after the sunset shot above; and forgetting my charger meant that I couldn't document our second day of boating and lakeside relaxation, supplemented by a second breakfast-slash-lunch courtesy of the wedding establishment. It was all great fun, and it felt much longer than the 31 hours we were actually away from home.

more

swimming

Last Friday our friend Katie convinced us to go to Springs Brook Park, a man-made pond and playground which serves as the Bedford town pool. Even though it's less than five minutes from our house we'd never been before; I'd need to sell an organ to pay for the membership! Just the evening alone was $12 for our family, and that's lower than a full-day fare! But it was worth it to try once, because the boys were introduced to something they'd never seen before... a sprinkler park!!!

everyone at the sprinkler park

Our family at the sprinkler park: kids having fun, dan looking on lovingly, and me the dreaded black shadow looming in the background

Harvey ran around giggling like a maniac while Zion tested each water-spraying element, trying to figure out how each worked. It's amazing to watch my children - both so different and each so awesome.

zion at the hydrant

the budding scientist

dan and harvey dancing in the water

water dancers

The same weekend we went back to our normal pond (Walden) where the yearly pass costs only $35. Harvey and Zi both had fun playing with Eliot who is between them in age.

harvey and eliot at walden pond

Harvey and Eliot were fishing the ball with these sticks

zion playing with Eliot

Zion liked sitting in a hole that Eliot and the other boys made

Hanging onto the end of summer means swimming as many times as we can before the cold weather blows in. It means a lot of sand in the laundry though, so the end of the swimming season will be both bitter and sweet.

more

make way for us

Harvey and Zion riding duck statues

ride em, duck boys!

We've been meaning to take the boys to visit the Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston all summer—all last summer too, when I think about it. But somehow it's easier for us to get to the Cape than into the city. As you can tell from the photo above, we finally made it. What did the trick? Realizing that we could bicycle there!

Leah and the trailer under a bridge, Boston in the background

that's where we're going!

As plotted by Google Maps the route from our house to the Public Garden is just a bit over 17 miles, one way. Naturally, by the time we got there we had worked up a pretty good appetite for our packed lunch.

Leah, Harvey, and Zion picnicing by the pond in the Public Garden

not a bad spot

After dining we met up with our friends (including Harvey and Zion's friend Timothy) and, once everyone had gathered around to hear me read the famous story—of course we brought it along, we had to compare the pictures with the real thing!—we headed over to the duckling statues.

Harvey, Zion, and Timothy playing with the duckling statues

Zion wanted to pet and feed them

There was quite a crowd trying to get their turn on the ducks, mostly for photo-op purposes, so the kids didn't get to play as long as they might have liked (not that I can cast stones, of course: I had my camera out the whole time). But the ducklings were definitely experienced, to everyone's great pleasure.

Zion riding a duckling

could he have one to bring home?

Next up was the Swan Boats, which turned out to be pleasantly affordable. We decided that the ride around the pond was the first time on a boat for both Zion and Harvey, which still seems shocking to me. But in any case it was a very pleasant excursion: wonderfully quiet and relaxing thanks to the pedal-powered nature of the boats (Leah noted that all our transportation for the day was pedal-powered!). And there really are ducks living on the island, like in the book.

Harvey, Zion, and Mama on the swan boat

swanning

Then it was on to more active pursuits. Somehow I never knew that you could swim in the Frog Pond in the summer—for free, even!—but needless to say as soon as the kids saw it they were in the water.

Zion in the Frog Pond

that's Harvey's hand

After they dried off—and note that this was all without swimsuits or towels, since we had no expectation of bathing—it was onto the nearby Tadpole playground. It was fun but included some water features, so when our injunctions to stay out of the fountains! started to wear off, we had to find another place to play. The next playground, out on the Esplanade along the Charles River, was pretty fancy.

Harvey at the bottom of a big metal-and-rope climbing structure

thinking about it

It was really designed for bigger kids, but there was still enough to keep our little ones occupied for quite a while—longer than Timothy wanted to stay awake. We bid him and his parents goodbye and then Mama and Zion played some more while Harvey and I walked around and looked at the river. Harvey was very interested in seeing the spot where Mr. and Mrs. Mallard made their nest, and we also worked out the route they took to get to the Public Garden. Of course, back then Storrow Drive wasn't a divided highway—good thing!

On the way home we stopped to pick up some dinner, and ate it at a picnic table on the shores of Spy Pond in Arlington. With the proximity to water I was prepared to tell the kids that they couldn't swim because of the poison algae, but they were so tired that it never came up. They did enjoy the food, though.

Spy Pond, late afternoon

we like water

We finally made it home at around 7:00, after nine and half hours away from home. We felt kind of bad for abandoning Rascal all that time, so we'll probably stay home tomorrow and give him some attention. We might need a bit of rest ourselves, too!

more

another Sandwich

a view down the beach

our kind of beach weather

Today we took a day trip down to Sandwich, on Cape Cod, to visit some relatives of Leah's. It was great weather for a trip to a beachy destination: the chilly rainy conditions meant that the traffic wasn't nearly the problem we feared it would be.

some of the trout swimming

they're trout

Last time we made this trip Harvey very much enjoyed the fish hatchery, so we asked our hosts for a repeat performance. It was just as much fun a year and a half later—more so, even, because I managed to photograph some of the fishes and because we had one more person to thrill to the fishes' hungry splashings.

Zion looking down into the fish hatchery tanks

checking out the fishies

It was also a bit warmer—but not as much as you might have expected, given that our last visit was in April. Still, below-average temperatures never keep us from the beach, even if they do cause us to choose wading over actual swimming. Even Zion declined to immerse himself—but that might have been due to tiredness. Still, we love a beach!

Harvey, and Leah holding Zion, wading in the gray water

not quite warm enough to swim

And of course, the Barrettes gave us a great lunch—and enough after-beach snacks to make dinner unnecessary. Thanks guys... Sandwich is great!

a salt marsh landscape

more

river swimming take two

We tried another swimming-with-the-dog outing this afternoon, and this one went better than the tantrum-filled debacle from my previous post. Again we visited the Concord river, only this time we went to the boat launch in Carlisle instead of the North Bridge in Concord. The Carlisle crowd seemed to fit our socioeconomic class a bit better, and this time I felt less fear of judgement about letting my children prance naked in the waterway.

boys at the boat launch in the water

can't keep clothes on them when there's water around

Everything about today's trip was less stressful. The dog barked less because there were fewer people coming and going. Because it was just between snack and dinner time I didn't bring anything to eat, and that lightened my load. Also, I didn't bring the beach toys. I think the absence of toys and snacks made it seem like there was less of an "agenda" for the outing, and Harvey played more creatively as a result. Here he is is playing with a stick that looked a lot like a gun. He called it his 'pachoo-er'

harvey's stick gun

pachoo! pachoo!

No, I don't have any problem with my kids making up guns. I freak out about TV, not firearms.

With the thought of school starting again in September, I realize my coping mechanism for Zion's first winter was taking them out somewhere every frickin day. I don't want to do that every day this year. It's exhausting packing up the house to take in the car every morning and unpacking it every afternoon. I still want them to visit exciting places, but twice a week is probably sufficient and I also want to teach them things at home. Things other than "Leave me along while I clean up."

Until we settle into a good home-life routine I'd like to figure out shorter outings we can do in a pinch. This was a good test-case, and indeed we stayed longer than I expected because they were having so much fun playing with sticks (instead of fighting over the one yellow shovel, I WANT THE YELLOW ONE NOT THE GREEN ONE!!!)

the boys playing on the dock

getting sleepy

When the boys finally got tired we returned home to a delicious pizza dinner that Dan had been cooking. Hey, I guess I'll have to start cooking again sometimes when Dan goes back to work. Bummer. Enough thinking of September; let's hold on to summer for a few weeks more.

more

camping 2012, day 4: homeward bound

the Margaret Todd off Agamont Park

sparkling day

After one more breakfast at the Cafe we said goodbye to our friends, then hung out in town for a little while before getting in the car for the trip home. Harvey was enjoying himself so much that he threw the biggest tantrum of his life, which lasted about 20 miles down the road.

the car parked at a dead-end facing the ocean

rest stop parking

He should know by know that the journey is as much fun as the destination—well, if not the journey itself then the intermediate destinations along the way. We made our first stop in Searsport intending to look in at Left Bank Books (which we've enjoyed before), but were distracted by the sight of the ocean down a side street. When we explored and found a playground we made a quick change of plans.

Mama, Harvey, and Zion on a playground alligator

alligator? or dinosaur?

I wasn't in the best of moods, thanks to an enormous cut on my foot, but everybody else had a great time playing on the variety of great playground equipment (even Rascal: he got away when we opened the car and ran all over the place before we could collect him). Then of course we had to check out the water, especially since Harvey found a "swimming girl"—or "swimmin guller" in his idiolect—that clearly needed a place to swim.

Harvey playing in the ocean with a mermaid figurine

splash

Coming from Massachusetts, where shoreline access is strictly controlled and rationed, it's always exciting to find places like this. Yeah, that's the ocean; it's always there; go down and visit if you feel like it... We sure did!

Mama, Zion, and Harvey wading in the ocean

no one else there!

After another tantrum we were back in the car and on to Camden, where Zion nursed and Harvey and I learned about local literary figures.

Harvey posing with a statue of Edna St. Vincent Millay

posing with Edna

We also enjoyed watching the seabirds: ducks (and ducklings!), seagulls, and cormorants. The former were very disappointed that Harvey didn't have anything better than rocks to offer them.

Harvey throwing rocks into Camden Harbor

sorry ducks, it's not bread

There was one more stop, but it didn't produce any pictures: a highway rest area on I-95 (I don't even remember which state!). One of our few failings as hippies is how much we enjoy McDonalds, so we were very disappointed when the timing of our dinner stop produced only a Burger King—all the more so when I saw the prices. They may have been inflated for the captive highway audience, but all I could bring myself to afford was ten small chicken nuggets, and Harvey ate most of those. Luckily we still had some leftover peanut noodles and homemade bread—not to mention the last of the cookies.

This time the tantrum came before we left, when a game of "hit people with sticks" turned bad (who could have imagined?!). But that just meant that we were all ready to pile back into the car and roll through the last of the homeward miles.

Now what's the next adventure going to be?

more

island visit

an old lawn chair overlooking a cobble beach

I visited an island today. Leah and the boys were busy playing with Nathan and they had to stay home—so I took some pictures for them.

a dirt track through the scrub

does it go anywhere?

Parts of the island were very remote (but I still met some joggers out there). Everything flowering was purple.

close-up of heather flowers

just like back in Scotland

Other parts were entirely civilized, and crowded with pedestrians and golf carts. Or at least paved.

a paved road bordered by lawns

could be right around the corner here

Before too long I had to go home, but hopefully we'll be going back again soon!

the view of the island from the stern of the departing ferry

somewhere in the rain

more

Rehoboth

We had some business in Rehoboth last week, which is about an hour south of us and closer to the coast. While Dan took a meeting the boys and I hung out on the playground of the local elementary school. The playground equipment was a bit advanced for toddlers, but luckily there was an outdoor classroom made up of six large flat stones. Who knew children could be so enthralled with knee-height rocks.

Harvey was "hunting trains" for some reason.

