posts tagged with 'friends'

April makes Patriots of us all

Hot on the heels of Easter, Monday was Patriots Day. We hardly had time to recover—didn't have time, in fact, but we couldn't stop and rest: there was a parade to go to! Unlike last year we didn't make a big thing of inviting lots of folks to join us in biking and picnicking and watching, but we did mention it in passing; and such was the success of last years event that we had plenty of company again this year. Including Lijah, enjoying his first Patriots Day parade since his first one!

Lijah waving a flag along the parade route

Patriot boy

Our ride up was almost a perfect success, with the children 7 and up leading out at a blistering pace and two new riders—kindergarten and pre-K—making their longest effort to date. Unfortunately one of them (it was Julen) wrecked mere yards from our destination and busted his lip, but his enthusiasm was only dimmed for half an hour or so. It did kind of spoil his appreciation of our picnic lunch though! There was lots of food to delight the rest of us, and he did manage a popsicle.

Harvey, Zion, Lucy, and Clara picnicing on the green

plentiful pre-parade picnic

After some energetic freeze tag—why do I always have to be it?!—we headed over to our traditional viewing spot. I don't think we were ever all there at the same time, but if you total us all up there were 23 people associated with our party, spanning three generations (six of the kids had grandparents present!). Never mind the giant picnic, we needed slush to ease our wait (Nathan needed fried dough).

our big crowd sitting on (and behind) the curb

we all love a parade

Then we watched the parade. It's a big one. I've long realized that all my parade photos over the years look pretty much the same, so I eased up considerably on the photography. Still, there are some sights I just had to capture.

Lexington minutemen marching

marching

Last year's parade friends were more peripherally interested in the proceedings—this year I was sitting next to friends who enjoy parades as much as I do (and who were attending in Lexington for the first time) so we watched and commented with keen attention. It was lovely. And long... we were all sated with excitement and ready to head home when the last tank finally rolled past.

The ride home went just as well as the ride up. Julen, recovered in body but not in spirit, chose to join Zion and Lijah in the blue bike; it made a heavy load, but I could manage it downhill. More serious was the heavy crowd of walkers on the bike path through Lexington Center, but our kids only hit one elderly pedestrian hard enough for anyone to notice. Then the crowds thinned out and we were rolling free.

the gang, including me on the blue bike. heading home on the bike path

satisfied parade-goers

Leah, who had stayed home working, was ready to greet us on our arrival with veggie straws and ice water. Just the thing—the kids were hungry despite eating constantly for the past four hours, and we were all hot and tired. The weather wasn't actually that warm, but shepherding—not to mention carrying—all those kids is hot and thirsty work!

Then some of the crowd headed home, one additional child joined us for a sleep over with Harvey, and we all had dinner together.

lots of kids and a few adults eating at our picnic tables

outside again? why not

It was a tiring day, on top of another tiring day, capping off a tiring week. No wonder Lijah fell asleep before he could finish his dinner.

Lijah asleep in my lap

all worn out and done up

I was pretty wiped out too—yesterday I couldn't hold my head up to type by evening, so this story went unwritten. But I couldn't leave it too long. I'm sure there's lots more adventure coming this vacation week, and I don't want to get backlogged!

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our Easter day

suited and barefoot Zion on the steps with a basket full of eggs

the egg hunter

Yesterday was Easter, and it was full and celebratory. The weather was beautiful all day, and we enjoyed sharing the day with lots of friends. But first—before breakfast or even Easter baskets—with the photoshoot:

the boys in their Easter finery

celebratory clothing

Unfortunately, the rising sun was in the subjects' eyes, but you get the idea. At least they weren't dirty. This is the first year since Harvey was born that Leah didn't make new clothes for the boys the holiday—she's a little busy—which meant that they had to make due with hand-me-downs, or, in Harvey's case, awesome African duds from Auntie Nelly. They still looked sharp.

At church we all got right to work either setting up an awesome, welcoming service, or freaking out at all the rush and business—as appropriate for the age or general coping skills of each of us. When it was apparent that there was going to be enough food, and enough eggs hidden, and enough greeters, I could relax. Leah couldn't quite as much, since Lijah's freak-out was only magnified by the above-normal crowds. So he had some quiet time. Then there was the egg hunt. Sadly, due to its early start I missed seeing Harvey and Zion hunt, but I did make it in time to see Lijah at work (he was drawn out of seclusion by the prospect of candy).

Lijah holding up an egg on the church playground

green egg and bunny

And, of course, I caught up with Zion afterwards to get a load of his haul, as pictured above (he made a mockery of the eight-egg limit, but he was their early to help hide them so maybe it's ok..).

