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Black history

It's Black History Month. Black history is American history, so we talk about it all year round (those times when we're talking about history, anyways). But it's still nice to have a moment to focus on it even more specifically. I did always wonder why February, though. This year I found out! Here's the story I wrote for the boys this morning:


Black History month began as Negro History Week in 1926. It was promoted by Black historian Carter G. Woodson, who was one of the first people to study the history of Black Americans and the wider African Diaspora (people taken from Africa as slaves, and their descendants). Dr. Woodson wanted more people to think about Black history, and he wanted to counter the romantic stories that white people were writing about how charming life was in the South before the Civil War. He picked the second week in February for Negro History Week because that week has the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Abraham Lincoln wasn't Black, but he was celebrated in Black communities for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation which ended slavery in the South. Frederick Douglass was the first nationally known Black anti-slavery advocate in the 1800s. By 1929 Negro History Week was being taught across the country.

In 1969 Black educators and students at Kent State University proposed expanding Negro History Week to a whole month called Black History Month. The first one was observed in 1970. In 1976, as part of the celebration of 200 years of United States history, President Gerald Ford encouraged all Americans to honor Black History Month and the contributions of Black Americans their country.

Dr. Woodson himself is someone who needs to be recognized as an amazing Black American. He was only the second Black man to get a PhD from Harvard, and is the only person whose parents were slaves to ever get a doctorate there. His achievements were even more amazing because his family was very poor and before he could go to school he needed to work in a coal mine to make money.


After I read it to the boys Elijah asked, "you can make money in a coal mine?" Last week he learned about Mother Jones so he thinks of coal mines as purely exploitative. I think that means Dr. Woodson's story is even more amazing! I look forward to learning, and teaching, more all this month.


almost twos-day

The morning when I wrote the date on the chalkboard—which I do so that every time the boys ask me the date I can tell them to look at the chalkboard—I was delighted to note that today's date is all twos! But when I shared my joy Harvey very correctly pointed out that, to really be a proper Twos-day, it should have fallen on a Tuesday. Of course! Why hadn't I thought of that? Then, instead of doing his journal writing like he was supposed to he calculated that February 22, with even more twos, is in fact going to be a Tuesday. Thrilling! So we'll be celebrating, somehow.

Of course, looking at the internet reveals that countless other people have noticed this wonderful confluence of twos. But we noticed it independently! And it'll be nice to be observing it with people all over the world. I wonder what you bake for a Twos-day?

sledding report

For all that it snowed on Saturday we haven't done very much sledding since the storm. On Sunday the boys played outside for a while but nobody had the energy for any sort of outing. Ditto Tuesday. And today was gross and rainy all day. But we did get out Monday afternoon for a couple hours, and then park day yesterday was all sledding all the time. So maybe six hours in five days? I guess that's not too shabby.

Zion going off a jump on a sled


Conditions weren't best either day, but of course that didn't stop us from having fun! On Monday the snow was still deep and fluffy where it hadn't been packed down over the weekend, but it was warm enough that it was also kind of sticky. Our sleds were all pretty slow, but our friends had a couple that worked fine. And when we made a jump and dug out the run-up so it was basically ice, they did great! And nobody was too badly hurt.

Elijah going off a jump on a sled, and starting to crash

not an optimal launch

Yesterday was positively springlike, so I was worried that our high hopes for sledding down onto the pond—something I've been dreaming about for weeks!—would be dashed. And our first runs were pretty dire. But there was a good crowd of homeschoolers there who were willing to keep trying, and eventually we got things packed down enough that the sleds started to be able to move. Plus we stayed long enough that it started to cool down a little bit, which helped too. Not that we could ever go on the ice, though—not quite. It was so slushy on the pond that, while folks felt confident ice fishing way out in the middle, when the sleds ran off the edge of the beach they went splashing through four or five inches of slush. Of course, we had to do it if we wanted to battle for the distance record, so we were pretty wet by the time we finally headed home.

