posts tagged with 'summer'

summertime at 40

On my commute I pass by the DCR pool in North Cambridge, a lovely free community pool of off Rindge Ave. Lovely for a brief, fleeting moment of the year, that is—because in Massachusetts they open the outdoor pools in mid-June and close them again at the end of August. And to me, this summer, that time went by impossibly fast.

Of course, when I stop to think about it I did a lot of different things this summer. And Lijah is much more mature now than he was back when he first decided the coming of warm weather was no reason not to wear fleece pants every day (in many ways; he's still rocking the pants). But even as I intellectually appreciate the passage of time as marked in those ways, this summer felt like just a blink.

Maybe it's because we hardly went to the pond at all. It was hardly hot, and the boys were always playing with friends so and resistant to going anywhere. I don't think we swam more than three or four times. Or it could be the terrible state of the garden—I've been mentally hurrying along to next year since mid-July. Or maybe it's just that I'm old now. Against 40 years, two and a half months isn't much. Oh well, that just means that winter will fly by too, and before I know it I'll be planting again. I'm sure the six-year-olds enjoyed the heck out of that pool; as for me I'll be thinking about seeds for next year.

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I think I can feel a little satisfied with myself

There's so much to do in the summer. With our sort of camp, I find myself with a house full of kids all day Monday and Tuesday, which is lovely—but it doesn't leave much time to take care of the house and yard. Still, I don't think I did too badly yesterday. Besides showing the kids—ours and the two visitors—a good time, I managed a little weeding, baked bread, made pickles, and made a cake. It helps that all five kids are wonderful human beings and interacted peacefully for the seven or eight hours they were together. They also made some money selling candy and cycled around 10 miles round trip, to and from the Farmers Market in Lexington. So they didn't do too badly either!

two quarts of pickles on the porch railing

pickles

The cake came out good too: just the thing to end our long busy day, served on our friends' back porch as it started to get dark (you see why all three boys are still sound asleep well after the sun came up this morning!). I made up the recipe; it's based on this chocolate cake, which I've made a few times and which revealed to me that buttermilk and baking powder are magic for making home-made cakes rise almost like ones from a mix. We have lots of blueberries—four of the five kids here yesterday helped pick them last week—so I decided on a blueberry variant.

blueberry cake in the front yard

the cake, pausing on the way to the car

Here's the recipe.

Blueberry Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan with plenty of butter. In a large bowl, combine

2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4th tsp. salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

In the stand mixer, mix at medium speed

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar

Increase speed to high and beat for five minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add one at a time, beating at medium speed after each one

3 large eggs

At medium speed beat in

2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of one lemon

Mixing at low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts alternating with two parts of

1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Fold in

1 1/2 c. blueberries

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

For the glaze, combine in a medium bowl

1/3 c. melted butter
2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk until smooth and pour slowly over the cake, letting a layer dry before adding more on top (I didn't have time to maage that last part between getting back from the farmer's market and leaving for dinner at our friends' house... my one failure in an otherwise pretty successful day!).

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fourth day of July

Like we do, we celebrated Independence Day at Concord's "Picnic in the Park". Our descriptions of it over the years are so glowing that we enticed several other families out to experience it themselves, and it was nice hanging out with them a bit—but we also had some lovely family time.

the boys watching a band

musical picnic

Once again we biked in, all together this time, and once again we brought our tent. It's so nice both as a source of shade in the big baking field and as a home base to dump all our stuff. When we're hanging out at a picnic for five hours we need to really set up camp!

our bike, tent, and rug

the place to chill

None of our experience was particularly patriotic, in any explicit way (which is fine by me!). But it was, as always, wonderfully small-town American. We did a sack race and a three-legged race.

Harvey and me getting ready for the start of the three-legged race

you can't see our legs, but they're tied together

We listened to music, enjoyed boughten popcorn and Italian ice, and jumped in the bouncy house (well, Zion and Harvey jumped; Lijah wasn't feeling it and they wouldn't let me in). Harvey decorated a little wooden train with paint and stickers. Zion and Lijah played with Julen on the playground. But the most fun of all was the fire truck and its hose. Last year I think the kids just ran in the spray; this year they were much more intimately involved.

Zion spraying the firehose, with Lijah's assistance

the power!!

We approached the firemen as they came back after a break, so there weren't many kids around. That meant Zion, Julen, and Lijah each got to take maybe a dozen turns with the hose; Harvey got five or six when he showed up too. They had a great time. Getting sprayed was plenty fun too.

the kids playing in the spray from the firehose

refreshing

As we were cycling home it occurred to me that we hadn't talked at all with the boys about the meaning of the 4th of July. Did they even notice that this fair was connected to a particular holiday? Maybe not—definitely not, in Lijah's case. But how much could he understand about the Declaration of Independence, anyway? I don't think it matters. The important thing is, we're free to have a good party. Happy summer, and happy fourth day of July!

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proper June outings

Lijah working on a sand castle

down at the pond

Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!

Harvey and Ollie playing in the water

friends in the water as well as on land

(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)

After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.

Zion making a silly face in the Thoreau house replica

what would Henry think?

Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?

Zion leaping out the window of the house

very good form

As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.

Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.

the boys walking to the strawberry fields holding their baskets

field workers

Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.

Zion and Lijah being silly in the strawberry field

NOT picking

(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)

Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.

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sweet summer evenings

We've got ourselves a pretty nice neighborhood. The boys and I came back from the pond and had about half an hour to rest before school got out and kids came knocking looking for Harvey and Zion to play. I got to hang our with Lijah for a while, then Leah came home and spent some time with him while I made supper (timed to coincide with supper next door, natch). After we ate all three boys ran off to play so Leah and I could relax on the porch for half an hour before getting to work on evening chores—dishes for her, weeding for me.

