the pajama game is the game we're in

So as I've mentioned in passing, our kids don't tend to change their clothes in any periodic fashion. That is, they tend to wear the same outfit as long as they're still feeling it (or it gets wet or uncomfortably dirty). Not to say that they always stay in the same clothes for long periods of time—sometimes activities call for several changes in one day. But they don't ever feel like it's necessary to put on something different just because it's a new day, still less because they're going to bed. So pajamas aren't a regular feature of our bedtime routine.

But! On the other hand, it's undeniable that pajamas are awesome, especially when they're new. And this fall all three boys have got at least one new pj outfit each, so at times there's been considerable excitement around them. Tuesday and Wednesday not one of them changed out of pajamas at any point—the same pjs over the two days. Sure, Tuesday was a wet inside sort of day, but Wednesday they were at Grandma and Grandpa's all day, and went for a walk. In their pajamas. Only a trip to the dentist this morning, for all three of them, forced a change. Now they're all in bed in the clothes they wore all day.

I don't see anything wrong with any of that. Personally, I don't care to let my dirty work pants into the bed; but when I take them off to sleep I just put them back on the morning, most days, so I have no room to cast aspersions. But it is funny when, as happened the other day, they slept in their clothes and then changed into pajamas after breakfast. The game they were playing demanded it. It makes sense to them, so who am I to question?


the interrogation

For some reason, people at the Community Dinner keep asking Harvey about school. It might just be because that's the only thing adults can thing to ask kids—they might be the type to ask other adults where they work. Or maybe there's an element of paternalism to it: we're the ones getting a free dinner, and the questioners have been the volunteers serving. In any case, he does very well. Like yesterday evening.

Question Lady: Look at these lovely children! Your name is Harvey? Harvey, what grade are you in?

Harvey: Um, second.

QL: Oh, so you're at Davis School?

H: No.

QL: Where do you go to school?

H: At home.

Question Lady—a former second-grade teacher herself, it must be said—then engaged me on the topic of why we chose to homeschool. I was trying to get Lijah to eat at the time, and also keep up a conversation with Zion, so I'm not sure I gave the subject the attention it deserved, but I did manage to say something. Then she asked Harvey about his favorite book, and kept on the question for a while (for record, he came up with the two extant books of the Tib and Tumtum series).

A few weeks ago a different QL asked him if he liked his teacher. He smiled and said something like, "I have to! It's Dada!" I appreciate that.

I don't object to people asking questions. Questions are good. But it's tough being non-normative in this case. I was thinking, sitting in the library a little later, than I was going to start doing something similar.

QD: Oh, your boys are at the elementary school in town? Why did you decide to send them to school?

Would that be rude?


moments from the week

Lijah in pjs and sweatshirt holding a soccer ball in front of the house

getting out early

A few moments from the past week.

Harvey on the couch reading a comic book

reading even earlier

Lijah draped with a paper chain, making a face

paper chained up

Mama painting the bathroom green

beautification continues apace

Harvey working on a woodworking project in the messy corner of our yard

outdoor woodworking project


a little snow day

After a busy day yesterday we were ready for some downtime today, and the weather very kindly obliged.

some hens in the snow

coping alright

Unlike last time the boys weren't particularly excited—understandable given the demands on their energy yesterday. But there's still plenty to enjoy on a snowy day without going outside: it's awful pretty, for one!

holly berries with snow on them

the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red

I've noticed that not everyone appreciates snow. On a rainy day last week I heard a someone remark how glad she was it wasn't snow, and folks in the grocery store this evening were talking about how they weren't ready for snow and cold yet. And, sure, it can complicate things: it kept us from seeing our friends today, which was a bit of drag. But we'll survive.

