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farewell, apples

As a follow-up to what I had to say about storage apples last month... After a successful pie for January 1, I thought I'd try one for the beginning of February. No such luck. When I checked this morning four of the apples were still in fair shape, but the other two were half rotted—not horrifying by any means, but not in any shape to use. Oh well. The hens have been stuck inside their coop for a while because of the snow, so I figured they would appreciate the fruit, however imperfect. I made oatmeal raisin cookies instead. Seven months til the next apple harvest.


What is our fascination with ice? It seems like every time we head out on a winter adventure we make it a point to find some ice to explore or play on. Especially this winter, where the snow cover is definitely sub-par. We're thankful for the cold weather the last couple weeks that's let us have some fantastic icy excursions.

Zion and Harvey running on the dark ice of Spy Pond

out on the pond

The children are not fans of ice skating. I can't understand it; to me, there's nothing finer! Maybe they'll work up to it later. For now, there's plenty of fun to be had in just running and sliding. On feet, on knees, on stomachs—the boys have tried it all. They've had plenty of falls too, this and other years, but so far no head injuries. Last week the ice on Spy Pond (pictured above) was as slick as can be, and it was super satisfying to get a good run up and slide for 20 or 30 feet.

We've also been enjoying the ice for exploring. Bedford is a swampy town, so there are lots of spots that are downright inaccessible through the summer. Winter is our time to explore the marshes by our house or the swampland on the edge of the Concord River.

Lijah crossing a patch of clear ice by a stream

carefully now...

And then there's the thrill of exploring on the ice itself. We enjoy being on the water in the summer, so it makes sense that we're excited to visit those same spots on foot in the winter. On Spy Pond Zion was very happy to get to check out, and stand on, a ball buoy he'd barely been able to touch when we canoed by it back in July. And of course, nothing can compare to standing the middle of the Concord River!

Harvey and Lijah on the frozen Concord River

wide open spaces

(OK, so we weren't totally in the middle. But we could have been! Probably. As much as I love the ice, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.)


moments from the week

Lijah on his back sliding on the ice

the joy of ice

Moments and images from the past week.

stacks Pokemon energy cards arranged by color

they finally put me in charge of arranging the energy cards

Harvey and Zion playing in the snow with a puppy

early morning with the neighbor puppy

homeschoolers playing board games in an elegant room at the Lincoln Public Library

homeschool gameday gets classy

Zion sliding on a small cleared patch of ice on a snowy marsh

enjoying his own private rink



Bad weather for sledding this winter at least means fair weather for cycling, and while we aren't doing any recreational rides lately our riding for transportation hasn't slipped at all. What has slipped, though, is bike maintenance. The cargo bike has a rusty chain that grinds some, Zion's bike needs some serious oiling, and Harvey keeps getting after me to fix his brakes. I want to tell him his problems have got nothing on mine! Not on the cargo bike; carrying the precious cargo that is groceries or library books—oh, and Lijah too—I need to be sure of my stopping power. But on my work commuter, that I now ride just once a week, I have no stopping power at all.

It's not so bad: most of my ride is on the bike path, which besides being straight and close to level is also pretty empty in the winter. Not a lot can really go wrong. But the first part of the trip, after I drop the boys off with Grandma, is down a big hill towards a busy street. For the last several weeks—months?—I've found that on the steepest part of the hill, pulling the break lever as far as it can go will keep me from accelerating further, but it won't slow me down—to say nothing of bringing me to a stop. Never mind, that's why I wear boots with thick soles I can drag.

My history of deferred maintenance is a long one. And I haven't come to any serious grief yet! The worst part about the current situation is that I could fix it in just a couple minutes by putting on some new brake pads. I have the technology. But I never think of it until the morning I have to use the bike, and at that point I have no time. I've got to get the kids out the door and get to work! Then by the time I get home—and the ride away from work is all uphill—I'm ready to lay the thing aside and forget about it until next week. Of course, I was clearly thinking about it this evening, so I suppose I could have taken care of the problem... but I thought writing about it would be more interesting. And now it's time for bed. So, another time!

[If you're wondering about the post title, it's from this. Hard to believe I've been reading Bike Snob for 10 years!]


new frontiers in cooking

Yesterday a friend brought over some veggies to contribute to lunch, including a big bunch of scallions—which inspired us to try making scallion pancakes! We used this recipe, roughly, and they came out great. The only issue was we started cooking at 11:30, so while we got the rest of the lunch ready by noon we did not have scallion pancakes til much later. Which was bad only because at that point everyone was stuffed with the other delicious food we had made, so for my part at least eating many pieces of scallion pancake on top of that made me feel rather unwell. They're pretty much just flour and water fried in lots of oil, so kind of heavy.