When Dan came back to meet us we went on to the real exciting part of the outing: THE OCEAN!!!

the waves! the waves!

Harvey was so into the ocean he was practically bursting with delight. It was like swimming with a teenage girl at a Justin Beeber concert.

happy salty boy

Zion wasn't so sure of the ocean at first. He liked being held tightly out of the water, and he liked playing in the sand sort of, but he didn't get photographed because mostly I was holding him or trying to make him happy. But Harvey's delight made the overall outing a success And everyone was happy with seaside hot dogs and french fries.

more

auto adventures

Leah and Zion coming down the giant slide at Robbins Farm Park

whee!

We don't just adventure out of state—we do plenty of fun things around here too. Yesterday we met the Stevens family at Arlington's Robbins Farm Park, and we all had a great time at the playground. True, the giant slide wasn't for everybody: Harvey didn't mind climbing the steps, but he wasn't so sure about the sliding down part. Luckily he found another way.

Harvey walking down a clover-covered hill

in clover

After that we got some ice cream.

I was all set to, in this post, write about how happy I was to have rediscovered automobile transportation. When we were in Maine we all really enjoyed being able to range widely and stop whenever something caught our attention—or when someone needed a break from the car. Now that we once again have two working motor vehicles and two legally licensed drivers, I figured we could have some of that same freedom in the metro-Boston area: why not drive all over the place and, say, find a new playground every day?! But then I read this article, and never mind—we have to get back to human transportation. That's alright, I need to be getting more exercise anyways.

more

camping 2012, day 2: all kinds of independence

the party on top of Sargent Mtn, looking to the north

on top of the world

Since we could only handle the arduous effort of hauling the boys up trails once, on Tuesday we split up. Leah, Harvey, and Zion went in to town to have some fun, and I got to hike without a child on my back for the first time since 2009! Unencumbered, I advocated for a big hike, and so we headed up Sargent Mountain, the second tallest in the park.

the party coming down a rocky slope

careful now...

Well, I say unencumbered, but I did have Rascal to contend with. At least I didn't have to carry him very much, but he was a bit of a trial at the beginning of the hike. Before we could go up we had to go down a long way, and since it was early in the walk he was raring to go and pulled constantly at the leash. It's pretty good exercise hopping down boulders down a 45° slope! When we got down to the foot of Jordan pond, we had about 1100 feet of climbing in front of us, some of it quite steep; that's when I had to lift Rascal over one particularly high step. He's good at jumps up to about three feet or so, but anything higher than that—or a consistent rock slope of more than about 60°—and he starts looking for another way around. But sometimes there isn't one! Eventually we made it to the top, and he was ready.

Rascal resting in front of the Sargent Mtn summit

and now lie down.

It was terrible hot and humid climbing up but then cold, gray, and windy on the top, so when we passed by Sargent Pond on the way down we were less inclined to want to swim than we'd been in anticipation. Still, all the boys—in fact, the males of all species in the party—went in, because how often do you have a chance to swim in a mountain pond?

Rascal and Becca in front of Sargent Pond

swimming hole

Sargent Mountain is probably the most remote peak on the east side of Acadia (keeping in mind that remoteness in this case is entirely relative!), so there aren't any reasonable loops that take in the summit. On the way back, though, we did decide to take a different route to bypass the boulder slope pictured above—coming down it was bad enough!—and on the way around Jordan Pond towards the cars we came upon someone's half-finished project.

Washington racoon poses with a beaver-gnawed tree

trying to take credit for someone else's work

Then I got dropped off back downtown where I met up with the rest of my family, and marveled at Harvey's happy independence as he ran all over the Bar Harbor village green.

Harvey running back from the fountain in the park

feeling comfortable with his surroundings

Then we did some other things, but I can't recall them because I was too tired and hungry. Luckily we eat well on these trips.

hot dog, cheeseburger, and corn and bean salad on a plate

we make sure we're well fed

more

camping 2012, day 1: end of an era

the four of us posing atop North Bubble

Rascal was there too

There are lots of reasons that we like visiting Mt Desert Island, but chief among them are climbing mountains and eating big breakfasts at Cafe This Way. This year there weren't many problems with the latter, at least.

Harvey eating oatmeal at the Cafe

breakfast luxury

Sure, Zion was a little fussy at having to wait for his food, but that was generally survivable. Mountain climbing, on the other hand, gets harder every year. Harvey weighs around 40 pounds now, so with all the other things I had to carry—plus the weight of the backpack itself—I figure my load was close to 55 pounds. Leah carried Zion in a backpack we found at a consignment sale, which wasn't entirely comfortable for either of them. Still and all, we made up a couple of hills—North Bubble and Connors Nubble—and then back along the shore of Eagle Lake.

Washington racoon (a puppet) on top of the sign for the North Bubble summit

he was also carried to the top

It wasn't a really long hike, but parts of it were pretty tough. Up to Connors Nubble was a steep climb, and the Eagle Lake path had moments of tricky scrambling over boulders. It was well worth it though, because even though neither peak was very high both of them had some great views.

some of the crowd eating lunch above Eagle Lake

not a bad lunch view

Harvey would have nothing to do with walking at the start of the expedition, but on the way down from North Bubble we convinced him to try a little bit and he did quite well, even bouncing up from a big fall. After some jostling on the descent he was even more enthusiastic about moving under his own power, and I had to work pretty hard to convince him to get back in the backpack from time to time, in the interest of finishing the hike before it got dark (and I really appreciate our friends' willingness to adapt to our radically changing pace).

Harvey hiking among boulders with Dada following

he doesn't need fancy shoes for barefoot hiking

Most impressive was the fact that Harvey did it all barefoot. It was a lot like having a hobbit in the party, what with the short stature and the curly hair and all (not to mention the constant desire for another meal). He definitely earned his stops to dip his feet in the water.

Harvey dipping his feet in Eagle Lake

a well-earned break

He walked close to a mile in total, and was doing great until he tripped over a root and bashed his big toenail pretty good; the third time he'd been bloodied on that hike alone. He was done with the backpack by that point too, so the last three-quarter miles or so I was just carrying him. The hike marked the end of Harvey's time riding up mountains in the big backpack: it was so painful we didn't try in again. Next year the pack'll hold Zion, and where Harvey can't walk he won't go.

We ended the day back at the campsite with peanut noodles and lawn bowling, both of which Harvey approved of wholly (Zion was a fan of the balls more than the noodles).

more

camping 2012, day 0: travelling

Leah and Zion smiling

rest stops make us happy

As I mentioned, the trip didn't get off to the best start this year. Zion was running a fever for a few days before we left, and just moments before we were going to get in the car he threw up. But as it turns out, low-grade fevers and baby car trips are a great combination: he got to rest undisturbed for a few solid hours and we got to drive without stopping all the way up past Portland! (Harvey spent the time watching shows on his iPad; I'm sure he could have gone five or six hours nonstop.)

a look into the fully-loaded trunk

that's enough room for Rascal, right?

We'd spent the last two days packing up, and it was a good thing; it's tricky to fit us all in the car. But we did much better than usual this time. Not only was the full complement of food moderately accessible at stops (being able to reach chilled apple juice was essential), but I could even see over the load in the rear view mirror! I don't know how I managed it. Beach toys were also easily reachable, which was handy for our second stop, in Linconville.

Zion presenting the camera with a beach rock

rock? rock?

We spent quite a while there, playing in the sand and water. Zion and I stayed mostly dry, but Mama and Harvey got the full ocean experience despite not being prepared with swimming suits.

Harvey running in the water wearing a wet shirt

we didn't really plan on him swimming

Rascal, of course, never misses a chance for complete immersion.

Rascal swimming towards the camera with a stick

he never gets tired of it

Leaving the beach was hard—much crying and screaming was involved—but eventually we were on our way, and with Harvey sleeping while Zion watched the iPad we were able to get all the way up to Bar Harbor with but one further stop, in Bucksport, for gas and nursing.

I think that we made three or more stops for Rascal back before we had kids and we certainly needed more than that the last two years, so even with over an hour at the beach we still made record time up to the campground; and, more importantly, we got there before our friends so we were able to grab the best tenting spot!

Zion and Harvey sitting on camp chairs, Rascal on the ground

chairs, boys, and dog set up

No, not really, we actually waited until they got there—just about half an hour after us—to set everything up. Then Mama and Harvey went swimming in the pool (I sense a theme here) while Kyle and Margaret cooked us chicken and corn for dinner. (I was... probably doing something very important too. Watching Zion? And collecting firewood?) The boys were super-excited about the tent, and we went to bed ready for the next day's adventures.

more

adventures large and small

the Boston museum of science, seen from the banks of the river

temple of science

We've been busy with all kinds of fun outings around here lately. Yesterday the family Stevens treated us to a trip to the Science Museum. It was totally awesome, and I regret only that it was too dark inside there for good photography.

Zion looking out the window of the subway

first time on the T

We took the train there, which may have been Zion's favorite part. Harvey is still a fan too. Our older son also appreciated the chance to get an up-close look at the setting of Make Way For Ducklings (the hatching site, naturally, not the Public Garden; that's scheduled for later in the summer). He was not, though, happy to have to leave before he was ready.

Harvey lying down and crying beside the Charles River

it was a long day

As well as big fancy trips, we've also been out and about in town. Today we bicycled all the way to Grandma's house; two days ago it was the farmers market in Lexington. The boys are naturally experienced cycle tourists, and they know how to snatch some much-needed rest whenever they get a chance.

Zion asleep in the trailer and Harvey asleep next to it on the ground

cycling with Dada is hard work

You know, they say that the Tour de France is won in bed, but I don't think that even professional cyclists manage to sleep while actually on the road.

more

James and T and Us

(most of) our guests on the Old North Bridge

T and family, at least

We spent the weekend entertaining guests from the other side of the country: James, Theresa, JR, and Tristan of James & T & Family fame. Theresa and I were good friends in college but haven't seen each other since—and Leah had never met her, nor had we met her boys. Thanks to the wonders of blogging, though, we didn't feel like we needed to do any catching up; it was straight into fun times together!

Harvey and Tristan sitting on the grass, from behind

they got along fine

It's not that we take everyone who comes here to see the historical sights; we ask them what they want to do! But it is hard to resist the allure of Revolutionary history around here. We visited the Battle Road and the Hartwell Tavern and took in a mock trial.

Tristan with his arm around JR at the colonial presentation

they're doing a play!

JR commandeered the camera for most of the expedition, which isn't so terrible because it looked like he was getting some good thoughtful pictures. I hope to see some of them in a week or so, after the epic trip is concluded.

JR taking pictures

he took more pictures than I did

Next up was the Old North Bridge, and Tristan wanted to wade right in to look for shiny rocks. He's a big fan of crystals these days, but I think he would have accepted a gold nugget too.

our visitors looking for shiny rocks in the Concord River

they're from California, so looking for gold comes naturally

Zion doesn't care about rocks except to eat them, so for him the appeal was the water itself. He refused all consolation until we undressed him and let him sit down in the river.

Zion skinny-dipping in the Concord River

splish splash

Harvey was asleep at that point, or else he would have ended up pretty wet too.