Zion and Elijah sledding down the hill at park day

picture taken standing right on the shoreline

Will it ever snow again this crazy winter? I hope so! We've got more sledding we want to do!


just-in-time logistics

We've been buying eggs here for a month or two: the hens don't lay in the darkest days of winter. Or hardly at all; and the few eggs we do get generally freeze before we get them. Well, it's February now so it's time to start relying on our home-grown hens again. At least, I relied on them this morning, because I forgot to go out to Chip-In yesterday like I said I was going to and we needed two eggs for the pancakes (pancakes being an absolutely essential part of Friday morning). We did have one left, so I sent Elijah out in the rain to check the nesting boxes and told him that if there wasn't at least one egg there we weren't going to be able to have breakfast. And there was! Pretty good, since I don't think we've gotten one for four or five days. I guess that means we were due!

moments from the week

the boys by the playground at snowy Menotomy Rocks Park

at the park in the snow

Moments from the past week.

Scout in the snow with a snowy muzzle looking at the camera

snow Scout

the boys and a friend walking through deep snow with sleds

migrating to better slopes

Zion and Elijah atop a big pile of snow by the town center building

kings of every hill

Elijah sprawled in a chair at the library reading a book

the library is comfy

kids posing with a giant recumbant snowman they made, pretending to have killed it

giant killers (and creators)

ZIon and a friend sledding down a steep hill in the woods

new sledding, fast sledding


the best park

There are lots of parks and woodlands around eastern Massachusetts; we're really blessed. But maybe none of them have as much concentrated fun as Menotomy Rocks Park, where we spent Saturday morning. We were there because I was co-hosting a playtime gathering for church families, since we hadn't met in person for over a month. It was a tough sell with the chilly weather and there were only a few kids, but that was fine because we had an amazing time anyways!

What makes the park so great is that, in a tiny area compared to some of the woods we frequent, it has a pond, a couple of fields, a playground, and steep hills with lots of paths and lots of rocks. And I think our group made good use of all of them! Sledding was the main attraction: there was just one narrow slope, but it was fast and steep and plenty of fun to keep kids coming back for lots of runs (and without serious injury too, though there were definitely some scary and tearful moments!). The snow surface was amazing over the weekend: compacted frozen snow with a dusting of sleet and then powder on top of it, which left the world looking like a winter wonderland, but one you could walk on top of without sinking in. The best of all worlds! And so great for sledding that you almost didn't need a sled.

We really put that to the test, too, when towards the end of the morning we ventured into the woods a bit to climb some rocks. After we summited successfully I suggested, kind of as a joke, that we slide down a snowy chute between the rocks and see what happened... and then of course I had to actually try it! Then so did the kids. At that point I kind of wished I wasn't, technically, leading a church group, since what we were doing wasn't what you'd call safe. Luckily I was the only one to get badly hurt!

Harvey sliding on the snow between rocks

just a small portion of the slide route

Besides all that sliding, there was also playing on the playground and by the creek, some bold crossings of the frozen pond, and lots of good adult conversation. No snowmen or snowball fights though: you couldn't pick up that snow without a jackhammer! I can see why the homeschool coop that met there a few years ago was a great success. I only wish it were closer to home!


a winter sport or three

My first notice of the Winter Olympics came when someone asked me if I was boycotting because of China's horrible civil rights record and the muzzling of athletes who wanted to talk about it. Since I had no concept of how I could watch any of it even if I wanted to, I said that I supposed I was. But with the idea planted in my brain, I couldn't stop thinking of the seductive appeal of speedskating, freestyle skiing, and curling... even biathalon! So when, in a conversation with Leah, she suggested that it wouldn't be a big deal if we weren't able to find a way to watch it, I... didn't didn't immediately express robust agreement. And then, being amazing at finding out how to do things, she got us hooked up with a free trial of Youtube TV.

So now we can watch all the winter sports we want to, which is of course very exciting. So exciting, in fact, that it beat out Saturday's adventure in all three boys' Monday morning journal writing. I remember my parents borrowing (renting?) a TV in 1988 so we could watch the Summer Olympics in Seoul, and how at 11 I was quite interested in being connected to the world of international sporting competition (though I don't know how much of the sports I actually watch; all I really recall is the opening ceremony). It'll be interesting to see how long, in 2022, our interest will last: there's a lot of kind of boring down time in the broadcasts, and ever so many hours of sports still to come. But for now, even though we deplore China's oppression of minorities and lots of other things, we're on board with watching! But don't worry, we won't give Youtube, or NBC, or anybody else any money for it.

full day

We left the house at 8:40 this morning for our school time with friends followed by park day, which today was three and half hours of sledding on ice and associated activities. We got home at 5:00 just in time to make dinner and get Elijah on a Zoom meeting for Kids Church, then after we ate we had to make some time to watch a little Olympics. The Normal Hill Nordic Combined event was so thrilling the boys had to stay up to watch the finish at 8:15. Yikes. Such a great day, but it's a good thing not every day is like this!

moments from the week

boys playing hockey on ice at the base of the sledding hill

skating on the sledding hill

Moments from the past week.