It seems to me that by December we should be ready for snow—emotionally and materially. Or at least incrementally more ready as we see the forecast temperature dropping. Our neighbors across the street weren't ready, lawn-wise—or rather their landscaping company wasn't. It was really something to watch ten men with leaf blowers trying to clear a quarter-acre lawn of wet leaves as snow fell pretty heavily. They did it, but it took a couple hours! I don't feel particularly superior; never mind the unraked leaves (deliberate, but still), I still have hoses out. However! With an eye on the forecast, I spent some time over the weekend finally getting some kind of waterproof material to cover the plywood roof of the shed. I don't get very much accomplished, so that was satisfying.

the shed and fence with snow falling

the tools are warm and dry

It only took a year after the shed went up for me to get to it! Luckily it didn't snow that much last winter. Well, we're ready now!


the primacy of reading

Harvey is really reading now, and as I predicted it's taking him away from other activities—like doing his chores. I totally understand how other parents wish they had this problem, just like when he was younger I wished I had a child who would wander off rather than just clinging to me or looking to play with me all the time. I suppose now he's wandering off in books. He read a whole chapter book in one sitting the other day, 150 pages (with pictures). In his defense it was a pretty good book, and I recommended it highly.

cover image of Dory Dory Black Sheep

It's called Dory Dory Black Sheep, by Abby Hanlon and it's apparently the third book in a series about Dory, a six-year-old with a tremendous imagination. In this book she's feeling bad because she doesn't know how to read. While I loved the book—and yes, almost all my reading comes from the kids section of the library these days—I'm a little troubled by the implicit assumption that it's a good thing for imaginative, well-adjusted (by some measures) six-year-olds to be reading. In the story she's exposed to reasonable first-grade teaching methods, but it's peer pressure that makes her want to read: her new best friend is reading chapter books, and Dory is afraid the friend won't like her if she can't read.

So it's a pretty sensitive treatment, and probably true to a lot of kids' experience in first grade. That means I don't fault the author—and I'm looking forward to reading the other two books, and reading them to Zion—but wish the culture were such that Dory could be telling stories to her friends in school and being valued for that skill. Because, once she can read, will she stop living half in an imaginative world of her own creation? Few authors can compete with real kids' imagination. But when you can read, books are tempting, tempting!

Still and all, I'm pretty proud of Harvey. And imagination-wise he's long been someone who looks for official sources for his imaginative worlds—he's an oldest child, and needs to make sure he has things correct—so probably the more books the better. Just as long as he keeps feeding those hens too!


missing: blog subscription

When I messed up updating my computer I lost, as well as two years of email, two years of RSS data. (I'm one of the fifteen people who still use RSS; I don't know how the rest of you survive without it.) Luckily I haven't had time in the past two years to discover many new blogs; and the content of any post is of course recoverable. But there's one blog I subscribed to in the lost years that I can't, for the life of me, remember in any detail. It's a left-wing Christian site (or "Jesus-following", to be fair and accurate) that posts pieces from a variety of authors—sometimes full articles, often poems or snippets—every day. Sound familiar to anyone? Um... the site has a dark background? If you come across it, please let me know. I didn't always read the post every day, but I appreciated knowing I could if I wanted to.

Concord River, early December

Despite the snow on the ground the air was mild and almost springlike Tuesday, when we took a trip to the Concord River at the Old North Bridge.

the boys walking down the snowy bank to the Concord River

still wet

The boys were disappointed not to see more ice, but they did manage to find a little bit over on the marshy side of the river. It wouldn't bear their weight, but that made it all the more fun to stomp on and fall through, dropping a couple inches (exact number delightfully variable) with each step. They were wearing their rain boots; Lijah and I weren't, so we stayed far away.

Harvey and Zion across the meadow by the river

it's exciting over there

Then of course there was the bridge to explore. We played Minutemen and Redcoats (Lijah and I were the Redcoats, and we lost), and the boys made it snow by kicking almost all the snow down off the bridge deck. And not one of them fell in!

them up on the North Bridge kicking snow down

look out below

Despite the beautiful weather we had the place to ourselves almost the entire time. Just the way we like it.

Harvey and Zion standing on a dock looking at the bridge



I guess we can do this tree thing

We get our Christmas trees at Chip-In Farm, where we also get our supplementary eggs and other assorted grocery items. It's on the way back from Concord, so after our outing on Thursday we stopped by to look at Christmas trees. It's still early, if you ask me, but I was under some pressure from other members of the family; don't say I never listen to their needs!