There was another service after that but everyone was exhausted, so Leah and the boys headed home to set up for our egg hunt and party. I was on the clock so I had to stay. And I enjoyed the second service; then enjoyed the hot bike ride home, an hour when I didn't have to talk to a single person. The boys had a more conventional rest, so they were raring to go when 4:00 rolled around and our egg hunt opened for business.

Harvey saluting with his basket on his head

pre-hunt high spirits

It went well; I think there's not more than a dozen unfound eggs littering our yard today.

Kamilah reaching for an egg

like you do

We didn't have many kids join us this year—just six hunters counting our three, and three babies—but there were lots of us old folks, plus one special guest.

Harvey making friends with a puppy

making friends

The second-graders there were glad to share their obsessive sorting and categorization of prizes; I think they made some trades too.

Harvey, Zion, and Havana sorting eggs on the stage

checking the loot

Zion is in that picture too, but he also played; the other two sorted for like, an hour. Maybe more. They love sorting. In their defense, there were lots of cool things in the eggs this year: dinosaurs, Peanuts dog tags, Squinkies (if you don't know, don't ask). Not so much candy, but that was fine—we had plenty of treats available.

lots of desserts on the table outside

just desserts (and drinks)

The party ran on cheerfully until darkness, light rain, and too-far-past-bedtime drove our guests away, and we went to bed dreaming of the next adventures. Today was just as full and exciting; maybe I'll manage to write about it tomorrow.

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not-so-high tea

I made scones yesterday morning with the idea of passing them out at the bus stop and showing the other parents that I cared about them and was glad to have them as neighbors. I don't know how they feel about me as a neighbor, but none of them wanted any scones. Never mind, the boys sure wanted some—though since they'd just been treated to a big breakfast of fried eggs, toast, bacon, and oranges, I told them to hold off. Because it was scones, I told them we could have them for tea later. So we did.

Zion and Nathan sitting at the table for tea, looking serious

tea is serious business

We had friends over by then so they got to join in too. It was lovely, and the boys were totally ready to enter into the spirit of "tea" as a meal: "Take tiny nibbles," Harvey said, recalling instructions from some book or other. Then he kind of spoiled the effect by knocking over his teacup reaching for the tin of scones after the little boys didn't pass them quick enough. Luckily the cup only chipped rather than shattering—I was letting them use our finest Crate-and-Barrel wedding china—but the puddle of milky tea was mess enough. The little boys—Lijah and his friend Liam—didn't spill a drop, and so would have been within their rights to complain that I only trusted them with plastic cups, but they're more polite than that. They weren't huge fans of the tea, either, come to that, and much preferred the sliced mango to the scones.

Which I don't understand, because they were some tasty scones. I brought the rest of them to work this morning, where they were again properly appreciated. This batch was with orange zest and chocolate chips; the original recipe is from Joy of Cooking and is for raisin scones with cinnamon, like this:

raisin scones cooling on a rack

cinnamon raisin version

In a large bowl, whisk together:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cut in:

6 Tbsp butter

Stir in:

1/2 cup raisins (or orange zest and 3/4 cup chocolate chips, or lemon zest and 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger, or...)

Add and mix until combined (you'll have to knead it against the side of the bowl with your hands to get all the flour up):

1/2 cup cream
1 egg, beaten

Shape the dough into a disk maybe 3/4 inch thick, cut it into 12 wedges, and put them on a baking sheet. Brush them with cream or milk and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar (for the raisin ones; or plain sprinkling sugar for the others).

Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes or until they're golden brown.

And if you want to replicate our experience, serve with decaf Earl Gray tea with cream and sugar, milk, and mango slices.

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happy spring

Harvey walking in the snow in shorts and sandals

the spring look

There was some debate in the neighborhood as to when spring officially begins, but it's got to be around here somewhere. Yesterday was a lovely early springish day: bitter cold at sunrise and barefoot-worthy by mid afternoon. So we spent some time outside.

Lijah on his new birthday scooter

lookin like he knows what he's doing

We did some running and some scootering—Lijah working on his new birthday scooter for the first time!—and some wagon hay-rides, all together with a great crowd of friends. And then when the kids all got tired of running they brought ten thousand legos out onto the front porch to play with them in the sunshine. I should have taken a picture, but I was too busy talking about great picture books and home improvements with other homeschooling parents who Know What It's Like.

You know, it's funny. Lijah didn't get nearly as much exercise as the bigger guys—he can't keep up the scootering for long, and he was in the stroller for our walk rather than running back and forth like a spring-mad puppy—but he was the only one to actually fall asleep outside. I guess growing up so fast is hard work!