Besides the excitements pictured we also enjoyed some lunch and shopping in Concord center and ice cream treats at Bedford Farms, as well as a couple of delicious egg-filled breakfasts thanks to our once-again-fully-productive chickens. I think we were good hosts; maybe we'll be treated to another visit in ten or fifteen years!

more

Outingz

In an effort to pretend that house-cleaning does not exist, I've been taking the kids on a lot of outings. Here we are at Drumlin Farm, family photo courtesy of our friends Eunice and Jun.

mama and boys on the drumlin hayride

The boys can't take their eyes off the tractor to look at the camera.

boys on the drumlin natural playground

Zion thinks the "natural" playground could use more steps and slides.

We also took our first ever trip to the Discovery Museum, and it was a smash hit despite the 50 minute wait to get in.

boys playing on the discovery playground

playing on the playground while we wait for the museum to have room for us

We ate lunch at the outdoor picnic tables and because of the nice wet jaunt on the playground Zion was actually interested in eating! (I feel like whenever I hit an eating moment with him I should cram in three days worth of food.) After our lunch the crowds had cleared and we headed in for two hours of sheer baby amazement. I mean come on; it's a museum for toddlers. People had some good ideas in the 70s.

harvey playing in the baby room at discovery museum

this is awesome!

We also went on our first picking outing of the year. Zion was much more helpful than last year, and gave me a good fifteen minutes to pick before he got fussy and needed to visit the animals.

Zion at strawberry picking

kept himself busy in the field by eating unripe berries

Dan even took a personal day to help us on the outing. I'm pretty proficient at getting the two kids in and out of the car and fed and entertained and all, but I wouldn't trust myself to pick eight quarts of strawberries at the same time. Especially when we're counting on it for jam.

dan and harvey picking strawberries

The older farmers at work

Sorry to dump all these photos at the same time. I'm trying to keep the computer closed during the day so I don't have to negotiate with Harvey whether he can watch a show.

We went to Walden Pond yesterday but I don't have photos of that expedition, which is probably for the best. Zion was so snotty he couldn't fall asleep by any normal means, and two minutes after getting home from food shopping it became apparent that we were going to need to leave in the car for somewhere, like, NOW. So with the knowledge that there was already a beach bag in the trunk I grabbed as much food as I could assemble while holding a screaming baby and fled with a gleeful Harvey to the car. When we got to the pond I almost broke down in tears when I realized I didn't know how I was going to get my suit on with one kid sleeping in a car seat and the other refusing to leave the stroller and a line in the bathroom where neither car seat nor stroller would fit. Thankfully some stray women saw my predicament and helped watch my kids while I changed and THEN helped me get the whole ensemble, car seat, stroller, and 4 bags down the hill. It was both heartwarming and incredibly embarrassing (and next time, no matter how much the baby is screaming I put on my swimsuit BEFORE I leave the house.) Harvey was an incredible angel, though, and he had a great time, so we may throw dignity to the wind and do it again some day.

Also, while we were playing in the water a woman showed up with 7 kids (!) and she had the same amount of stuff as I did. And just as I was starting to feel really ashamed of my lack of parenting ability I realized that she had 6 kids who could walk and two teenagers who could reliably carry things. And then I was like, I could totally have more kids, I just need to add them over the age of 10. And then Dan's like "Leah, you can't 'adopt' a maid, that's called slavery."

Who knows where we'll go today?

more

Comings and Goings

It's been a busy few days of outings around here! On Thursday we went to Drumlin Farm to celebrate Zion's birthday. The selling point was a visit to their new playground when a weekday morning would ensure no other kids get in Harvey's way. (Oh my poor little socially anxious toddler. You are the apple and I am the tree.)

harvey and zion on the new drumlin play ground

my sons love them a vegetable themed playground

It was rather cold and rainy, so I had the boys in vests and hats. A little too cold, in fact. After seeing the baby pigs I was fighting the chills so I took them into the new Nature Corner, part of the Farm Life Center, where we played for an hour and enjoyed the warm air pumping through the vents.

zion in the nature corner

they stock waldorf toys so you don't have to.

Saturday, as you know, was a rather large party at our house. On Sunday we went to church and then straight to another church for a baby blessing and big lunch reception. By the afternoon I struggled to keep my eyes open while the boys had a picnic on the lawn.

picnic on the lawn

we don't buy plastic, but you'd never know from the looks of it

On Monday Dan went to work and I still didn't want to clean the house, so we went to the zoo!

zion looking at a zebra

there's also a zebra waaaaay in the distance

The Stevenses got us in on their zoo pass, and Mr Luke even treated us to a ride on the carosel. Harvey liked the carosel a lot better than last year, though he did grab for Zion's hand when the ride started.

harvey and zion holding hands

in this together

Zion seemed to enjoy his first carousel ride. He's not as anxious a child as Harvey, though he does try to crawl away when I'm using a public toilet. I guess no child is perfect.

zion on the carousel

first time for everything

I feel quite lucky that I get to enjoy outings with the boys and call it my "work." Here's a picture to show that I was there too.

mama, harvey and zion on the carousel

all together now!

It's been a whirlwind few of days, so I'm looking forward to a chance to calm down a bit. Eat some healthy meals at home. Sit down. "Play toys" as Harvey says.

more

stow aways

Yesterday the boys and I visited the lovely Lauren at her new home in Stow. It's just beautiful out there! A few minutes drive west and it's like you're in New Hampshire or the Cape or some combination thereof.

We took a short walk around a flood plane. Who's that we see in the distance?

horsey in the distance

who's over there?

A group of horses and hounds coming in from a faux fox hunt.

horse and hounds

hey, where's the fox?

The cowboy we talked to made sure to point out that the riders were wearing their "casual" riding attire.

riders in attire

sittin pretty

Now WE were actually wearing casual attire.

harvey by water

can we put our feet in the water? can we put or feet in the water? mama can we put our feet in the water?!?

Harvey got his way convincing us that it was time to put feet in the water. Even mama and Zion got in on it, even though it was pretty cold.

zion dipping feet in the water

this doesn't feel like a bath...

While we had Lauren engaged as photographer I tried to convince Harvey to take a family photo. He could not be enticed.

mama and boys

yeah, that's pretty much what we look like.

All in all a very pleasant outing. The boys didn't fuss until it was time to go, and even then they fell asleep in the car pretty quickly. Then on the quiet drive home I found myself wishing Stow was a little FARTHER away...

more

vacation voyaging

a view from River Road down the valley to the Concord River

on the open road

I had last week off, and though I'm back to work now I wanted to share an enjoyable bicycle ride we took on Thursday, before Leah had her hair done.

Sorry for the shaky camera-work: it's hard to hold the thing steady, especially when Harvey is squirming around behind me. I do think it conveys the general impression of the trip well enough.

The commotion you see at the Old North Bridge was an annual commemoration by the Sudbury Minutemen, which was a pleasant surprise to us; we heard the drums from across the river as we enjoyed our picnic lunch, so we stuck around to see what was going to happen.

Sudbury Minutemen firing a volley from the Concord Bridge

make ready... elevate... fire!

Besides that excitement, we also saw geese, ducks, and a frog who on escaping (I was trying to get him with a macro lens) hopped right through Harvey's legs.

a green-and-brown frog in the grass

ribbit

Now that's old-timey fun!

more

outing to sunny up our thoughts

This afternoon I set out to walk the dog and the children under a painting-perfect blue sky with white fluffy clouds. Halfway down the block it started to rain. And rain harder. And rain and rain and rain. And yet I kept walking forward because why was this possible? Why was it raining on me from a clear blue sky? Why does everything look so lovely and yet I am getting totally wet?

This is a metaphor for my life right now.

I mean, it's not really a metaphor; it actually happened that way, I did get caught in a sun shower. What I mean to say is this: it FEELS like stuff should be great right now, but it FEELS like I'm getting rained on. Like life looks generally sunny, and yet I'm stuck below this invisible cloud.

Dan's job is crapifying its health insurance options, which means that we'll need to leave our current pediatrician and drive to Burlington or Billerica instead of just walking around the corner when the kids are sick. It was enough to make me put my head down on the kitchen table and cry. Then I told Dan he should switch to a long-term sub job so that we could get on Mass Health, because our doctor takes that insurance. Naysayers who think government-run health care would LIMIT consumer choice should consider how much the current health care situation limit's EMPLOYMENT choices. Anyway...

Also, Harvey's been waking up every night to vomit and Zion's been waking up every half hour to scream. I probably shouldn't look any further than this for the source of my problems.

I had a lot already scheduled yesterday, but I decided we needed to get out into nature pour changer des idees. I often forget that Minuteman National Park is just down the road. So quiet, so sprawling, so nice to get out into the simple revolutionary-war-era pasture.

harvey in the pasture

grazing

We spent most of our time playing around the house that burned down. ("Why'd it burn down?" "You see that big fireplace in the middle Harvey? Well the fire from the fireplace went onto some of the wood by mistake, and it made the house catch on fire and burn down." Two minutes later: "Why'd it burn down?" "Because the fire escaped the fireplace and got onto the wood and that made the wood burn." Two minutes later, "Why'd it burn down." "Because it caught on fire, Harvey." One minute later, "Why'd it burn down?" "Fire, Harvey. Fire.")

boys playing in a sand pit

burned out house has sand to play in

We also took a long walk behind the Hartwell Tavern and looked at some now-uninhabited chicken coops with sticks over the window as bars. I wonder if that was ever really raccoon proof? Maybe raccoons had more wild prey in 1775.

retro chicken coop at minuteman national park

retro!

They probobly didn't have mesh flooring in 1775. I wonder when they put that in, and if the historical society every kept chickens back here.

Then we played in the sheep pasture. This space is really wasted without animals. We need some intrepid young farmer to propose raising sheep on the national park land... it would really up the authenticity of the place, especially if the shepherd dressed in colonial garb and brought in heritage breeds.

gate to the sheep pasture

I am the gate for the sheep

Zion found a bucket in the sheep pen and exercised his love of containers. You can see why his mother took up baskets weaving for him.

zion playing with bucket

anything in here?

All in all, we spent a lovely morning with the park to ourselves. It turns out I have great boys, and they act great when I let them explore someplace new, rather then letting them turn the living room into the site of a cage match while I desperately try to fold laundry. I don't think field trips are the only solution to my personal rain-cloud... paying some bills and eating some protein and getting some sleep would probably help to. But outings are a good start.

zion and mama at minuteman national part

Junior Explorer

more

wooly good time

Drumlin Farm's Woolapalooze is such an important annual pilgrimage for us, it's hard to believe this was only our third year there!

a pair of wooly sheep in the pasture

before

I love animals, but it's always amazing to me to see people who really WORK. Because they are on like a totally different wavelength of interacting with animals. From the sheep dog trainer to the sheerer who only uses scissors, those guys are in charge with the four-footed. I have never been so jealous to be a farmer.

a sheep being sheared with big scissors

oh the indignity

Though rainy, the weather felt more like early spring than dead of winter, which was a nice improvement over last year. There was a moment though, when we were waiting for the sheepdog demonstration to begin and I felt the wet cold seeping directly into my bones, that I left Dan and Harvey to and took Zion to the food pavilion. Man, that cup of coffee was the best $2 I ever spent. Zion also enjoyed his Bertucci's roll.

zion eating a roll

chomp!