Harvey face in the be-a-tree cutout, Zion smiling just in front

the best at Chip-In Farm

Trees at Chip-In might be a little more expensive than, say, Home Depot, but I'm happy to support the neighborhood farmers. And they do get good trees. Look at these delightful specimens:

three boys pretending to be Christmas trees

the cutest trees there

That was Tuesday; Leah and I got the tree up Wednesday night, and I told the boys Thursday morning that we could decorate it that evening if they were good. They were, or good enough, but then we couldn't find the lights. I think I used them all decorating the porch—all the ones that still work, that is. So this morning we went out and got some more, and before and after lunch we finally got the job done.

the boys decorating the tree

happy elfing

Harvey and Zion are both real helpers this year; aside from the lights, I barely did any of the decorating. Even Lijah wasn't any more destructive than constructive: he only broke one ornament, and was about even in how many he put on the tree versus the number he removed. I think it looks fine!

the decorated tree

here it is


moments from the week

the boys in pjs playing in front of the Christmas tree

Christmas tree play

Moments from the past week...

kids running to the bus stop in the snow

snowy bus stop time

our yard and house in the snow

snow on the farm

Lijah naked with safety goggles on

homeschooling outfit

hooded Zion by the river

down by the riverside

the boys looking warlike with sticks on the bike path

walking with the knights

Lijah outside with a monkey toy hanging from his coat pocket

how he carries his monkey this week


hens sleeping rough

Who knows why chickens do the things they do. The other night we had friends over in the evening, so it wasn't til late that I went out to shut the coop door. Stepping onto the porch I almost tripped over a hen sleeping on the porch floor; there were two more on the railing. The other six were crammed into the small open coop I made for the little hens to live in at the end of the summer. None of them were where they were supposed to be, in their own house. When it's dark chickens don't really move around much, so it wasn't hard to grab them one at a time and carry them to the henhouse, but it did take a fair while. I figure that the wind must have blown the door shut in the evening when they were still out, and when they couldn't get home they had to make other arrangements. It was open when I got outside, but whatever.

The next night I was late again. It looked like everything was as it should be—door still open, no hens to be seen outside—but I thought it would be ok to check just in case. And count. Seven hens roosting comfortably... out of nine. Hmm. This time it took me a little searching before I found the other two, cuddled up on the ground at the base of a tree. I picked em up and threw em back in. Last night it was just after dark when I got out, but dark comes early these days and the hens were once again abed—eight of them this time. The last one didn't take any trouble to find, though: she was right where she'd been the night before. Today it was wet and snowy (and we had our health department inspection) so I didn't let them out. Everyone will be sleeping where they're supposed to be!

It's not that I mind them making alternate sleeping arrangements if they don't care for the home I built for them. I'm not offended! But I do like to see them in the morning, and given the wildlife running around here I wouldn't be too sure about their survival chances outside their hardened shelter. We're hearing owls—multiple owls—hooting around the house just about every night lately, just for one example.

That said, they'd probably be fine most evenings. At least twice I've closed up the run without counting and had a hen spend a night out in the open, with nothing bad happening. The only two hens we lost to predators were both in the daytime, to hawks. But there's no reason to take chances. So at least when I'm paying attention, I'm going to take the trouble to put all of them in. Hopefully they'll figure it out on their own and stop trying to make alternate arrangements. But, as I say, they think for themselves—there's no telling the mind of a chicken.


tomato soup

I made tomato soup this afternoon. I never did before. I was intimidated by the concept—like I had no idea how to even begin to turn tomatoes into soup. As it happens, it's not that hard: it's basically just regular soup without carrots or celery and with tomatoes. If it weren't for the existence of Campbells I would have figured it out years ago.

I'm not saying my tomato soup was the best ever—the kids didn't like it (in my defense, they pretty much categorically don't like soup, especially when there's also grilled cheese sandwiches available). I used some of the barbecued turkey stock Leah made from the Bernstein Thanksgiving bird, so there was a distinct smoky flavor to the end product which may be a good thing or bad depending on your tastes. And it ended up kind of thin; Katie tells me I could have thickened it with bread crumbs, which would be fine because we have lots of bread crumbs around here.