And if that doesn't all sound a little to 50s-perfection to you: yesterday the gang caught a toad to play with. Life is fine here at midsummer.

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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open door policy

Our house is lovely, but one problem we do have is that not many of the downstairs windows open. Out of eight, we can conveniently open and close only three. That's not so helpful when you're trying to avoid air-conditioning by harvesting the cooler nighttime air; a good cross-breeze is impossible. On the other hand, we do have outside doors on three of the walls, so mornings and evenings having them open makes a world of difference. Only none of them have screens.

They used to, once, but dog and kids put paid to all three of them. Just as well most of the time, since we're constantly in and out in the summer, but it does mean that the bugs are in an out as well. But with an unusually dry June we haven't seen too many mosquitoes so far, and there are plenty of fruit flies inside already in the usual way, so with the doors open it might even be an equal exchange. We're not minding it too much.

Now when the hens try and come inside, that's another story. Luckily Lijah has taken on the job of chasing them out whenever that happens (he gets a little upset if someone else does it). With the chicks, there are already enough chickens living in our house!

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another midsummer

The solstice is a grand thing, and we did it right this year, but it's hard to really celebrate properly when most everyone else is going about their everyday business. But no worries, because we have a big national celebration of summer to share just a couple weeks later. We tend to head over to Concord for their charming festival—it has lots to recommend it, not least the fact that it's in the middle of the day. This year the bigger boys and I biked there; good thing we have a bicycle that can carry plenty of supplies.

Zion in the back of the blue bike with lots of gear around him

all packed up

And, just as important, a seven-year-old who can confidently ride the five-and-a-half miles there and another back, with plenty of energy left over for enjoying the entertainment on offer.

Harvey riding down a country road

Harvey's independence

Like the bounce house, which the boys jumped right into as soon as we arrived. I worked on setting up our tent, which I brought along to liberate us from the narrow band of shade at the side of the field, where most folks listening to the bands have to squeeze together. We really appreciated it on a warm day with blazingly hot sun; we also appreciated our packed food, including peas and raspberries fresh from the garden.

picnic in the tent: Zion with our nice array of food

our picnic in the park

I was a little worried about the tent being in people's way, and made sure to set it up at the far back of the field, but it turns out concern wasn't necessary: about twenty minutes after we arrived a large group showed up and put up this considerable edifice right in front of us.

tents set up in front of us

rival encampment

But that was fine because there was plenty to do all over the place. We played in the spray from a fire hose.

the boys ducking the stream from a fire hose

spray park

And explored a ladder truck.

the boys in the crowded cab of a ladder truck

how many firefighters go in there?

The boys rode a "train" all around the field—all by themselves, without making me squish into one of those little seats to go with them (like lots of other parents had to do—or maybe they really enjoy it..).

Harvey and Zion waiting for the

they don't need me

I was impressed by that, but even more when they decided they wanted to go through the interactive theater / obstacle course experience by themselves. They learned what it was like to be an early immigrant to Massachusetts.

Harvey entering the

entering into the experience

The immigrants had all kinds of adventures, including having to carry swine out of the maize fields.

Zion carrying a pink pig ball

pig portage

And of course we listened to music!

boys lying on the ground in the shade, right up near the band

Southern Rail, as tradition dictates

Lijah napped and lunched at home, then he and Mama joined us in time for some of the fun—and all of the italian ice!

three boys, with mama, enjoying italian ice

note how they picked red, white, and blue

Then we went back home, where we totally meant to lie down in the dark house for the rest of the evening—but then our neighbors invited us over to play and eat pie, so we did that instead. They had red-white-and-blue glow bracelets to share too, which was perfect: we didn't get to see any fireworks this year, but staying up until after dark to throw the glow things around was a fine substitute, and a great end to a fine celebratory day.

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a day in June

Summer is a busy time of year—there's enough chores and amusements to fill every waking hour. But every once and a while we manage to have a day to just kick back and relax.

Harvey eating an orange popsicle

summer treat

Well, relatively; today I still had to manage a lot of production around a couple church services—the bigger boys and I were on the church campus from 8:15 to 2:00, as usual—but today some of that production involved throwing a watermelon-and-popsicle social for the families. It went of great, the kids all had fun, and I loved seeing parents getting to know each other better. Everyone was so relaxed none of the parents objected when some of the kids started setting up an organized cage-fighting tournament under the climbing structure.

When we got home, Leah took Harvey out to do some swimming; after playing inside for a bit the other two boys and I spent about an hour spraying each other with the hose (and watering the plants a little bit too). Then some time on the hammock in the shade. Summer has its advantages.

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a nice evening for a birthday

Harvey turned 7 today. He has a great birthday; the longest day of the year means plenty of time for fun and excitement. He spent the end of the day today playing outside with the neighbors and shooting video on the new tablet device he got as a present yesterday (thanks Grandma Beth!), and we capped the evening sitting in the front yard watching bats as we listened to the 9:00 taps echo over at the Air Force base.

As well as birthday celebrations—which'll continue all week—today also marks the end of the school year in town. That doesn't mean so much to us, but since I failed to ever update anyone on Harvey's progress throughout the year I thought I'd better put together a "year-end" report before it was too late. It's nice to have deadlines. I did it all online, so you can take a look if you're interested in what our homeschooling looked like this year, when packaged for public-school educators.

Tomorrow we're getting up early for strawberry picking, if all goes well... why can't we have long nights and long days in the summer?!

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