Then the other boys joined us and we ate lunch on the deck of the new farm life center. Look at me knitting while my children finish eating. It's like I have an addiction or something.

Leah, Harvey, and Zion relaxing under the porch of the Farm Life Center

putting the wool to use

With lots of warm wool on our heads and bodies we made a great day of it; FOUR FULL HOURS at the farm, if you can believe it. The more I get into the fiber arts the more I have really technical questions to ask. So what was formerly a 30-second pass through of "Look Harvey, that's how they spin yarn" is now, "Hey, are there tension adjustments on that thing? How expensive is the roving? Is it the same process to ply?"

The highlight of my day was talking to an artisan who ran a booth filled with soap and Norwegian looking knit items. "This looks like something out of a Jan Brett book," Dan said.

"Actually, that's a replica of the sock that Hedgie gets stuck on his head in The Hat."

"Seriously?" I say, "I love looking at the knitting in Jan Brett's books. I've always wanted to remake the sweater that Treva wears in The Trouble with Trolls."

The women's eyes glittered. "I sell that pattern on my website," she says.

If I'm wise I won't try to size up a child's sweater pattern... instead I should wait for a girl child to come along and in the meantime make myself some useful Treva socks. Or Lisa socks. There's a lot on the website, in case you interested. (Though I feel our blog readership leans more towards "marvels at your craziness" than "actually likes the same crap.")

Here are my additional takaways from this year's woolapalooze:

- I reconfirmed my opinion that spinning looks like a fun but expensive hobby, so I'll only venture into it if we move to a farm and raise sheep.

- On the other hand, people seem to sell handmade soap for $4 a bar. So, like, I should already be selling handmade soap. I calculate it costs me about $1.95 per bar, and I could certainly cut them smaller.

- Actually, I should get goats and make goat milk soap, because that stuff looks sooo beautifully creamy. That wouldn't require moving to a farm per say... only buying a bit of property off our next door neighbor or something like that. Of course, then the cost per bar of soap would be something approaching infinity.

- I like festivals. I want to go to more festivals.

a shorn sheep in the barn

after

more

Photo farming

The nice weather today gave the boys a house-destroying case of spring fever, so we headed out to Drumlin farm for a mid-week field-trip. Sometimes I forget that I'm allowed to do that.

milk man

We got a real treat: lambs just born this morning! Also a practically empty farm for us to play in. The place was so quiet that Harvey and Zion had the whole egg area to themselves!

masters on the egg domain

Giving me plenty of time to take some portraits of my little baby farmer model.

floor baby

Harvey and Zion sat together on the retired tractor, and I tried to get a good shot of the two of them without either falling off to grave injury. It was tricky. Still, worth the feeling of wonder looking through the camera and thinking My how these boys look like brothers.

Harvey and Zion on a tractor

fighting to drive

more

we hit the road

my new 1970s Rampar machine, with kid seat

new to me

I got a new bicycle a week ago, and a good bit of the intervening time has been spent in first making it rideable, and then making it rideable for Harvey. He was an eager helper in the project, and we finished it yesterday (and immediately took a test ride, of course!). So when Leah suggested we all go out today, we enthusiastically agreed. We seem to be doing photos lately, so here's the story of our adventure in pictorial form.

Harvey and me getting ready for a winter ride

geared up and ready to go

We set out in high winds and scattered flurries, just the thing for Mama's first post-Zion bike ride. She was pulling the trailer, too. You'll see that Harvey brought a friend.

Harvey's doll reposing in the kid seat

along for the ride

There were a few obstacles in our path.

Harvey and me climbing over fallen tree-trunks

cyclocross style

And long-unused equipment needed some minor repairs along the way.

Harvey posing with a rear wheel

bike mechanic

But we made it to our destination, lovely Lexington Center, where we warmed up and relaxed in the children's room at the library.

Zion playing at the Lexington library

well-read and well-puzzled

Despite a break from cycling of well over a year and some vicious headwinds on the way home, Leah was still smiling at the end of the voyage.

Leah on the bicycle towing the trailer

journey's end

And Zion was zonked out. There's something about that trailer...

Zion sleeping in the bike trailer

it's like magic

So now our whole family is able to travel by bicycle (well, except for Rascal; sorry boy). Expect to see us out again soon and often... after the weather warms up a little more.

more

cultural exposure

We took a field trip with friends today, up north to the Peabody Essex Museum. On the way there Harvey was curious as to whether it was a zoo or an aquarium, and whether there would be fish there; it didn't help matters that he heard "peabody" as "PBS kids", something might mean something to Grandma. And when he asked what we what we cold expect to see there I wasn't particularly informative, having not done any advance research at all besides discovering that the outing would only cost us a total of $5, not including gas. "Um," I told him. "Boats? Paintings? Paintings of boats?"

As it turns out I wasn't too far wrong, but to that short list you can also add 19th century furniture, ancient Japanese masks, figureheads, modern glass art, old shoes, Chinese silver work, and stuffed birds. And some other things. Ah, the joys of a private collection. The museum was charmingly empty on a Thursday afternoon, so the attendants were free to follow us around and make sure that our six kids (and three occasionally over-enthusiastic adults) didn't break anything. They really didn't need to hover so; we only set off alarms twice!

Eventually we made our way to the kids space, where we could finally touch things. After a little bit of fun with the water exhibit, the older kids spent a happy half-hour (or was it even more?) with the wooded build-your-own-birds while the babies played with blocks. Salem residents get in the museum for free; we'd be there a couple times a week if we lived in town, so happy were our children without any intervention required from us (that's rare when we stay at home). All in all, a very rewarding outing.

more

aquarium

Harvey and friends at the top of the big aquarium tank

where's the shark?

With the holidays we came into a little bit of extra money (thanks, parents and grandparents!) so we thought we'd splurge on a trip to the aquarium. I figure we can afford it about once every five years or so. To make it more fun, we invited friends along.

Unfortunately, everyone else in the Greater Boston area had the same idea, so it was a little crowded. Poor Leah had to wait in line for nearly and hour to buy tickets while we ate snacks and watched the harbor seals, and then when we finally got inside it was sometimes a struggle to see any actual fish. But we prevailed, and over the course of a couple hours we made it to almost every exhibit. The penguins I think were the kids' favorite—not counting, of course, any sort of interactive screen.

some penguins at the aquarium

always so formal

There was some whining from almost all members of the party at various points, but I'm happy to say that my indomitable good spirits carried the day and by the time we left nearly everyone was happy with the expedition. A late-lunch-slash-early-dinner at Quincy Market sealed the deal, and as it started to get dark we were reminded that, yeah, it's still Christmastime!

a gigantic Christmas tree at Quincy Market

still standing proud for the sixth day of Christmas

And after all that walking around the city (no changing trains for us, it's Park Ave and hike over the hill both ways!) we won't feel like we're missing out when we skip First Night tomorrow. Party at our house!

more

apple pic-ing

a full half-peck bag of apples, with a half-eaten one on top

hey, who's been nibbling?!

Leah totally beat me to the punch with news of our apple picking adventure, so I figured I'd wait a little while more to put my pictures up here... but now Bridget has posted her own photos of the outing, and shamed me with what Leah calls "the best pictures ever taken" of her (and also some cute ones of Harvey and Ollie). But I'm the only one to get the apple bag!

Harvey biting an apple

it probably wasn't his first one

I also took a moment to photograph all the apples on the ground, an impressive quantity from which we took all of what went into our half-peck bag. Not so much apple picking, then, as apple picking-up.

many apples on the ground under the trees

we can't let them all go to waste!

Harvey also enjoyed the hayride. Zion might have; it's not entirely clear.

Zion looking nonplussed by the hayride

hay baby

Harvey was also a big fan of the hay maze, just like last year. Double fun playing on it with Ollie!

Harvey and his friend Ollie atop the hay maze

full of apples and ready for fun!

No applesauce produced yet due to catastrophic illness around here, but we did enjoy one very tasty apple pie.

more

what I do when I'm not blogging

Dada and Harvey's feet dangling in the Concord River

cool river water

Hi September! Hi blog! Harvey and I enjoyed a late summer Saturday recently with a trip to Concord's historic North Bridge.

Concord's Old North Bridge

arching more flood than usual for this time of year

Harvey's favorite part was the water and the statues.

Harvey beneath the Concord Minuteman statue

doing his embattled farmer impression

I wanted to go to see what Katia and the remains of Lee did to the Concord River, and I was not disappointed: it looked about like spring flood levels. Not quite as cold, though!

Harvey splashing in the shallows of the overflowing Concord River

the water is high... and fun

On the way home we stopped at a special close-down-Main-Street farmers market in Concord center and picked out corn from three different farms (plus an apple for Harvey). All delightful, fun, and relaxing. I only wish I had remembered my camera and didn't have to resort to phone pictures.

more

camping 2011: part two

the view from the top of Penobscot

looking down

More specifics. The first hike we did was Penobscot, which I thought was going to kill me. "We do this for fun," I repeated to myself as I lugged 40+ pounds of Harvey and snacks up the mountain, pausing every five steps to wipe the sweat from my eyes. It was hot and steep. Fun too, really, and not just for the reward of making it to the top; maybe I convinced myself with all the repetition. More pictures in the other post.

rocks and trees above Lower Hadlock Pond

at the foot of Norumbega

The second day we did Normumbega, which I had no particular recollection of ever having climbed before. We were a little disappointed to be denied a treeless summit, but the hike itself was beautiful and varied, if a little too bumpy for Harvey. "My butt hurts!" he exclaimed periodically for the entire second half of the hike—every five seconds or so except when I was singing him marching songs. I understand that Leah was dealing with similar complaints from Zion further back in the line. That all slowed us down considerably, but we enjoyed the frequent breaks and the opportunity they afforded us to eat cookies and consort with the local wildlife.

Harvey pointing to Washington (the puppet) Racoon's nose

"it has a nose"

The backpack is now stored away in the basement with the camping gear. Harvey may be done with it forever.

Rascal standing in shallow water

he was chasing rocks

Beyond taking them on wonderfully challenging (to us) hikes, we also introduced our friends to the eponymous bar. After breakfast we got there midway trough the ebb tide and followed the receding waters across to Bar Island. Well, some of us did: Harvey had a sleepy breakdown and couldn't go on. Before that point, though, he had a great time finding shells and rocks with Andrew and throwing them for Rascal.

Harvey and Andrew looking for shells

I think there's something alive in this one

The cooking was pretty awesome too: we divided up the dinner duty and had three very successful meals. Sadly the pictures of Harvey with a full cup of spaghetti hanging from his mouth didn't come out, nor did the ones of him lying on the ground helping Rascal lick the dishes clean. Out-of-focus attempts exist on my computer, if you want to see documentary evidence. One picture that I was delighted to find came out beautifully was the one I took of my s'more, the first ever perfect s'more that I ever created—perhaps the first in all human history. It was a moment of pure triumph.

a smore

perfection, marshmallow-style

The weather started out really hot: we were fleeing 100+ degree temps at home but didn't find things too much better as we headed north. On the drive up we went through maybe three gallons of water, and Harvey didn't spill more than a quart of that. But by the last day there when we went out to dinner with my parents (totally awesome they were there, by the way; next year we're going to try and time the whole trip to match up with their stay on the island so we can get some childcare!) everybody was bundled up against sub-60° weather. Luckily that makes some of us extra cute and cuddly.