Zion and Elijah walking in a big puddle

a bit of thaw

Zion doing a Zoom class reclining on sheepskin

Waldorf meets Zoom

the kids in the distance on ice

broad ice horizons

a fire in the fire pit surrounded by snow

warming up the evening

Elijah, barefoot and in shorts, playing with a tennis racket on the street

that time of year


food is love

Zion's friend slept over Sunday night, which was exciting. He's a budding chef and enthusiastic about food, and our boys are always happy to eat, so as they planned it all out breakfast featured prominently. I don't know what we came up with Monday morning was all that they dreamed of, but I think it was fine to start off Valentines Day. There were pancakes and waffles, whipped cream, sliced strawberries and mashed strawberries, maple syrup and chocolate syrup, and scrambled eggs. Plus orange juice, cider, and tea. We all got quite full.

Not that we could even have been that hungry to begin with! For dinner the night before Leah had made BBQ-style chicken (and seitan), mashed potatoes, garlic bread, broccoli, and giant brownies. And we didn't let being stuffed slow us down later in the day when, for school, we made and decorated sugar cookies to go with the leftover brownies and the muffins our friends brought. But dinner, I promise you, was light.


I didn't expect much of the ice at Park Day this afternoon, with the warm weather and then snow since last time we were there. I knew it'd be safe, for sure—it was so thick it'll take weeks to break up—but I certainly didn't anticipate any skating. Well, I was happy to be surprised when there was not only skating, but para-skating!

the boys on skates being pulled by a parachute

the best thing ever!

It took me a long time to get my skates on. First we sledded for a while, until we wore out the tiny bit of snow left on the hill. Then some kids recruited me to walk across the pond with them. We've never done it before, and it seemed like the last chance, so fine (I stamped a 25-foot-wide dog cartoon into the snow in the middle, which I hope some pilots enjoy). Then even after a few kids showed that you could skate even with the inch or so of snow on the ice surface I thought I could still do without. But when that parachute came out and proved, in the strong gusty wind, that it could really move folks across the ice I had to get in on the action!

Sailing is my favorite thing that I never get to do, and this definitely scratched a sailing itch. The best way was to have two people each grab a side of the parachute and, with one hand up and the other down, stretch it to catch the wind. It was exhilarating to skim over the ice, and we hardly crashed at all! I don't know that I'll ever get to para-skate again, but it was very satisfying to add something to my bucket list and cross it off, all in the same hour.

the para-skaters getting ready out on the ice

readying for another run


olympic review

We're done with the Olympics. Even if the events aren't done themselves, we need to cancel our free trial of television over the internet tomorrow morning. I'm definitely glad we could watch for the couple weeks we did, but I'm also glad we don't have TV most of the time. The unskippable commercials are unbearable! And when I can watch TV, it's hard not to sometimes when I'm tired. Now without that temptation I'll have lots more time to surf the internet!

We spent the most time watching curling, since it's fascinating and always on. I think the hockey was my favorite, but hockey games are really too long to fit into my life and I never had any real sense of how the tournament was going. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed snowboard cross and ski cross—I guess seven heats of two minute races for an event is about how long my attention span can handle! And we wished we were able to watch more short track speed skating and cross country. But man were there a lot of options. And now there are fewer in our house, and I think that's a good thing.

weather whiplash

It's been a strange winter, and never stranger than the last few days: from bitter cold to rain to sudden spring. That on top of the icy snow that let us sled and skate on the same field at the same time in not one but two different places! So as you can see I don't mean to complain—we've had tons of fun. And the fun continued today, despite the fact that just as we needed to spend an afternoon outside the mild spring weather of the past two days turned suddenly cold and extremely windy. I wasn't dressed for it! Even in the cold, though, the kids were happy to turn to some activities they haven't done in a while, like wading in the brook and playing baseball. I know that winter still has lots in store for us—and I don't even want it to end yet!—but the sound of running water and the mud under my feet wakened my spring senses enough that I finally put in my seed order. Let's have some more snow and some more delightful thaws and some more wild wind threatening to blow the house down (that's what we've got right now), and then lets have those seeds ready for spring! It's all my favorite.