I tend to get in kind of a rut with my cooking, both because I don't want to put a lot of effort into new recipes when there's a good chance the kids won't like the results, and because I tend not to plan very far ahead (like with the pancakes, see). It's not the end of the world—we have more than seven recipes we know we like, so we're not getting the same thing more than once a week unless we do it on purpose—but on the other hand I don't want to miss all the other good things the world might have to offer in the culinary line.

Not quite at the same level, but this evening I made a potato-and-cheese omelet for supper. That was a new one too. Me and Harvey enjoyed it; Lijah liked the bread and the roasted cauliflower, and Zion liked the bread. In his defense, it was just about right out of the oven, so while in no way ground-breaking it was certainly good. Not everything has to be new and exciting.


moments from the week

a homemade chinese new year dragon parading in our playroom

a visitor for the Lunar New Year

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Zion on their bikes in shorts and short sleeves

warm snap

Harvey and Zion climbing up to a giant erratic boulder

exploring a new woods

Zion away down the path, morning sun shining between tree trunks

morning in our woods

Lijah measuring himself against a Magnetiles building

taller than him!

Lijah, in his orange sweater, leaning out the window of the orange play train at the museum

a study in orange

Harvey and Lijah playing video games with friends

gaming party


who says we never see each other?!

Besides living in the same house, Leah and I also work in the same building—those few hours a week that I work, that is. Originally the thought was that we could go in together and have lunch together and generally spend some time in the same space without the kids around. Almost like a date! But circumstances change, and now even though we're both working Mondays we tend to see each other as little at the workplace as we do at home. But never say never! Today I walked out to my car to head out to lunch-time meeting (for homeschool co-op organization!) at exactly the right time to catch her as she drove in from her own morning meeting. We had a good 45 seconds of solid interpersonal time right there!

(Also we got to hang out for like an hour after the kids went to bed. Don't worry, it's totally fine!)


pink holiday spirit

We don't typically do much for Valentines Day here at our house, but I was feeling it this week. Maybe because we marked it on the calendar back at the beginning of the month. So did the thing almost like they do at school: on Tuesday Zion, Lijah, and I painted some hearts and made a hanging decoration, and yesterday we made cards for Mama. I'm very proud of the fine watercolor work I did on mine, so even though in our conversation last night she told me she doesn't care about cards this morning I gave it to her anyways. She gave me one too. Then I thought it would be nice to do something special for breakfast; heart-shaped pancakes would be the obvious choice, but our pancake day is Friday and it wouldn't do to have pancakes two days in a row. So instead I made heart-shaped toads-in-the-hole (toad-in-the-holes? I'm not sure). Zion was delighted, and arranged the plates for a photo shoot.

heart-shaped toast and eggs

elegant and festive

And... I guess that's all we did. But that's lots more than usual! A good time was had by all. Happy Valentines Day!


moments from the week

Zion and Lijah painting hearts


Moments from the past... two weeks. Oops!

Lijah walking down a slushy/icy sidewalk

getting out and about

Harvey reading Dog Man to brothers and friends

boys with a book

Harvey in pikachu sweatshirt walking on a slope under a bridge

urban exploration

Lijah in a monkey costume standing near a giant stuffed giraffe at a birthday party

animal party mingling

the boys playing on the street, H and Z in shorts and short sleeves

warm and snowy


an effort

A couple weeks ago I had written most of a blog post about our trip to the Discovery Museum, only to have all my work disappear in a computer crash. I'm not a fast writer, and having thought of the best way to phrase everything once I really didn't feel like doing it all again. Especially since I was sure it would be worse the second time. Especially since writing in this blog at all is of dubious worth in the first place, compared to how much time it takes me. So I got a little discouraged.

