moments from the week

Zion and Elijah making salt dough ornaments in a friend's kitchen

holiday salt dough

Moments from the past week.

Harvey with a red-and-white tree skirt as a cape posing by a big wreath

the spirit of Christmas decorations

Zion on the couch with his laptop and a stuffed animal, Blue curled up next to him

homeschool work

kids eating at the picnic table on our back deck

winter brunch

Harvey and Elijah posing outside a supermarket during a 4H food drive

happy food drivers


future opera stars

Yesterday evening we went to the first rehearsal for the North Cambridge Family Opera production we find ourselves taking part in. Despite his relative enthusiasm at the audition Elijah decided he didn't want to do the show so he stayed home; Zion also decided—very decidedly—that he didn't want to either, but I made him go. We make these children do very few things, so when one of them loves singing and acting and has a beautiful voice and great stage presence but resists trying new things sometimes he doesn't get to refuse. Don't worry, he had a fine time! They haven't assigned roles yet, but we have our voice parts so we could start working on the choruses: Harvey is singing alto, I've become a bass in my old age, and Zion—along with all the other preteens—is singing "melody", which means he can sing along with whatever sounds like the melody to him at any point. Which he's quite good at. Besides the singing we also started learning some dances, which was harder, but still fun. This morning Zion was showing us how he remembered the moves better than the rest of us. I think he'll do ok.

moments from the week

Zion and Elijah sitting together on the gravel beach at Fawn Lake

playing by the pond

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Zion sitting on a dance studio floor for opera rehearsal

first rehearsal

the dogs splashing in the river, Elijah lying in a tree above them

down by the riverside

Harvey and Zion with their feet in a puddle on the beach at Freeman Lake

is the water still warm?

the boys doing silly poses among Christmas trees

a new source for our tree, but the same old silliness

Elijah walking in the woodsq

the woods are lovely


moments from the week

Zion licking up a handful of snow

first taste

Moments from the past week.

Elijah painting a backdrop for the Christmas performance with other kids

Christmas performance prep

kids sitting in a circle on a friend's floor cutting out paper snowflakes

snipping snowflakes

the boys wearing tall star boy hats posing with friends celebrating Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia crew

Elijah snowboarding on a sled down a little hill on very little snow, Zion getting ready at the top

enough snow to sled!

the boys playing in the Budd Diesel Railcar

back in the train at last


enough! or too much!

I had the busiest possible day yesterday. The boys and I left home at 7:30 in order to get to church to set up for the Kids Church Christmas performance; from 9:15 to 10:30 49 elementary kids and a handful of adults worked to put the finishing touches on a show we'd only worked on for a couple hours previously. The show ran til 11:00 and it was great, and I'm so glad it's over. Then we had half an hour of hot chocolate, chatting, and caroling on the playground before I went in to do child care for the families community group (though I guess it wasn't really the busiest possible since we only had a couple kids, down from the 14 or so from last week). After everybody else went home I spent an hour cleaning up from the performance, and then Harvey, Zion, and I headed to opera rehearsal (Elijah had gone home with Leah at 11:30; they had their own afternoon adventures). From 2:30 to 3:15 I was instructed in my little solo part while the boys waited around, then we all waited around until large-group rehearsal started at 4:15 (Harvey and I checked out the Dollar Tree next door). Rehearsal ran until 6:30, and we got home at 7:15. Good thing Leah made dinner!


We finally got to make gingerbread houses today! It was the usual chaos; more than usual, even, since I did something wrong with the dough and the pieces puffed up and spread out much more than usual. We ended up having to cut the edges straight after they came out of the oven, but that was fine. The kids—our boys and their friends—did more of the work than ever before, which made some parts of the experience easier and others harder. Since there's a fair amount of waiting when making gingerbread houses from scratch, we also watched the Phineas and Ferb Christmas special and took a long walk in the woods (long in time if not in distance; two-year-olds aren't so quick on their feet). It was a delightful day, and the houses came out pretty good too!

close-up of two gingerbread houses

the almost-final products

the turning of the year

One of the downsides to having an awesome group of friends is that you don't get to do everything exactly the way you want to. But that's more than balanced by the upside of getting to go to big parties other people organize! Like we did today for my favorite holiday, Winter Solstice. I was all set to welcome people to our house to celebrate around our beautiful fire pit, but a member of our Park Day group (and now co-op) is lucky enough to have a solstice birthday; so naturally her family got first dibs on making a party. And it was a great one! If for no other reason than Harvey getting to toast broccoli and cheese over the fire.