kids playing baseball on some grass with snow in the foreground

as soon as there's grass

moments from the week

Zion kicking snow into a stream from a bridge

snow and water

Moments from the past week.

the backyard under six inches of snow

just some flurries

decorated cookies on the table

holiday cookies

kids playing dodgeball in our snowy yard

late afternoon entertainment

Zion and Elijah skating on a snowy pond

now they're dedicated skaters and a little snow can't stop them

Zion, Elijah, and a friend playing by a rushing stream

thaw fun

Zion and Elijah sliding on the ice at Fawn Lake

but still ice fun too


a spring outing in winter

Besides planting, feeling the ground under my feet again has got me thinking about biking. So on Saturday the boys and I headed out on an expedition to Fawn Lake, where we met some friends, had a picnic, played tag and hide-and-seek, floated boats in a stream, and generally had a lovely spring-like time of it. While enduring bitter cold and, from halfway through the outing, some kind-of serious snow. I guess you could call late February a transitional period.

Zion and Elijah riding on a muddy bike path in the falling snow

so much fun!

Fawn Lake is a pretty cool place. There are rocks and cliffs to climb and eat lunch on top of, a field for running games, and plenty of signs of beaver activity to admire. At first we were disappointed that we couldn't get onto ice—it was clearly thick enough over most of the pond, but less than cat ice close to the shore—but eventually we made our way to a cove where it was solid right up to the banks, and got our sliding time in (Zion was heard to remark that he wished he brought his skates).

the boys picnicing on the cliff above frozen Fawn Lake

good picnics make good outings

That would have been enough for the kids. But what I wanted on an outing after a giant thaw was to see some running water, so before heading home we took a little side trip to Wilderness Park, where the outflow from Fawn Lake forms a delightful stream rushing over rocks. Even though my stick boat didn't win the race, being by running water was a balm to my soul.

Zion and Elijah playing by a rocky stream

nobody fell in too badly

Of course, going to the stream extended the outing a bit, and as the kids pushed their bikes back up the icy hill out of Wilderness Park in a driving snow squall they were kind of questioning my leadership. Luckily they're strong cyclists, and the fact that the bike path home is mostly downhill made the mud and the snow a little less of an issue. Suffice it to say that we all made it home. Being on bikes again was a mixed experience: as we started out Elijah told me how excited he was to be riding again, and he wondered why we hadn't been cycling more over the past month. A few hours later he was ready to never see a bicycle again. And of course, no matter your energy level winter riding has its challenges.

Elijah lying under his bike on a big patch of ice on the bike path


The younger boys and I were out for four and a half hours (Harvey went home a little earlier because he had an online engagement with a friend). Imagine what we'll be able to do when it's actually spring!


more outside that I can count

When we started our 1,000 Hours Outside challenge in January I kind of assumed that we'd have a tough start, but things would all get easier as the weather warmed up. Well, yesterday was pretty warm—positively spring-like—and we certainly spent plenty of time out of doors. The kids had on shorts, we ate lunch on the deck, there were bike races and basketball and tennis games (tennis with dodge balls is the best!). But how many hours did we log? I have no idea! See, when it's wintery cold we pretty much only went outside in discrete chunks, either for an adventure or to very deliberately play in the yard. The rest of the time we were inside recovering. Now I remember that, when it's warm enough to have the doors open—as they were for a couple hours in the middle of the day yesterday—we're constantly in and out. How should I keep track of that? I'm going to give us three hours for the day, but that's only the bare minimum: it could well have been four. I just can't say for sure. Oh well, those three keep our February average to an even two hours per day so far, so I think we're doing fine!

happy birthday Grandma!

Yesterday we celebrated my mom's birthday with a breakfast feast and a trip to the mall so that Elijah could pick out his birthday present. Ah, the selfless life of a grandparent! (I'll not that my dad did not accompany us to the mall; he's a little less selfless). To make it even worse, we didn't have any presents for her! We will, we will, but we weren't ready in time. The boys did make some nice cards, though, and I made some food. That's my love language. Happy birthday Grandma!