Lijah sleeping leaning forward in the stroller

zzz

Happy Spring, everyone.

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February vacation

The boys have had some good play times this week, with friends freed from school by the February break. Just the thing when parents aren't providing any fun. On Monday, when I was stuck on the couch holding Lijah and letting him drip snot all over me, they ventured around the corner to Jack's house—"because we already tried everybody else and they're not home". That's several houses down and across the "big street" (speed limit 25, actual speeds, oh, 40...). And I didn't even have Jack's mom's number to check if they were home. So I gave Harvey a card with my number on it, and off they scootered. Not only did they make it safely, they stayed for four hours or so playing happily. Lijah got to rest and recover, and he was raring to go when we finally walked to pick them up.

Then yesterday we returned the favor by hosting the party at our house, for Jack and also for Nathan and Liam, whose dad also needed to get some work done despite the school vacation. So four big boys played inside and out, two toddlers took long naps, and two dads got to be productive.

My favorite part of the afternoon was when the two older boys invaded the kindergartners' game. After a little bit of yelling and whining, Zion explained capably and eloquently why he didn't like Harvey and Jack trying to take over; after a second, the big kids asked what they needed to do to join in the right way. Then they played superheros together.

Harvey and Zion and friends standing in the snow

vacation buddies

My least favorite part of the afternoon was just before dinner—of course everyone stayed for dinner—when all six kids were running around the house shouting at the top of their lungs, but what do I expect... it is winter, after all.

Let's see if we can keep the fun going the second half of the vacation week.

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lights, food, music, and friends

the illuminated tree and the buffet table

party night

We threw our party last night—never mind the rain and thunderstorms promised by the forecast and the morning's red sky. And it was great!

In a departure from our usual practice, we were just about ready as the last half-hour before the 5:00 start ticked by. Parents and friends who came early to help set up were able to relax and chat as the other guests arrived; the kids hanging around were able to join in the piano sound-check and warmup. The flowers on the table were picked and arranged by Harvey at 4:35.

the party lawn

dining area and dance floor

It was an all-grandpa musical performance this year. After last year's bravura effort Ira and Leah have their act down pat, and barely needed any rehearsal this time. They put on an early set for one friend who could only stop by for a minute at the beginning of the affair.

Leah and Grandpa Ira performing on stage, with Lijah alongside

seasoned performers

Then it was the turn of Grandpa David and the Disney Movie Singalong. He did a great job fending off the eager hands that wanted to touch the piano, and the kids sang along with spirit to tunes from our three most recent animated favorites: Frozen, Aladdin, and Lion King. What a kind grandfather our boys have, willing to subject himself to that sort of experience, and on his birthday too! I have all the songs pretty well memorized to I did my bit to keep the vocalists roughly together.

Grandpa Dave playing piano, accompanying a crowd of kids on some Disney movie songs

cast of thousands

Harvey and Zion actually practiced their parts quite a bit this year. Zion was too shy to stand up at the mic, but Harvey had no such resistance and sang up loud and proud. Megan is always happy to see a microphone.

Harvey and Megan singing with the mics

star turn

Of course, it wasn't all music. We didn't manage a bounce-house this year, but the boys and I set up the badminton net and the kids had great fun with our seven rackets and three birdies (at least until a darkness-related accident made it seem more prudent to take down the net). The hammock was also very popular, as was the ride-on tractor. And of course there was lots to eat.

lots of food on the table, lit in the darkness thanks to lamps above

enough to go around

The lights are always a key ingredient of this party, and this year I was very proud of myself for including two clip-on desk lamps in the setup: one to light the food, and the other behind the stage so the musicians could see their papers. Because of course the music went on long into the night.

Ira and guitar, from behind on the lighted stage

the evening's headliner

Despite some initial demurrals, Ira put on a great show. Besides several songs with Leah (and Lijah), he also treated us to some Beatles numbers (and other hits of the 60s and 70s), and even played backup for Jack's spirited rendition of the alphabet song.

Just before 9:00 the rain finally came on, just in time to encourage the guests to help clean up and then hit the road.. perfect timing! It was great seeing so many friends and neighbors; I feel grateful for each person who came to spend time with us. And none more so than my parents, especially my dad on his birthday.

my mom and dad sharing a cuddle listening to the music

happy birthday Grandpa David!

Maybe we'll do it again next year.

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squeezing the summer

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

the boys watching the antics of Toe Jam's Vinny

grippingly entertaining

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

Lijah, still, surrounded by kids trying to catch bubbles

still amidst the craziness

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

kids jumping for big bubbles against the evening sky

setting bubbles, day is done

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

kids and a parent rolling down a steep grassy bank

1, 2, 3, roll!