Leah kissing a sweatshirted Zion

cozy kissy

Oh yeah, and Harvey played his first game of golf. He hasn't stopped talking about it since.

Harvey at Pirates Cove golf

not quite sure which end of the stick to hold

more

camping 2011: part one

the five of us atop Penobscot

we made it

Alright, so I did tell Leah that the trip was no fun. Looking over the pictures, I can see that's not true; while it was stressful for a variety of reasons, for most of it we were having a pretty good time. Like when we made it to the top of Penobscot—a rather better accomplishment than we managed the last time we were hiking with a little one.

Harvey enjoying some chips atop a mountain

tastes better up here

Rascal had fun swimming in a variety of locations: the public beach in Linconville, illicitly in Jordan Pond and somewhat less so in Lower Hadlock Pond, with the ducks in Camden, and in front of the Margaret Todd in downtown Bar Harbor.

Rascal in the water with the Margaret Todd in the background

he vacations in Bar Harbor

We enjoyed breakfasting at the Cafe and walking the Shore Path, as is our tradition; creatures of habit we are to be sure.

Harvey looking at a menu

perhaps a bagel this morning?

Mama, Harvey, and Zion on a morning stroll in the park

almost posing together

Rascal, Zion, and I had a good time relaxing at the campsite while Mama and Harvey swam in the pool (so much did Harvey like the arrangement that he made sure to ask for it each time: "Harvey and Mama go swimming, Dada stay at the tent!"). Rascal is a good camp-and-baby guard dog.

rascal guarding the sleeping zion

he performed the same service for our firstborn

And of course there was the hiking, which was even more fun with awesome friends along for the adventure. And since coming along was their idea this year, we didn't have to worry constantly about whether they were having fun!

the 2011 camping crew resting atop Penobscot

a good group with good snacks

more

Is it worth it to go on a vacation where nobody has fun?

We got back this week after 6 days, 5 nights of vacation, and Dan has sworn that he'll never take me camping ever again.

Look, I love our yearly Maine vacation. I love hiking, swimming, and playing by the ocean. I love going out to breakfast and hanging out with my family.

harvey playing by the ocean

exploring

I don't love sleeping in a clammy tent, holding my pee all night so I don't have to walk to the bathroom, or trying to find the most comfortable way to nurse a baby in the front seat of a car. There isn't one, by the way... a comfortable way to nurse a baby every hour in a crammed-with-stuff front seat of a car.

And I don't love worrying whether everyone is warm enough, or protected from sunburn, or having a good time.

vacation tantrum

enough is enough

I don't go on vacation to be comfortable, though. I go to make memories, to tick off each changing year, to remind us that we as a family can do big things together, like scale a mountain with a 5-week old, or a 13 month old, or a 2-year old and 2-month old.

dan harvey and rascal hiking

up and up

Sure, I don't have fun camping, but I don't particularly have fun doing a lot of things. Cooking, folding laundry, visiting with my extended family. And yet I'm mostly glad having cooked, or having folded laundry, or having a family visit behind me. There's something good in lots of things that aren't fun all the time. It's good to come back from the tent to a house that's bigger, nicer, more appreciated than ever.

zion on the trail

first time climber

It's good to see my boys grow up, get bigger and more capable and more like their father each year.

my favorite people over 3 months

I'll be sad to see them go without me.

more

out and locally about

I finally got my pictures from last weekend off the stupid camera. It seems I've filled up most of my laptop's memory with rambling baby videos which are impossible to delete, so in order to continue taking and posting pictures I have to hurry out and buy an additional hard drive which is, you know, the kind of errand I'm simply jumping to do 2 weeks postpardom when there's also no food in the house. Anyway, Dan helped me delete some non-Harvey videos last night and now I finally have photos to show.

Last Saturday we went to our local 4H fair and plant sale.

Harvey standing next to a calf

moo?

Harvey met a baby cow ("calf" they're apparently called in adult language) who came up just to his eye level. They could be great friends, these two, as they share a similar interest... eating.

a cow drinking from a big bottle of milk

nom nom nom

I didn't get any pictures of Zion sleeping in the bjorn, but I assure you it looked something like this

Zion asleep in the sling

zzzzzzzzz

Dan headed off to look at the plants whle Harvey and I visited the animals. I didn't snap any more animal pics, however, because 4H had set up a table with supplies for NEEDLE FELTING!!! I've always wanted to try needle felting in a casual way which didn't involve me purchasing my own sharp needles and roving, so of course I dove right in. So much fun! I wish 4H started at 2 years old instead of 5.... why do they deny me, er I mean my son, access? Anyway, Dan had to come back and remind me to give the kids a turn with the craft supplies.

So hurray for the start of the summer fair season, and for plants and animals and this sweet little baby face

Zion making a cute face on the bed

love me?

more

Parade footage!

We move slowly over here at the squibix household, so a week like last week with three holidays and more adventures than you can shake a stick at can take a little while to process, especially in blog form! But anyway, if you can remember all the way back to a week ago it was Patriot's day last Monday, a celebration of the American revolution marked by reenactments, pancake breakfasts, parades, and fried dough. We took advantage of the last two, at least, and here's a video montage of the awesome parade Lexington had to offer. Harvey thoroughly enjoyed it!

Sandwich

Mama and Harvey at the cold spring beach

down to the beach

We took a trip down to the Cape today to pick up a double stroller from Leah's cousins—but that was just an excuse to do some real vacationing for a change! As opposed to our usual aimless wanderings our wonderfully gracious hosts treated us to a tour of the finest attractions Sandwich has to offer (not to mention an incredible spread for lunch—there's a pun in there somewhere, I'm sure).

Of course, we had to go to the beach first. It was pretty cold, but that doesn't ever stop Rascal from enjoying his beach experiences to the fullest! He ran and played with his new friend Luna, and didn't miss an opportunity to take the waters.

Rascal romping in the cold waves

he is braver than the rest of us

Next stop was the Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen—if there was ever a single attraction better suited to entertaining all members of our family I don't know what it would be! Animals, science exhibits, blocks made from tree branches... all that, plus a professional kitchen for us to admire and plenty of jam and jelly to taste.

a toad in its terrerium

the only one that stood still to be photographed

the Green Briar gift shop

nature and jam, in gift shop form

The day's last stop was the Sandwich State Fish Hatchery, where we got to look at trout both big and small and, even better, feed them! The little ones especially raised quite a fuss in their efforts to get at the food raining down upon them.

fish roiling the water to get at the food

I guess they're hungry!

Harvey feeding the fish

look at those fish eat!

I have to give extra credit to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife folks for allowing dogs on the fish farm grounds; Rascal very much appreciated another chance to get out of the car.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and a great way to start our vacation week (even if the car trip back did give Mama a headache that required her to lie down immediately upon our return; don't worry, she's already better). Thanks, Barrettes!

more

outside day

We had a very busy outside day today - everyone's favorite kind. First we went to the fence supply store in Watertown to check on some prices (Yes, mama will have her fence one day!) Then since we were right in town we decided to stop by the farm at Gore Place which our friends the Stevenses are always raving about.

Gore Place did not disappoint. Not only do they have cute baby sheep and goats, but you can actually go walk around amidst a flock of very friendly chickens! Harvey was enthralled.

harvey looking at Gore's chickens

one day, boy, all this will be yours

Actually, that's putting it mildly. He was really in love.

harvey among the chickens

chicken ovah dare? chicken ovah dare?

Meanwhile I took about seven hundred pictures of their coop setup while trying to enthuse myself over the Bedford permitting process. Patience mama, one step at at time. First we gotta see how long that fence takes us...

We had spent only but a moment at the farm when who should we see walking up the hill but the Stevens family themselves! Serendipitous! Great minds think alike on a sunny day it seems (especially when 6 of those minds live about a minute away from the farm.) So Harvey not only got to see his favorite animals, but he got to run and play with his favorite friends, some of whom are significantly faster than him.

harvey, Bruce, and Lily at Gore place

Wait up!

And one of whom is just his speed.

harvey and ollie at Gore Place

giggle giggle giggle

When we got home Harvey was still disinclined to go inside, so we picnicked outside in the yard and then spent the afternoon working in the garden. Well, "we" generally speaking. Mama spent a fair amount of time inside completing some housework I neglected during yesterday's outing, as well as finishing some baby gifts for the upcoming showers. Even while participating in the outdoor festivities I felt like I spent most of my time running back and forth from yard to kitchen, making sure everyone had adequate water and sunscreen and fresh diapers. In other words, acting just like a mother. Still, for a pregnant lady I put in a fair amount of work moving strawberries and pulling up weeds. Enough to filthify my only good pair of maternity jeans. But best of all, I got to experience the sheer joy that is walking around the corner to find both my boys happily digging in the dirt.

harvey and dada digging in their respective boxes

men at work

Indeed, the only tantrums of the day involved coming inside. It's going to be a good summer.

more

zoo!

Harvey and I took a field trip today to the Stone Zoo, courtesy of the Stevens family who have a magical season pass that admits 2 extra guests. Harvey looooves animals, so we've spent the year shuttling from one farm to another. All this makes him fairly nonchalant around domestic and barnyard animals. So it was especially fun to see some stranger and more colorful animals for a change.

flamingo

flamingos in bright shades of...

We also saw bears, monkeys, and wolves which look suspiciously identical to the beasts that rome free in our neighborhood calling themselves "coyotes." I asked Dan about it when he got home and he said, "Well, yeah, some people call them Eastern Wolves." and I was like "Oh shit! Those things are big and scary and could totally eat us."

But, you know, there hasn't been a wolf fatality in Bedford yet, so maybe our local ones are more shy than the ones at the zoo.

Of course, half of the excitement of the outing for Harvey was getting to see his best buddy Ollie. Here they are hugging outside of the Monkey cage.

ollie and harvey hugging

best buds

And here's the resulting take-down from that hug.

1...2...3...

And this is what my friend Bridget would look like if she had 5 kids instead of just 4.

bridget and her 4 kids, plus mine

wait, you've got one of mine in there!

I swear, just being around her makes me feel like a lazy ass. I only have to cart around one kid all day, and sometimes it's exhausting!

After the zoo the plan was to nap in the car ride home, but Harvey and I had already decimated my supply of snacks and both he and my stomach were crying starvation. So we drove a minute into downtown Stoneham to grab a slice at a local pizza shop. The owner and patrons all thought Harvey was the cutest thing in the known universe, and they were very impressed at the way he devowered an entire large slice of pizza. Mama had one too, of course, bringing the total for today's outing to $4. Not bad for a field trip.

The only downside of the day was that the zoo excitement plus delicious pizza added up to NO NAP, which meant an entire day of non-stop standing and walking for mama and her poor pregnant feet. Oh well, these things can't be helped. When it's not a pregnant belly it'll be a baby in the front pack. Such is life, and I should enjoy the former quieter option as long as I can.

more

Woolapalooza, the return

a few sheep relaxing after their shearing

satisfied customers

It's spring now, and that means just one thing around here: it's time for another trip to Woolapalooza! I guess it's kind of a tradition now. We saw the sheep dogs work and the sheep being shorn, but Harvey most enjoyed playing with the eggs in the chicken building and watching the hens go in and out of the mobile henhouse. I guess he's on board with our recently announced plans.

