hanukkah this year

This year Hanukkah is about as early as it can ever be, with the first night falling back on Sunday the 28th. With so long to go til Christmas, that means we have plenty of energy to celebrate it! We've lit candles almost every night, I've made lots of latkes, and we've done lots of dreidel. And that's all before our big gathering with Leah's parents tomorrow evening! We've also helped our friends learn about the holiday. On Wednesday we made latkes together, and this morning we painted our own dreidels and played a long competitive game (plus a special bonus game of battle tops). No presents at our house, though; with all that we do for Christmas it would be a little much. But that's alright, presents aren't the main point to the holiday, anyway—the main point is lights burning for a long time! Which the candles on our menorah do, for sure; so long, in fact, that we've been moving the menorah up to the boys' room when they go to bed. It burns in their window like a self-extinguishing nightlight. Though with two more nights to go I think we may have to put an end to that practice; I dripped a lot of wax on the carpet carrying it upstairs this evening. Maybe we can just do one candle upstairs. Hanukkah may be almost over, but the bigger season of Light in the Darkness still has a way to go!

soap boats!

Harvey owns a set of wood-carving tools, but it's Elijah who uses them the most often. But making a piece of wood into what he can see in his mind isn't always easy for him. So he was immediately taken by a project in a wood carving book we got from the library that's all about carving soap. Significantly easier than wood! The only holdup was that we don't actually have any bar soap, just artisanal pucks and blobs, but he had only to suggest to Mama that he needed supplies and she instantly procured a three-pack of Ivory soap for him to work with. His first boat took a little bit of time, as he puzzled out the instructions; he was so delighted with it that he immediately started on a second one, which came together much more quickly. Then he thought of saving the last bar of soap for its manufacturer-intended purpose, but I told him that I wouldn't be able to stand the smell so he should go ahead and carve it. The third boat was a three-master! Then he molded a lifeboat out of the left-over chips. You can't do that with wood!

a soap boat Elijah made

model 1

The only problem he ran into was in testing the boats. He filled the sink to see how well they floated; they did, but they also immediately started lathering. Ivory soap is soft! So now they're display models on the windowsill above his desk, which is right next to mine. It's just like having an air freshener. I'm going to try and find him some softish wood to carve into a boat along the same lines, but that's going to have to wait a bit: now he's into clay.


November was hard

As November started I was crowing about not missing a day of writing in October. Clearly that effort tired me out, because except for that one post, I didn't manage to produce a single thing on time in November. And as I write these words, there's nothing at all posted since November 7. I've been trying—oh, trying!—but despite writing many words I really struggled to get anything finished. And every day trying to catch up made it harder to stay on top of things, until I just gave up. Sort of the story of my life. So for December I'm declaring bankruptcy and starting over! If I have time I'll go back and finish all my almost-finished thoughts from November, but if I don't manage it, never mind! Time marches on! December life must be recorded! I'll start that tomorrow

experiment a success

When I conceptualized this park day thing I scheduled four meetings, thinking that was a sweet spot for encouraging people to commit: they would know the meetup was something that would definitely happen for a period of time, and they knew that they had an automatic out after that period. I don't know if that was the key factor, or if there was just a big demand for connection among homeschoolers in the greater Lowell area, but Varney Park Day has a been a huge success. So much so that it's still going strong into November. There's always a good-sized, diverse group of folks, and there's always something different going on. Last week it was "hammock town," with one real hammock and a bunch of other ones improvised out of big pieces of fabric one of the parents was genius enough to bring along; this week we were trying to catch falling leaves. Best of all, as the weeks pass we can see kids starting to play in more different groupings and arrangements—not just by who they knew coming in and played with before, but by age and interest as they get to know each other. That's something that happens in a good community. I think we can call this experiment a success!

a little out

Sometimes the outings are little ones. Today after lunch we hopped in the car and headed out to the Great Meadows bird sanctuary in Concord. It's only a 25-minute bike ride away at an easy pace, but some days even that is more than we can handle. Plus we wanted all the time to explore the meadows! Well, maybe explore isn't the word: most of the preserve is water, so even if they were willing to disobey the signs and disturb the birds visitors are pretty much limited by topography to the paths. But, after an obligatory trip up the observation tower, we at least felt like we had time to choose the longest path.

It was lovely to be out in the warm sun, at least at first; pretty soon it actually got a little TOO warm! But in November we'll take it, and we strolled along happily talking and pretending to be in a video game. At least the water, when we were able to get into it, was cold! (at least this time all of us were able to successfully adjust to ambient temperatures, which hasn't always been the case). It was a good time; it's always nice to get out and about, even in a small way.

the boys wading through the ford (right next to the bridge)

they don't need that bridge