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

hot lunch

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

kids eating ice cream in Davis Square

ice cream party

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

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the other camp

Lijah on the shore of Spy Pond, the other kids in the background

idyll in the heart of the inner suburbs

We're not running day camp this year, but friends of ours are taking up some of the slack and putting on a once-a-week camp out of their house in North Cambridge. We missed the first session last week, but we were happy and excited to be there this morning!

the kids on their bikes ready to go

always a good scene

It was a biking day, and while I was disappointed not to have a way to bring the blue bike in the car Zion and Lijah were happy enough with the trailer and seat. And of course Harvey was raring to go. The group rode well together, though there were lots of stops—for repairs, drinks, and just to take in some of the beauties of the natural world.

Zion and Matthew climbing a fence to look at a pond

eager observers

It was a fairly short ride (by our recent standards), and it didn't take us long to get to Spy Pond, where the kids could have played for two or three days. Especially once they found a tree they could all climb at the same time, "even Zion!".

lots of kids in a tree with plenty of room for them all

it's a party up there

Of course, Lijah was a little left out (though I did help him up it and leave him there for almost three seconds) so he was happy a couple minutes later to find his own tree to climb... sort of.

Lijah sitting in the tiny branches of a small tree

I think he's stuck

It was all lovely, and we look forward to another adventure next Friday... after we get back from "real" camping, that is!

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almost summer camp

We're not doing our day camp this year, which is both a relief and a disappointment to all concerned. Since we miss a lot about the things we did the last two summers, it was nice to get together last week to reprise the fun with a slightly more manageable crowd.

boys and friends walking across the Old North Bridge

out and about

Well, I say reprise; but with fewer kids—and each of them a year older—we actually blew any of our previous camp adventures out of the water with a cycling trip down the Reformatory Branch Trail to Concord to visit some of the historic sights. I figured it would be a tough ride for the kids (though I knew it was possible, since Harvey rode it a couple weeks ago)—but as it happened they just about rode away from Bridget, Leah, and I! We were plenty hot and winded by the end... though in our defense, we were all carrying the weight of at least one other human. Zion very much enjoyed the ride.

Zion smirking at the camera

that's his camera smile

The Old North Bridge is always a nice stop on an outing—there's the history and the water and lots of space to run around.

Leah and Bridget with the kids up on the bridge

Old North Gang

And room to chill and relax with friends too.

Zion, Lijah, and Nathan sitting on a stone wall above the river

outing buddies

Actually, we didn't plan for the day to be like a summer camp adventure; we barely planned it at all. Nathan was the first one to point out how much it felt like "Camp Archibald", and then we all went with it.

Since the kids rode so well on the way out we took a longer route home, with stops to check out an old cemetery (oldest grave we found, 1726) and Louisa May Alcott's childhood home (where we worked really hard to learn the maypole dance). They weren't unstoppable though—when I offered the choice between yet more distant adventures and a shorter way home, most of them definitively chose the latter. Zion and Eliot's votes to the contrary didn't count. The revised route—for 11 1/2 miles in total—led through some agriculture.

a tractor at work in field as we ride by

scenic Concord

To be as much like camp as possible, we ended our adventure by turning on the sprinkler (also because it was super hot). But there were only two takers among the kids—without twice a week camp they don't get to see each other enough, so they wanted to use all the time they did have at home doing important things like building with legos! The adults went in the sprinkler, though; we can cool down and talk at the same time.

It was fun; we'll have to do it again soon!

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farm-school outing

Way back a couple weeks ago the two older boys and I took an outing to Drumlin farm. It was on a Tuesday morning and we met our farm-school coop friends there, so the outing was totally in a home-schooling context. Of course, knowing us it wasn't entirely schooly!

Harvey, Zion, Taya, and Isaac running along the farm road

friends on the farm

Still, there was some learning done. Direct experiences are always valuable—especially so in preschool.

Zion petting a sheep through the slats of the pen

tactile learning

And being a teacherly sort I made sure to get some situationally-relevant math problems in there for the 1st graders. They also had some chances to explore the built-in teaching material on the farm, and I was proud of their interest and focus.

Harvey and Taya looking at instructional material about hay

reading in context

In fact, I was so amazed by how well Harvey was reading that it inspired my recent reevaluation of his progress!

But there was also plenty of time for good old-fashioned playing.

the kids atop a mountainous boulder

deep in kid territory

Whatever the educational justification, it's always nice just getting a chance to hang out with good friends!

Harvey, Taya, and Zion sitting on a log, Taya putting her hands on the boys' heads

friends

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