Harvey and lots of other kids sorting eggs at Drumlin Farm

a hive of pretend industry

It was a little more crowded than usual around the wooden eggs, but that didn't stop Harvey from wanting to dive right in—at least, not after we spent five minutes encouraging him not to be shy.

a chicken coming out of the henhouse

"more chicken coming?"

Despite the hordes—oh my goodness, the overflow parking!—most of the attention on the sheep, so it wasn't too crowed for us to stand and watch the chickens for, oh, half an hour or so (Harvey probably wouldn't have gotten bored even if we really had indulged him in standing still that long).

It was admittedly very chilly, which sadly kept any of our friends from accompanying us (we'll get em next year!), and which perhaps tempered the enthusiasm of certain members of the family for certain portions of the adventure. The wind was particularly vexatious to Harvey. Still, a grand time was had by all, and even in full winter gear Harvey believed me when I told him that spring is on the way. The sheep shearing doesn't lie!

a portrait of Harvey in his Woolapalooza finery

fuzzy hat courtesy of Mama and the Drumlin Farm sheep

more

country mice adventure into the big city

We took Harvey to the Boston Children's museum on Saturday. The outing was the brilliant brainchild of my brother's significant other, a lovely molecular biologist who said she needed to borrow my son so she could play in a room full of bubbles. And yes, it was just as awesome as you can imagine a room full of bubbles to be.

bubble exhibit at boston's childrens museum

buboo

Not to mention fun with rolling balls.

ball exhibit at boston's childrens museum

upee unkoo Jake!

For Harvey, however the best part of the whole adventure was riding the train to and from the museum. At first he was convinced it was a bus, and at every stop he asked excitedly, "more peepoo on bus?" To which we would reply, "Yes, more people are getting on the TRAIN." I don't really understand how he got the distinction in his mind... he's never been on either a train OR a bus before, but I found myself saying things like, "Yes smart boy, the subway is a train that looks very much like a bus on the inside." For the rest of the afternoon whenever we were walking above ground Harvey would say, "More on bus? More on bus? More... on TRAIN???" Here he is holding onto the bar like a real pro:

harvey's first train ride

Havey hote.

After bidding a sorrowful farewell to Jake's girlfriend who starts a new fancy job in Israel next week, we boarded the train for home, neurons fried with all the excitement of the big city. On the way out the station Harvey called out "Bye train!" several times. Golly Harvey, at this rate you're gonna turn your mother into somebody who goes places!

more

pilgrims progress

As Dan mentioned, I carelessly left my family for A WHOLE DAY yesterday to attend a Christian women's retreat. If you had told my high-school or college self that I would one day voluntarily spend a whole Saturday at a Christian women's retreat, I would have said to you "CHRISTIAN WOMEN'S RETREAT?! HA HA HA!

cough. snort. HA HA!

Are you still here? CHRISTIAN WOMEN'S RETREAT??? HA HA HA!..."

But no, now I'm a grown up. A grown up woman, and not just a woman - a mother - who cares about topics like "fostering an environment of faith in your home."

Well, actually, not that topic. That workshop turned out to be totally lame.

The biggest leap of faith in this whole expedition was parting with Harvey for a whole 11 hours. The night before I barely slept at all. I was sure the universe would explode the second I pulled out of the driveway. That's an exaggeration of course, only to illustrate the strength of my anxiety. I actually had much more concrete things I was worried about. For instance, that Harvey and Dan would get in a car accident while going to the store to get milk, or get hit by a car while walking the dog, and I would be an hour away when the hospital called me, and then I'd be so frantic driving back that I'D get in a car accident, and then there you go: all of us dead just because I wanted to go to some stupid conference. I put the likelihood of this happening at about 50/50.

In reality no cars were wrecked over the course of the weekend. The only ill effects seem to be that Harvey didn't poop all day Saturday, and still seems to be holding out until he's sure the mama staying put situation is stabilized. I on the other hand have a stomach severely upset in the opposite direction, so jostled around was my poor belly with all the nerves of the trip. I guess I can't blame my child for having an overly emotional digestive tract. Some things just RUN in the family. ha ha, get it? RUN in the family?

That was a poop joke.

The conference was in Plymouth MA, so the highlight of my day was getting taken out to lunch by my friend Bridget in historic Plymouth center. We even made a trip down to Plymouth rock, the landing site of the pilgrims, which is, er, just a medium-sized rock encased in a cement pavilion. I had been anesthetized to this site by countless school field trips from my youth, but Bridget was like, "THAT's Plymouth Rock??? HA HA HA!

cough. snort.

Really? THAT'S Plymouth Rock???"

You have to admit, it is pretty lame.

Anyway, I'm very happy to be home again, as well as happy to have gotten in some continuing education for my soul, if only because it means I won't have to leave on such an adventure for another year or so. 2-hour long breaks are more my speed these days. Otherwise I have to be home for my little boy... if only to wipe his butt.

more

Drumlin Farms

Now that we're members of the Massachusetts Audubon society we can head over to Drumlin Farms whenever we want! Which is what we did this Saturday. They were having a pumpkin picking festival, so Harvey got to play on a hay-bale obstacle course with help from Dan.

dan helps harvey on the obstacle course

allez up!

2nd shot on the obstacle course

we made it!

We also took a tractor ride around the fields, which would have been lovely except for an absolutely insufferable yuppy prick who spent the ENTIRE time describing VERY LOUDLY to his friends the trappings of his luxurious lifestyle: his recent trip to Paris, how he skips the coach line in airports, and many many minutes devoted to his high-tech shower chamber that shoots water either from the walls or straight down from the ceiling "like it's raining!" You can even customize the water temperature digitally. He likes it at 102 degrees but his wife likes it at 105. Three degrees makes a BIG difference, they both agreed.

In the spirit of non-judgement, I'll just say that at least my boys are very very cute.

harvey and dadda on a tractor ride

the boys

The cold analog showers must be working for somebody.

Because of all the a-holes crowding the place up for their weekly slumming Harvey didn't get a chance to play on the old-fashioned tractor. But I'll include a picture from our previous trip, since I didn't blog that one. Did I mention we're members of the Audubon society now? All trips are free!

harvey on a tractor at drumlin farms

"mama! dacdoo!"

more

no doctors for at least 30 days now

Harvey in the hay at Parlee Farms

big boy on a big bale

We went apple picking with friends this afternoon, on their excellent suggestion. Apples pick quick, so there was plenty of time to play in the hay, watch goats banging their heads together, and eat apple crisp with ice cream on top.

Harvey in the hay wagon with apples

bringing home the bounty

We hit up Parlee Farms for apples for the first time, and having only ever been there in berry season before I was astounded at the crowds. Their trees are all super-dwarf, so if any of us were above average height we could have picked even those apples up at the tops without any mechanical aids. We got cortlands and honeycrisps, passing up the other two options—macintosh and gala—this time. Harvey made sure that our half-peck made it back safely in the hay wagon, but all the excitement tired him right out. He fell asleep in the car, and didn't even manage to finish his third apple.

Harvey sleeping in the car holding an apple

just like snow white

more

Camping 2010: day 5

Harvey eating breakfast at the campsite

getting used to this camping business

Despite the fact that we were up at dawn with Harvey, we decided that we just couldn't leave town without going on one more hike; but it had to be a short one, since we also had to pack up and get breakfast before hitting the road. It was a good thing we were up so early, actually, because we didn't make it to the Cafe until after 9:00—easily the latest we've ever been there. It didn't help that we forgot the clothesline and had to go back to camp; but that's alright, since it gave us a chance to say "bye-bye site!", "bye-bye pool!", "bye-bye campground!", etc. Harvey was saying "buh-buh" for the next few miles down the road.

a view into the front of the tent

our home away from home

Unlike last year, I remembered to take photos of our totally sweet setup before taking it down (just before). You can see our front porch, and beyond that the queen-sized bed to the left and the changing station for Harvey—which Rascal appropriated to sleep on, when he wasn't on the bed with us—to the right. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping things neat and organized this year; Leah might agree if she's in a good mood.

After breakfast we headed out for a short hike—very short, as it happened. I think it took us longer to park and get our gear together than it did to get up North Bubble, our fourth and smallest peak of the trip. Despite it's curtness it was a beautiful hike, and we regretted not having the camera when we got to the top and saw the view down the length of Jordan Pond. It was fun to compare how much we could do this year after only making it up the even smaller South Bubble last year; as we ascended the beginning of the trail, which is shared between both Bubbles, Leah asked incredulously: "You made me do this at five weeks post-partum?!" Yes I did!

Back down again it was time to get going. Harvey fell asleep almost immediately, and we used some portion of his naptime to procure a film for him at the new Walmart in Ellsworth: Homeward Bound, which, if you understand as little language as Harvey, is mostly just dogs walking around. Just the thing! He liked it when he woke up.

We made our next stop in Searsport to eat a late lunch in a tiny park across the street from the Maritime museum and explore a wonderful little bookstore called Left Bank Books that I can't recommend more highly. They allow dogs in the store, they had a chair and toys for Harvey, and they have all the good books and none of the bad ones. We were sorry that, at the end of the vacation, we were not in a financial position that would allow us to buy something; we'll definitely be back, and if you're anywhere in the area you ought to stop by.

Harvey and Rascal playing in a river

out of the car and into the river

We skipped Linconville, having hit it on the way up, and crowded Camden, and on Leah's suggestion took our next break in Warren where there's a little park just off the road with a playground and a river: two of Harvey's favorite things! It has a name that I can't recall, but if you're interested you can find it on Google maps. The babies enjoyed playing in the water, as usual.

By then it was almost dinnertime, so when we reached Wiscasset and noticed that for once there was no line outside the little lobster shack on the corner of Rt 1 and the train tracks—and parking right there, too. We had to stop and see what the usual fuss was about. It turns out that Red's Eats is famous for their lobster rolls, so of course Leah had to order one—even if we did have to stop by the ATM to fund our cash-only dinner (you see that we value food more than books... a sad commentary). Harvey can't eat lobster, but he liked the rest of the dinner.

Harvey with dinner from Red's Eats

"as good as the last fries?"

As the sun set we rolled into Freeport, where we were disappointed by the lack of a Gap outlet and where I was kind of horrified by the mall atmosphere after a couple days out in the sticks. Then on to Portland and more construction traffic—but this time Harvey fell asleep in the middle of it so our stress level never had a chance to even begin to tick upwards. The rest of the ride was uneventful, and we made it home just after 10:00. I call that a successful vacation.

more

camping 2010: days 1 and 2

Harvey atop Parkman Mtn

intrepid climber

So we camped, and it was even kind of fun at times! Harvey was certainly better able to enjoy things this year than he was the last time he was in Maine, and of course his proud parents thrilled to see him playing on various mountaintops. But before that could happen, we had to get to Bar Harbor.

the boys in the car right before we leave for MDI

pretty cushy seats

Despite how awesome was the setup I created for Harvey and Rascal, the drive up didn't go incredibly smoothly. Well, Rascal didn't have any problems, actually. How amusing it is to think how much we worried about stopping enough for him before we had the child! Harvey doesn't mind the car in small doses, but he wasn't happy to be unable to leave it for such an extended period. We weren't desperately pleased either, come to think of it, especially when we got stuck in traffic between Portland and Freeport and a stretch that should have taken 15 minutes took an hour more than that. Harvey wasn't the only one shouting then, but luckily an emergency stop in Yarmouth for a stretch (for dada and Rascal) and iced chai (for mama and Harvey) put everyone in a happier mood. For a little while, anyways: Harvey still needed a number of stops in various picturesque locations.