It's maybe easy to get discouraged homeschooling three boys who are a lot like me. Our discouragements all reflect on each other until none of us is doing anything at all. But since it's on me to break the cycle and inject some energy into things, I need to get going. I want Harvey to work on some writing; I can't ask him to write if I'm not doing it myself! It's not like I don't have things to write about (leaving aside their interest to any potential audience; I try not to think about that!). Maybe one day I'll even have another go at that Discovery Museum post.


weekends are for Pokemon

Harvey and I got back into competitive Pokemon over the last two weekends. We kicked things off back on the 16th with a League Challenge at MIT. The afternoon got off to a shaky start when Harvey left his wallet (and the Charlie Ticket) on the bus on the way there, but things just got better from there. In a small event Harvey and I both finished first—and we both got to beat top-25 players in our age division in the process. It was the first weekend that the Team Up set was legal, and I think Harvey surprised some competitors with the Pikachu-Zekrom deck he brought. (I totally wanted to play it myself, but he gets first pick because he's more competitive than I am, and plus, he pulled the cards.) On the bus ride home we huddled over my phone watching the Juniors finals at the big international event in Australia—where both competitors were playing PikaRom.

The next day saw us in Lexington for a tournament at Omar's. No championship points at stake, but Omar's is now our local shop and we want to show our support! We brought the same decks, and did almost as well: Harvey won again, and I was second in Masters. It was a tiny tournament and my two wins were against Juniors playing not-really-competitive decks—which meant those games weren't as fun as my round one loss against a very good player. I almost pulled it out! The event finished early enough that we contemplated driving to one more tournament, out in Worcester. We could have made it... but in the end we decided to accept an invitation from friends for dinner and a movie at their house. Probably a good call.

This past Sunday saw us in Saugus for another Challenge. This one was much larger: something like eighteen Masters and six Juniors. Harvey had a tough loss in his first game and, even though he won the next two, finished up third. There five rounds in Masters; I started off with two wins then lost my next three in frustrating fashion I'd be happy to recount if you care to listen. It was still super fun, though. My second loss was to Darin O'Meara, fresh off a fine performance in Australia the previous weekend, and he didn't entirely blow me out.

It's nice for Harvey and I to get out together, and win or lose we both really enjoy being part of the scene; all the more so now as we get to know more and more people playing. Plus it's fun going all these places we'd never visit otherwise: imagine, Saugus! We'll be doing it again in Londonderry, New Hampshire this weekend.. wish us luck!

Harvey on a swing at MIT, the setting sun reflecting on the glass wall beyond him

getting some swinging in after playing at MIT


urban outing

We've been sticking close to home on weekdays the last few weeks, so yesterday I thought it was time for a big outing. It's a little cold for hiking; a indoor entertainment in the big city seemed like a safer bet. Of course, there was also a lot of outside time involved. Never mind, we're tough. At least the train was warm.

the boys standing up in an empty subway car

surfing the subway

Being cheap we did some walking to get to the train, stopping by fields and streams on the way and not quite falling into the water of Alewife Brook (Zion always insists on testing the cat ice to prove, yet again, that he is heavier than a cat). Zion and Lijah haven't been on the T in a while so they really enjoyed that part of the trip.

Arriving in Cambridge we went first to the Kemp Playground. Well, we went first to the public restroom that's perched precariously on the intersection where Garden Street meets Mass Ave, where we enjoyed the sight of ice in the toilet bowl. Then the playground, which we had to ourselves for close to an hour of climbing and imaginative play. It's fun being there with lots of other kids, but there's also something to be said for a solo visit.

The main reason I chose Cambridge for a Wednesday visit is that on Wednesday afternoons Massachusetts residents can get into the Harvard Museum of Natural History for free. Since there's no chance I'd ever pay $45 for the four of us to visit, Wednesday is it! There's definitely some interesting stuff there: dinosaur bones were the main draw for us this time, but we also enjoyed the dead animals—especially the animals of the northeastern woodland—and the minerals.

Harvey and Zion looking at minerals in a museum cabinet

shiny things

Lijah also enjoyed that I brought a snack; otherwise he might not have survived the hour-and-a-half we spent in the museum.

Heading back to the train the most direct route took us through Harvard Yard. That was great because it let us enjoy one of the perks of first-class university education: free games and entertainment! (assuming you're not the one paying for your schooling). It was "Winter Fest" outside the Science Center building, and among the offerings were bowling, shuffleboard, and curling. How could we resist?!

the boys playing... shuffleboard? in Harvard Yard

colleges are fun!

Even the train ride towards home was entertaining and educational, as Harvey and Zion explored momentum by jumping while the train was braking. The other passengers were very patient with them.

It was a good time. Plenty of walking, plenty of intellectual stimulation, and a fair bit of adventure. I picked up a Charlie Card at the train station, since we might be doing more urban adventuring soon.


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