Grandma blowing out a candle stuck in a pile of muffins

you see Elijah blowing along, and Zion pragmatically reaching for a biscuit

water power

Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere where it stayed cold enough all winter that the annual ice breakup in the spring was something people would pay attention to. But there are joys to be found in the crazy up-and-down temperatures of Massachusetts February too. Yesterday morning we took a walk in Lowell in the balmy springlike air, and it was delightfully strange to be wishing I had shorts on while looking down at the ice on the Pawtucket Canal. There was no ice on the Merrimack River, though: any pieces that haven't melted yet have to be all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean by now. There is some flow on that river!

the boys looking down at water roaring over a dam on the Merrimack River

spring tide

It was actually pretty scary standing on that catwalk watching the water roaring under our feet. We don't do a lot of things that would result in near-certain death in case of a slip, but this felt like one of them. I asked the kids how many gallons of water they thought were passing over the dam every second, but it wasn't really a fair question: how could we hope to make any sort of estimate?! (after some research this morning this site suggests it was in the neighborhood of 150,000 gallons per second).

In the afternoon the water at Freeman pond was powerful and dangerous in a different way. There was four to six feet of open water between the shore and the ice, sparkling in the sunshine and rippled with little waves that were well-nigh irresistible to lots of us there. But cold! Because it was ice water. So nobody did more than wading, unless you count the toddler who fell in completely. Harvey challenged all comers to see if anyone could stand in the water longer than him; nobody could, though two people battled him to a bitter (numb) draw. And Zion, Elijah, and a friend made their way on to the ice and ran around on it in their bare feet until I yelled at them to get off. Good times!

the boys wading in icy Freeman Pond

wade in the water

Now today it's back to winter and there's a winter storm warning in effect for tomorrow. Seven to twelve inches of snow forecast. That's fine: we get another day of sledding, and then it all turns into even more water. Spring is coming!


seed schedule

The seeds came in the mail yesterday. It's always an exciting time of year, with the whole growing season in front of us and no big failures or disappointments yet on the books. Not to say, though, that there's no chance of disappointments: every year before I put in the seed order I feel a growing sense of panic that I've left it until too late, that things will be sold out, that they won't get here in time for planting. And every year I feel like I must have just got it in under the wire, way later than I usually do. The plan is always to start thinking about seeds right after Christmas! Well, yesterday afternoon when I opened the box I found a slight mistake with the order—instead of a five-pack of six-cell inserts (H117A) I received five mesh trays (H117)—so I signed on to my account on the website to make sure the mistake wasn't on my end. As I looked at my order history I was just delighted to notice that, despite my impressions to contrary, I put in this year's order at almost the exact same date I do it every year. The last six years: February 19, February 19, February 10, February 21, February 16, February 17. Good to know that I'm consistent in my delay. Does that mean I can be more relaxed about next year, or is ever-increasing stress from mid-January on an essential part of my process?

moments from the week

Zion, in shorts and bare feet, standing on pond ice in front of open water

almost spring time

Moments from the past week.

Zion, Elijah, and a friend playing with toys on our front porch

playing outside

the lock houses on the Pawtucket Canal

touristing at the Pawtucket Canal

our house in the snow

snow day

Elijah sitting in the snow in the woods eating a granola bar

snow hike break time

laundry on the line in the snowy backyard

almost spring time

the dogs running in the snowy yard near sunset

snow dog evening


oh yeah, skiing!

Yesterday afternoon I went on a walk in Landlocked Forest, one of our favorite mountain biking spots in other seasons. We've barely ridden in the last month or two; maybe I was pining for those long-ago days of swooshing down twisty paths on the steep hills of the Bedford-Burlington border. When I got there, though, what I most noticed were the ski tracks all over all the trails, even the hard ones. Why wasn't I doing that?! I've been cross-country skiing, but not for a long time; I forgot that it could be fun, and not just the best exercise you ever could hope for. It's probably too late to take up skis this winter—and I'm happy enough that we got skating—but the boys and I are already planning to add to our winter sports repertoire for next year!

ski tracks going down a hill in the woods

doesn't that look fun?

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