Harvey and mama on the beach in Lincolnville

being out of the car is fun!

Eventually we made it, and Harvey very kindly allowed us to set up the tent and everything without interruption, because he was asleep. Somewhat later our friends arrived, already unhappy with us and this vacation we'd dragged them out on because they too suffered through terrible traffic (I refrained for asking for a show of hands from those who traveled with a screaming baby). We mollified them with dinner and planned the next day's adventures.

When we woke up to steady rain, though, everyone was unmollified again. Being a holiday guide is stressful work! Refusing to mope in the tents, we pressed ahead with the plan and headed downtown to breakfast (at the Cafe, natch). By the time we finished up a delicious and leisurely meal (did you know they have toy animals for the kiddies?) the rain had stopped, and we ventured a walk along the shore path. The heavens showing no further signs of opening, we piled into our three cars and headed out for the day's hike.

the archibalds on the summit of Parkman

cool, calm, and ready for another one

Hoping to present our friends, first time visitors to Acadia all, with a varied and not-overwhelming introduction to the park, I took them up Parkman Mtn and Bald Peak. Besides the oppressive humidity it was a wonderful hike, and no one sustained injuries of any great severity (my wrist already feels better, and Leah probably won't have a scar unless she keeps picking at that scab). To top it all off, the top of Parkman was enlivened not only by a delicious lunch of sandwiches prepared in the parking lot below but by a number of sizable puddles—ponds, almost—left by the recent rains. Harvey enjoyed them tremendously, and luckily we had dry clothes for him after.

Harvey playing in a puddle atop Parkman Mtn

guess what happened next?

Bald Peak was nice too, but you know, the second summit of the day just can't be as much fun.

Back home, we kicked back to enjoy some beers and a delicious meal of pizza cooked over the campfire. Plus, there were cupcakes to celebrate Katie's birthday! Now that's what camping is all about. Right Harvey?

Harvey grabbing for a can of beer

the pleasures of camp

more

making going to church an adventure

We were feeling jealous of the riders out there on the Tour de France course, so we did a little long-distance ride of our own this morning. Not only did we get to church in a completely carbon-neutral fashion, we also got to go swimming, go out for lunch, and get ice cream on our way back home. Plus, we put in a good 23 miles of cycling. Now that's how to enjoy a summer Sunday!

All the fun even wore Harvey out, and he spent most of it sitting down in cushioned comfort, so I'm not entirely sure how that works...

more

on the pond

Danny and Harvey at Spy Pond

with a giant pond grass

Katie and Tim invited us to Spy Pond this afternoon for the inaguaral voyage of their new kayaks. It was just the thing. The Archibalds sat on the beach while the newlyweds boated.

Katie and Tim in the new boats

still got that new-boat smell!

I lured some ducks in towards the beach with Katie's wheat thins. Harvey was thrilled at the close-up.

a duck

a little close for comfort...

After a bit, they even let Leah and me try out the boats! We took turns, so there would always be one parent onshore with Harvey. It was great fun, except apparently these are the kind of boats that you have to work hard to make them go.

Danny in a kayak on Spy Pond

lookin like I know what I'm doing!

They even took pictures of me, so there's finally photographic evidence that I exist and and am like a totally awesome boatman.

more

I should have remembered the part about lifting a rod to part the waters...

Most work days I kick off my morning by walking Rascal and Harvey in the neighborhood woods. Since my recent job change this is the only exercise I get, so I look forward to it immensely. I put my motherhood duties first, however, so I decline the morning outing if there's a possibility of Harvey getting wet or sick. For the past two days it's been raining heavily, so Dan walked the dog himself. In Dan's absence we played how many dangerous things can you put in your mouth while momma gets ready for work.

Harvey, that is. I only very infrequently put dangerous things in my mouth.

Anyway, I was thrilled this morning that the rain let up and I could again participate in my daily ritual. I knew it had been raining a lot, so much that our basement flooded again, but last time this happened my calf-high boots could handle the puddles in the woods so I donned them again without worry.

Someone should explain to me the phenomenon of "water table." You can forward elementary-school diagrams to leah at this domain dot net.

So we got into the woods and I let Rascal off the leash. In a few minutes we approached our first puddle - one that had been there in the last rainstorm. My boots had handled it last time so I didn't think twice about wading in. Seconds later I felt the rush of freezing cold water into my boots. The water was up to my knees.

Freezing pain was followed by growing dread and increasing numbness. I imagine this is a tiny slice of what death must feel like. (Then again probably not, but that does sound lovely dramatic, doesn't it?)

According to Jill Homer, when freezing cold water rushes into your boot in the wilderness it's bad news. Here you can buy here book on traversing the alaskan tundra by bike. This being Bedford, I wasn't quite in iditarod territory. I was after all only ten minutes from home. But still, fear of consequences wasn't ill placed. My feet were starting to go numb. How long until frostbite sets in? And then gangrene? Will I ever complete a marathon again?

Or is gangrene for hot places and frostbite in cold places until the darn thing falls off? Why don't I know this?

At the moment Rascal was out of view. I screamed and screamed for him, the panic mounting in my voice. "Rascal? Rascal!!! Mommy's hurt and needs to go HOME!"

I frequently think the people with houses that border the woods shutter up the back windows when they hear me coming. That nut job again?

I prayed to God furiously that Rascal would come back. That the spirit of warmth would protect my toes. That I'd get out of the woods quickly relatively unscathed.

Miraculously, Rascal appeared moments later and I tromped the whole procession back across the lake and on home. So happy was I to get off those boots and socks and soggy jeans. This is about when I decided, "I'm friggin staying home from work today."

After an hour of dryness everything's fine and I have regained feeling in my toes.

The bible says we make stupid choices and them blame God for them (somewhere in proverbs - too tired to look it up.) That seems fair. I don't always blame God for my dumbass mistakes, but I do frequently ask him to bail me out, so to speak. Get me out of cold water. Get me out of hot water. I didn't wear the right boots. I've got too many loans. I'm in a career that's boring. Can you magically snap your fingers and make it okay?

Not sure what the answer is theologically speaking, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for a yes.

more

farm tourism: the photo post

three sheep

keeping a wary eye on the dog

We spent the afternoon yesterday enjoying Woolapalooza at Drumlin farm, reveling in the general farminess and wondering what we need to do to get our own sheep. We saw sheep-herding and -sheering, admired the baby lambs, and followed the "from sheep to sweater" interpretive trail. As a witness to all the awesome knitting that gets done around here, I was very excited to be able to learn about the earlier steps in the wool garment-production process.

wool fresh off the sheep

yes sir, yes sir, three bags full (roughly)

Of course, it wasn't all sheep. We also saw cattle, chickens, pigs, farmers, and lots and lots of fellow farm-tourists. Plus some relatives from near and far (not pictured).

actually not a cow but a steer

how now, brown cow?

pigs exiting their stall

pig butt

Leah kept the camera rolling. Let no good times go unrecorded!

Leah on the video camera

ensuring a steady flow of awesome videos!

more

woof moo

Harvey turned nine months yesterday. Hooray for olderness, especially since he's starting to give us the first inklings that he's understanding us, at least language wise. He'll repeat a simple sound maybe 40% of the time, which is enough to feel like more than zero, and he's particularly skilled with "DaDa" although I don't quite think he's linked it to the adult personage it represents. Nevertheless, I've been trying. In the two minutes right after he nurses when he's more pleased with me than any other time in the day, I've been trying to inculcate "mama. mama. maaamaaa." There have been some glimmering signs of getting it. The other day he looked at me quisically and then said "BraBra." Bra is about as close as he can come to Ma these days, so I squealed "Good boy! Good boy!" Then I smothered him with kisses. Pleased with himself, he looked up at me with a gleeful grin. Then he squinted his eyes mischievously and very quietly whispered, "DaDa."

That little brain of his. Something is going on therein.

But I'm not too worried about hurrying things along. We have a lifetime of chatting to look forward to, after all. Indeed, we were heartened by linguistic cuteness yesterday, during an outing with a cool family containing one very precious 2 year old. In the parking lot of Bedford Farms we parked next to a car with a very large St. Bernard. She examined the animal for a few moments, and then definitively pronounced: "Woof Moo."

Woof Moo. This girl should write dictionaries.

*Image courtesy of Ashley. "Courtesy" meaning I stole it from her facebook page. Thanks Ash!

more

back to the beach

Leah and Harvey on Good Harbor beach

room to roam in the winter

My apologies for yet another photo post here. But hey, I'm on vacation! At least I'm not making folks sit through a slide show.

Today I convinced Leah to take the day off of work—it wasn't hard, given what's going on with her job these days—and take a family outing to the beach. With us, it's always the same one, so at least we know how to get there. The weather was a little colder this time, though.

Harvey snuggles with mama to keep warm on the beach

nice and warm in here...

Even in his snowsuit and mama-knitted hat, Harvey wasn't entirely comfortable with the conditions. It was a the wind that bothered him—him and everyone else on the beach, actually, at a good 15 mph clip. In defense he pulled his head in turtle-fashion, which meant that he couldn't see much of the proceedings; and absent exciting stimuli he went right to sleep. Oh well, it was nap time anyways.

Rascal running out of the ocean

he is not afraid of the Atlantic in February

Rascal, on the other hand, didn't mind the cold a bit. He got so overheated bothering about thirty other dogs that he had to take a dip or two to cool off. No humans dared anything like that, of course; in fact, he was one of only three dogs to brave the waters in the time we were there. The wind did whip his ears round a bit more than he may have liked, but he bore it well. I made him pose for a portrait before we left:

Rascal on the snowy beach

"going in the water was totally worth it!"

more

down to the river to slide

my bike on the ice

on the frozen Concord River

I didn't want to fail to take advantage of the sunny weather, so I took a little ride out to the river this afternoon. As a bonus I wanted to get some pictures of cold, and what better place to do that then at the biggest body of water we've got around here? (I find the cold in the air doesn't photograph as well.) Unfortunately, there was some open water in the middle of the river, and the bright sun made the ice much too slippery to try and ride on. I had hopes of being able to explore down the river a little bit, something I never get to do in the summer in these boatless days, but I decided that discretion was the better part etc.

ice around a tree trunk

this can't be good for the trees

On our side of the river there's several acres of flooded woods that are now (naturally) completely frozen in. I suppose the trees can handle the ice about as well as they can the water; better, probably. There were many interesting sights and I took many pictures, but I won't bore you with any of the rest of them. It was so much fun down there that I'm surprised I didn't see anyone else—except, of course, a couple who came down in their car after spotting me from the bridge as they drove by. They wanted to check if anyone is drowning, they said. Nope, sorry to disappoint, and thanks for your concern! Just a fun Sunday outing. Next weekend I'll bring the family!

more

winter dreams of summer

the Acadia Park map on the coffee table

planning and dreaming

For some reason we started thinking about this summer's camping trip much much earlier than usual. Maybe it's the extra-cold weather, maybe it's the postcard the campground sent us, but it's definitely on our minds. Mine especially.