Harvey toasting broccoli and cheese on a stick over a fire

the latest delicacy

Because it was subbing in for Park Day, there were lots of people there: everybody already had the time blocked off on their schedule. Lots of food too, and some it was even healthy! Besides eating, the kids played in the woods or on the climbing structure (or talked in the woods or around the picnic tables, in the case of the older ones). There was karaoke; Harvey sang lots of songs, and I joined him for some Hamilton. And of course the fire was a big draw. Besides the broccoli, people roasted marshmallows, hot dogs, and chocolate, plus incinerating lots of leaves on the ends of the hot dog forks. And before the fire burned down too low I jumped over it, as tradition demands (twice actually, since some people missed it the first time and I crave attention).

So it's winter now... bring on the snow and ice!

Elijah playing with the fire in the dark

enjoying the blaze


oh Hanukkah

The holidays are layered thickly this time of year! Besides Advent and Solsticetide, it's also Hanukkah of course, and we've had a few chances to observe it so far... though not as many as I would have liked! We started the holiday off in fine fashion celebrating at Leah's parents' on Monday, the second night (not the first because Sunday was entirely taken up with opera practice). They put on a good party, with lots of great food, pre-bagged pennies for dreidel, a gelt hunt (once Amazon delivered the gelt halfway through the evening), and, of course, lots of presents for the boys! Sure, some of those presents preempted things we're giving them for Christmas in a few days, which is a mite annoying... but you can never have too many Legos or stuffed animals, right?!

Zion and Elijah at the menorah with Grandma

lighting with Grandma

Tuesday night we dined with friends, but Wednesday we were back home from the solstice party in time to light our menorah for the first time. We didn't have brisket or noodle kugel like on Monday, but you can bet there were latkes! And I downed my fair share despite still being stuffed from solstice gluttony; this was a whole new holiday!

our menorah with red and yellow candles on the table with latkes and sour cream

the essentials of the celebration


where's our vortex?!

The news is full of stories about the latest Polar Vortex and blizzards all over the country... everywhere but here. Instead, we had springlike temperatures and torrential rain! And lots of wind; at least that was a little bit stormy. But we'd really appreciate some snow. Even worse, the rain and wind cancelled our homeschool coop meeting this afternoon, and the threat of ice cancelled our church small group meeting this evening. If we're going to have to miss things, at least let it be for epic snowfall blanketing the roads! Well, at least the temperature is forecast to drop to 12°F overnight (from a high today of nearly 60°!), and it'll barely make it out of the 20s tomorrow. So if there's not going to be snow, at least we can expect some ice. Let's dig out those skates!

moments from the week

our Christmas tree lit up in the dark

at almost Christmas

Merry Christmas! Here are some moments from the past week.

Zion and Elijah standing on the ice on the horse trough


Zion blowing on a spinning dreidel while playing with Elijah

isn't blowing on the dreidel cheating?!

snakes and things made out of gingerbread dough waiting to be baked

extra creativity after the houses

Zion and other kids spearing leaves and burning them over the fire

sometimes it's ok to play with fire

Elijah holding a lit candle at church

oh holy night


Christmas report

We had a delightful Christmas yesterday: according to Harvey, the best Christmas ever. That's down to his delight at getting the awesome Lego Galaxy explorer set, but also in giving a watercolor painting of our house to Leah and, with some help from Grandma, a Nintendo Switch for Zion. But even beyond the presents it was a good day, fun and relaxing in just the right measures.

Elijah opening a big present, Harvey looking on

what is it?!