Anyway, all that is to say if you've never made tomato soup before and feel like having some, go for it. It's a great way to eat up some of those canned tomatoes you put up in the summer that you don't have any other way to eat. Wait, I'm the only person in the US who cans tomatoes and doesn't know how to make tomato soup? (or tomato sauce, for that matter)? Oh well, never mind. For reference, I based my soup loosely off this recipe, the first non-spammy result for a search for "tomato soup recipe". I might even try it again some day. But not soon; there's still plenty of this batch left.


moments from the week

kids having a snowball fight in the snowy yard

snow fall, snow balls!

Moments and images from a wintry week.

built-up frost on the metal ring of a jar outside

fuzzy frost

Lijah with no shirt and undies on his head working on painting

the artist at work

Zion and Lijah eating at a picnic table with snow on the ground

it's snow picnic

Harvey and Hendrick looking at some modern art


kids experimenting with weaving at a museum

... and craft

Zion with red cheeks

come in from the cold

Zion and Lijah playing outside, bundled up

cold, but bright and cheery

kids in a tree-platform throwing snow

snowballs from above



We observed the solstice this evening by staying up too late, so the long night wouldn't feel as long when we were sleeping. Also we talked about seasons and orbits and axial tilt yesterday in our school time. The boys agree with me: no matter what the calendar or facebook says, today shouldn't count as the first day of winter. It's already been winter for a while! We've had snow and we've had cold, and we've had snowball fights and gone ice skating. And had lots of hot chocolate.

Zion wearing lots of warm clothes, out in the sunshine

winter clothes

Some parents don't like the winter. Some kids, too. We know the key is good warm clothes—that, and a good attitude. There was a day last week when almost all the bus stop parents drove their kids between 50 and 100 feet to the corner, and sheltered them in their idling cars until the bus came. Harvey was reading a book sitting on the curb. Not only do we not mind the cold (outside—there are mixed feelings in the household on appropriate indoor temperatures!), we're actively hoping for some more snow. The boys' cousin Nisia, visiting from Senegal, is especially looking for a blizzard or two in the next week and a half. A blizzard, and the days getting longer: the best of both worlds!

Let's hear it for the winter solstice.


Christmas moment

Mama, Zion, and Lijah cuddling by candlelight at church

all is calm, all is bright

Merry Christmas, everyone!

more moments from the week

stockings and tree at midnight Christmas Eve

midnight Christmas Eve

A few more moments from the past week.

Lijah playing among many toys in a playspace

Lijah in colorland

Harvey drooping on his skates on the outdoor rink, Nisia watching

out on the ice

Zion reaching up to put an ornament on a Christmas tree

decorating Grandpa's tree

banana cream pie on the table with other treats in the background

feasting with friends


Christmas vacation doings

We're deep in vacation mode here at the squibix household. Not that everyone could really tell the difference: this afternoon I asked Harvey how he'd liked the vacation week and he asked, "what vacation?". You know, how we didn't do any school work? How Mama and Dada didn't go to work, except that one day when we wanted to give you an excuse to spend the day at Grandma's house with your cousin? Clearly we're not very driven, achievement-oriented people in our workaday lives. Still, to the extent that we have a regular schedule—and we've been working on it lately!—we've abandoned in the past week. Which is both lovely and exhausting.

As is often the case, the flood of new possessions into our house after Christmas and Hanukah has spurred Leah and I to desperate cleaning efforts. The basement is the main target, and we're making some progress. The boys' cousin Nisia is in town and we've been spending a lot of time with her. They hadn't seen her in a year and a half, but they picked up right where they left off in their play. We're looking forward to celebrating the end of this tumultuous year here tomorrow evening, then we have more relatives coming for brunch on Monday—relatives with very high standards when it comes to cleaning and decorating. And we still haven't made gingerbread houses yet! All of which is to say: vacation is tiring!