I've been going through the old photos lately, and I got out the map of Acadia to try and puzzle out where we were in the various hiking shots. Our documentation is not the best, despite big plans and promises every year. Wouldn't it be nice to record when we've taken a particular trail, and what it's like, so that we can repeat the ones we like and avoid the ones we don't? It sounds so easy, doesn't it.

Some images from years past:

Leah and Harvey hiking down in the mist

down the stairs from South Bubble

Leah Dan and Rascal on top of Pemetic in 2008

a family photo from when our family was 3

heading down in the woods

really diggin my brand-new pack

more

good babies

We took a family outing this afternoon. First Rascal waited in the car while we made a quick visit to the Harrington School Walk for the Arts, for the purpose of showing off Harvey to those of my coworkers who were volunteering. He was duly shown off, and a good job he did of it too: all smiles, and extra cute in his fleece suit. Then Harvey dozed in the Bjorn while Rascal got to run all over the hills and dales of Whipple Hill in Lexington (with plenty of swimming in the pond in addition). Not long ago we would have been nervous with him off the leash, but no more: he zipped all over the place, often out of site but never slow to change direction and dash past us when we told him we were going a different way. That meant we could just stroll along, going one mile to his eight or ten. Yup, we sure are fortunate in our dependents.

summer extension

We went to the beach for Yom Kippur. Non-traditional, I know.

It was delightfully tiring. Too bad we don't have another weekend now to recuperate.

more

Bedford Day!

Yesterday was perhaps our most social day EVER. We started off with a walk to the local parade for BEDFORD DAY, a showcase of our town's most popular past times: soccer, girl scouts, 4H, band, and riding on top of very very noisy fire trucks.

Harvey (unlike Rascal) was unfazed by the chaos. He just did what he always does... he ate.


After the parade we rushed home to host a brunch with some family friends, a family who Dan started nannied for when their third was still in diapers (that one's now 13!) Dan cooked up a delicious storm, and the guests were kind enough to bring beer to brunch... our kind of guests!

In the evening we went over the in-laws for a dinner with Dan's aunt and uncle, and then stopped by my parents house on the way home to see my cousins who are also visiting. Phewf! So much fawning was done over the baby that he took today to nap all afternoon. Harvey, it's well deserved!

Dan took some great shots at the parade, and here's my favorite one. Of all the great people we get to see this weekend, my boys are still my favorite.


more

Vacation photos

I have been rather lax about posting baby pictures on the blog, for no reason other than it requires resizing which sounds like work. Now that I'm back to work, however, resizing baby photos is a lot more fun than resizing photos of ugly webinar speakers, so without further ado, here are some photos of our recent vacation to Bar Harbor.


The Archibald family on top of a (rather small) mountain!


Photo evidence that I made it up the mountain carrying the baby in his orange bjorn.


Rascal guarding Harvey at the campsite.


The baby enjoying his trip to the Maine coast.

more

done camped

Back from camping. We had a great time, only it turns out that taking care of a baby and a dog prevents me from doing much in the way of photography. The greatest oversight was not getting a shot of the tent—shots, inside and out—because it was absolutely the cushiest set-up you could ever imagine. It's a new tent, one we just picked up a couple days before the trip, and it features, if you can imagine, a screened-in porch. Also enough room for a (similarly brand-new) queen-size air mattress, Harvey's basket-nette, and Rascal's bed. Our clothes and stuff, too.

Which it was a good thing we had a comfy base-camp setup, because we didn't do nearly as much hiking than we usually do. Harvey is none too light to lug around, and Leah isn't up to her full athletic peak after giving birth six weeks ago; also it was pretty rainy. It rained most of Friday afternoon, but that was alright. We relaxed in the tent and listened to the pitter-patter overhead (and the squish of mud underfoot, thankfully contained by the ground-sheet). Our friends Cara and Alan came up to join us, and they camp with an impressive array of tarps and things, which were also welcome in keeping off the wet (though less helpful with the armies of mosquitoes).

We managed one peak, little South Bubble, and we would have gone up Dorr (perhaps dying in the process) had not my mother phoned us from Massachusetts and warned us of the coming storm; good thing, since that day, starting under the blazing sun, we had no rain gear, nor had we closed up the tent or the car windows. We ate at the Cafe three times, we got some good burritos and tremendous ice cream, Harvey slept great, and Leah didn't have to do dishes once. Altogether a complete success. Except for the pictures. Leah has some good ones, though, as you will see.

Harvey enjoyed the tent:

We got to change him in all kinds of exciting places! (here, Camden):

more

vacation video

We're high-tech now.

Scituations

More pictures from Scituate the other day.

Rascal played in the ocean:

Mama and Harvey watched:

It was perfect weather for a day at the seaside!

more

well Scituated

We finally managed a vacation, even if it was only for a single day (about all we can handle given our current state of fatigue). Not a beach house, perhaps, but a marsh house, where—given the damp and fog, and lack of sun or blue sky or any other markers of the beach vacation that might have made us feel we had to enjoy ourselves with particular energy or vigor—we played a board game on the porch, let other people hold baby Harvey, and let Rascal run miles and miles over the cobble-y beach. Also we watched the tide, and the swallows.

Leah has many more pictures on her camera, and I'll put em up when I get them.

more

not what the doctor ordered

I came home from work yesterday feeling very poorly: a full week of teaching and getting coughed on tired me out, I suppose, and left me with a fevery headachey icky flu. Luckily Leah was there to take care of me, which she did wonderfully, so today I felt healthy enough to go exploring with the puppy in search of some good pictures of water. Not much luck in that regard, but it was still a joy to be out in the sun; at least, that is, until I mistook my footing and plunged well-past ankle-deep in icy water. The hiking boots did noble duty in keeping the entirety of the lake from soaking into my sock, but I still thought it would be the better part of valor to head home quick after that.

I also got myself pretty much soaking wet doing the dishes this evening, but that isn't quite as interesting.

more

valentines

Well, the weather was a little colder than the last time we went to the beach for Valentine's Day, but it was still nice. We all three had a good time, especially Rascal, who enjoyed the freedom of the vast expanse of sand and frolicked happily with the other dogs until he could barely stand up any more. Now he's lying in the bed growling at us if we make the slightest move to disturb him.

I haven't been writing lately because I tend to do so in the evening, and the evening is alot shorter when you go to bed at 8:30 or even 8:00, as we've been doing. Yesterday we locked up downstairs and turned out the lights at 6:30; today it was 6:00. Yup, life is good here at the squibix homestead.

more

an open letter to skiers

I would like to offer our apologies to the cross-country skiers of eastern Massachusetts: today we made a special effort and managed to walk on top of ski tracks in three separate locations. I do feel badly about this, of course, but even with all our footprints the snow still looks dry and wonderfully slippery to a well-waxed ski, so I think folks should be alright. It's not, in any case, like the tracks had much holding power in the powdery snow, but there's still the principle of the thing. We did our best to avoid the better-looking tracks, but in some places the paths were very narrow and damage was unavoidable.

We very much enjoyed the walking, anyways.

drugged by the salt air

We went north to the seaside for an outing today. It was perfect seaside weather: gray and misty and cool. The only thing that would have made it better was if we had worn trousers instead of optimistic shorts. We had thought we might want to paddle a little in the ocean, if we could get to it. No. Rascal did, though, since he doesn't feel cold, and he had a great time. Unfortunately, we're still trying to force him to take it easy on his sore leg, so we didn't walk as much as we otherwise would have; and we discovered that, except for walking, there's not a great deal to do on an outing with the dog. So in the end it was not a long one, but it was nevertheless just the thing we needed to differentiate our weekend from the rest of the workaday week.

Anyways, the point of this whole story is that when we came home—in the middle of the afternoon, no less, not at some unreasonable late hour—we all three fell immediately and completely to sleep. Something in the air up there, I guess. Sleeping gas?

more

welcome summer

We celebrated the opening of the summer season by going to the pond for a picnic and a swim. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea, because when we got there it was full and closed for two hours. The delay turned out well enough, though, since we accidentally found ourselves in the midst of Concord's Memorial Day observances and ate lunch while listening to the bagpipers and the Singing Doughboys. Good times. And at the pond the water was so cold we could do nothing but (variously) dive in and then immediately go dry off, or stand around thigh-deep for some time. Both were refreshingly bracing.

We needed the bracing, because summer came right on schedule this year. 80 degree temps, the year's first fireflies last night... just what the program calls for. And what's the best part of the young summer? Going to bed before it's properly dark outside! That, after our delightful day outdoors, is what we shall do.

a narrative of epic exploration

We are undertaking a project of exploration in the great wilderness to the south. There are woods, the bounds of which we have encompassed in the course of our walks with the dog; but beyond those woods lie a great expanse of swamp and open water that we have yet to plumb fully. It is, however, only a matter of time!

Yesterday was our third expedition—well, the third for me and Rascal, but the first time that Leah was able to come along (the first two I was accompanied only by small children and, of course, my faithful dog). I had some idea of what to expect and was starting from the point where we stopped last time, so naturally we were more successful than ever before! There were trials, of course, like when Leah stepped into water slightly deeper than her boot was high, and then her foot got stuck, and then I hit her on the head with a stick (a big one too!) which I was trying to toss her to help her out of the slough—but I think she's forgiven me.

It was all worth it, though, when we reached the other side of Hartwell Creek (renowned in song and story) and saw the way that we might someday circumnavigate the great inland sea that so captivated us on our first expedition. Leah would have been even more impressed with our achievement if she hadn't been on a business call on her cell phone and trying not to pant. Good thing she wasn't too wet at that point.

We didn't try for the circumnavigation, thinking it the better part of valor and time management to head home after two full hours of exploration in the middle of a work day (some of which, of course, was working exploration thanks to the miracles of modern telecommunications). Although we might have done better going around the pond because our alternate way home led through some of the most difficult and annoying terrain imaginable. That's when Leah fell in and got clonked. As I said, though, she isn't too mad. She even says she might go back sometime.

Rascal liked it. Here is is standing on a beaver dam.

more

adventures in the out-of-doors

We considered making another attempt at the mall this afternoon, but Leah decided she rather go for a walk in nature. It was a good choice. We took the dog, and he pulled us through swamps and over hills for about five miles; maps were not available, so perhaps two of those miles were on a loop we might not have followed had we known what we were getting into. Still, it was very pretty along that particular rocky path, and it was less muddy than the more low-lying sections of the particular state park which we were visiting. The water table is quite high this season, we find. Rascal enjoys all manner of water, and he was in and out of ponds, puddles and creeks the whole way. Luckily as a short-haired hound he features a quick-dry, self-cleaning coat; though perhaps he wasn't entirely self-cleaned by the time he got back in the car. Oh well, nobody uses that back seat except dogs and kids, and they're both already pretty dirty anyways.

All the fresh air tired the three of us out nicely, and if we didn't feel bad about going to bed before the sun set we'd all be asleep already (instead of just the dog). Still, in bed reading at 7:30 aint bad. It's the old-fashioned, fresh-air natural life for us; and we don't even have to get up to milk the cows!

more