We got started early: the kids were up before five, and I think I joined them downstairs not long after 5:30. But Leah had some things to do so it wasn't until 7:00 that we got to open the stocking presents. Then we ate the Christmas grapefruits and some cereal to tide us over until brunch and walked the dogs, and only then were we ready to open all of the beautiful presents under our tree.

When that was done and cleaned up we headed to my parents' house for a brunch spread with all the usual delicacies. Then we opened the presents, which lasted just the right amount of time. Grandma and Grandpa probably got the most presents, actually, which is totally appropriate given the lovely hospitality they were showing us. There was never a moment when we needed to stop eating! Of course, that's not really Leah's thing, so she left after we a little bit of post-lunch caroling.

We did get outside for an hour or so, to take in a little fresh air and exercise to balance out all the eating and sitting, then it was back to sitting around the fire and talking and building Legos. And supper, of course! Then home to bed. All in all, a pretty good day!

boys and grandparents walking in a field

kids running on sugar energy


haystacks of needles

We're mostly happy with our tree from the new supplier: we've really been enjoying its less-trimmed, more natural look, and it's gotten lots of compliments. But there's one thing that's bothering us, and that's the rate at which it's dropping needles! They fall off whenever you touch it, and let me tell you the dogs touch it a lot. With their tails, mostly. Two weeks ago I was sure it would be just bare sticks by Christmas, but happily it's not that bad. In fact it's still mostly green except on the outermost twigs. But especially with the presents now gone the drifts of needles beneath it are really noticeable. And of course they get tracked all over the house, too. My mom tells me their tree is shedding too; it's just been a dry growing season. Maybe, but ours is above and beyond! I think it'll make it ten more days, but it's going to be leaving a serious trail behind it when we take it out on Twelfth Night!

vacation life

There are some things that are really relaxing about vacation. I've read some good books! We've taken walks with all five of us together! But I have to say that I also feel some stress with the unstructured time. See, the boys know there's no school this week, which to them—unconsciously, I think—suggests that they don't have to do any work at all. Like, not even morning chores or clearing their plates, or, you know, throwing away the candy wrappers that they left in the living room. Of course, everybody needs a break from time to time but it's not like in their regular life they're toiling at the salt mines. And it doesn't help that they're not celebrating their extra free time with creative outdoor play; mostly it's just Pokemon Scarlet and Violet on the Nintendo Switch. Ah well, at least they're happy, and that's worth something!

first ice day

Looking at the forecast last week I was already starting to get excited about the last Park Day of the calendar year. It was going to be the fourth straight day of below freezing temperatures! There would be ice again! In preparation Leah even took Zion out to get new skates, since the ones he was using last year bit the dust just as winter turned into spring. As it happened it wasn't a perfect day—the weather warmed up ahead of schedule, and lots of people were away so there were just a handful of us there—but it was still delightful to get out on real ice for the first time this winter.

Zion, Elijah, and a friend trying out the ice on Freeman Lake

it'll bear

Well, real-ish... a hole somebody had smashed showed that it was only a little over two inches thick, which while strong enough to hold all of us isn't enough to make me feel like crossing the whole pond or anything. And there were all kinds of bumps near the shore, which is where I felt safer, so the skating wasn't the best. I didn't even get my skates on, actually, though Zion and Elijah had some good attempts. It's hard because we were doing so well last winter and we wanted to pick up right where we left off, but the ice wasn't quite ready for us. And even worse, today was the first day of a crazy warm snap so all the ice that's formed so far is going to melt before next week! I only hope it gets cold sometime this winter, because ice is my absolute favorite.


finishing strong

It was bizarrely warm today. Which of course was concerning from a global climate perspective, and terrible for the ice. But it did bring one good thing, which was a chance for the kids to spend tons of time outside! December had been pretty tough in that regard: hitting 1,000 hours in November and then dealing with a lot of not-fun rainy damp cold has kept us inside a higher percentage of the time than any other month this year. But today the kids were out for six hours, three of them on a walk with homeschool friends and then the rest playing out in front of the house with kids from the neighborhood. That takes us to 1,106 hours outside for the year, with one day left to pad our total. I'm thinking next year we might try for 1,111. That sounds interesting, and reachable too!