<< December 2021 :: January 2022

moments from the week

kids in the distance on the hill above the airport

post-Christmas outside time

Moments from the past week.

Elijah under the roots of a fallen tree by the brook

riverbank home

the boys looking out at the ice on Freeman Pond

the Park Day ice is almost ready

the boys and a friend sharing a bright lunch

school group party

Elijah making a face with sparkling cider in his mouth

New Years Eve excitement!

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what did we do with the old one?

When the younger two boys got vaccinated the thing they were most looking forward to was the annual New Years Eve party at our friends' house. Which of course we missed last year. Then when the omicron surge got going and there was a chance it might not happen, they were prepared to be crushed. Happily, limiting the party to a core group of friends and having everyone take a rapid test beforehand meant that, never mind the pandemic, we were all able to celebrate the New Year the way it's meant to be celebrated!

Or the way some people mean it to be celebrated anyway... the boys were strongly in favor of staying up until midnight, which I didn't think sounded like a good idea at all. I felt sick and woozy just contemplating it! But with a party that got going at 6:00 I figured we'd have plenty of time for fun and then still get to bed at a reasonable hour. I guess I didn't anticipate how much fun it was going to be!

Fun and food. There were only three families there, including the hosts, but we all felt like creating a festive atmosphere required plenty of food and drink. I made coleslaw, rolls, and a pecan pie, and also brought crackers and dip. Then there was chili, cornbread, chips with a green enchilada dip, caramel popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, oreos, and candy. Oh, and a bowl of baby carrots. Luckily there was an appropriate amount of alchohol to counter some of the sugar flooding my blood and keep me from exploding; I'm not sure how the kids survived.

Actually, I'm not 100% sure how they spent most of the party. The hosts kept them off screens until 6:30, so they got to participate in a couple card games, but then they vanished into the other room to play on a couple Switches and watch some of the old Avatar show. There was also an air hockey table in there so I guess they had the option to move a little bit if they wanted. Me, I didn't move much unless it was too and from the buffet. I just sat at the table and played games: Pit, Dungeon Mayhem, Spit, Pokemon cards, Root, and Regicide. I lost most of them but that doesn't matter; I was still having a great time!

I knew it was getting late, but I was still surprised when I finally checked the time and saw it was just past 11. Awareness of the hour sent my body into shutdown mode, and I barely managed to collect the boys and say a polite goodbye before stumbling out the door. All three boys had been advocating that we stay up til midnight, so when we got home at 11:30 they felt that we were so close we might as well wait up that last half hour! Plus they wanted to hear stories. I knew, though, that if I didn't get myself into bed instantly I might die, so I declined. Of course, I told them they could stay up as long as they wanted! Tucked in their beds Harvey and Elijah fell instantly to sleep—as did I—but Zion, our king of willpower, held on til the bitter end. Though, as he reported in the morning, he was a little disappointed to miss the precise turning of the year: he looked at his watch at 11:57, then blinked and it was 12:03.

All that excitement was pretty hard on us! We took a walk in the afternoon on New Years Day and Elijah, who began it full of joy and energy, was in a grumpy sulk before we got back to the car. Back at home he unspeakingly ran himself a bath and soaked for a while, then came downstairs in his bathrobe and promptly fell asleep on the couch for two hours. Yes, it was hard work but worthy work: this New Year was properly celebrated.

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five out of a thousand

Harvey and Elijah looking out at a frozen pond

great outdoors

The best kind of New Years Resolutions to make are ones for other people. This year I resolved that my children—and me too!—would spend 1,000 hours outside over the course of the year. At a minimum. 1,000 Hours Outside is a thing; ironically, I heard about it on Facebook (which I barely ever look at, honest!) but it seems like solid motivation to get out and moving. And sometimes it's fun to do things other people are doing too. Of course, there's an argument to be made that midwinter isn't the best time to kick off this sort of challenge—but on the other hand, now's the time when we need some pressure to keep us from settling into too cozy a hibernation!

We kicked off the hours with a whole-family walk at Fairhaven Bay on Saturday afternoon. It was gray, damp cool, and drizzly: just the weather to make you love being outside. There was some dissension in the ranks as to how far we should try to walk, but in the end the compromise of about an hour and a half out was about right. Elijah really wanted to go farther, though, so he was pretty grumpy after we turned back towards the car. He stayed grumpy all the way home then stomped upstairs without talking to anyone, ran himself a bath, then came downstairs in his bathrobe and fell asleep on the couch for two hours. After that he was the liveliest and cheeriest of all of us!

me and boys pausing for a rest and water in the woods

everybody was having fun, I promise

Yesterday we took a walk with friends up to the center of town, where we played on the playground and skate park. Some of us discovered that it's possible to slide down the halfpipe head first on your back! Thrilling. We also visited the library. Then today I tortuously manipulated our errand route to take us by Mount Misery in Lincoln, where Harvey, Elijah and I—Zion was home with a stomach ache—enjoyed walking up and down the hills, across logs over streams and ditches, and, tentatively, onto the brand-new ice. It's finally gotten cold! It's been a while since we walked at Mount Misery; in fact, we haven't since our first visit back in late summer of '20. It was so dry then that the streams were basically gone, but we saw the bridges and wished we could enjoy the water. We enjoyed it today!

Elijah crossing a log over a stream

but be careful not to experience it too directly

With four days down in the year we're at five hours outside. Well under the two and three-quarters a day needed to hit 1,000, but it's early days. Cold and wet days, too; things'll be different in the summer. And not only are we doing better than some other folks I know doing the challenge, we're having fun too!

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concluding the season

We said farewell to Christmas this evening, helped along by a beautiful Godly Play at Home Epiphany story that Elijah got to participate in over Zoom. We took down the tree; it was just as quick putting away all the decorations as it was getting them up a month ago. We'll miss it tomorrow morning—those lights really are the best—but it's also nice to have our school room table back (putting up a tree in our little house requires some compromises with the furniture). Of course, since we don't do king cakes or anything like that the real end-of-Christmas excitement for the boys comes from the ritual dismemberment of the gingerbread houses!

Harvey starting to take apart his gingerbread house

get that roof off

Like with the tree it's a little sad to see them go—such lovely decorations, and mine was my best in years—but now we have some shelf space back. Plus people sitting in that spot are no longer tormented by the smell of delicious candy and gingerbread, which is fine. And now we get to enjoy it in a more direct fashion. Our dessert plans for the next week or so are set!

Zion and Elijah eating their gingerbread houses

munch munch

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the return

I was looking through old blog posts the other day trying to find out the last time we went to Mount Misery and I came across one from June of 2020 where I suggested the pandemic might be drawing to a close. Hah! In my defense, it's hard to remember those early days when we washed our hands—and changed our clothes!—whenever we came inside, when streets were empty, and when we tried to only go to the grocery store every two weeks. For sure, compared to that summer 2020 was a return to a semblance of normality—normality with masks—and even when cases were up again in the winter we had mechanisms in place to see other people and generally live our lives. And go to stores, because that's what we do in the USA. We didn't ever forget about Covid, really, but we weren't living in constant fear.

And now we kind of are, again! In the week between Christmas and New Year Bedford saw, I'm pretty sure, more than double the number of new cases than we had in any week previous. In-person Kids Church was cancelled last weekend, and now all of our services are going remote for the next two weeks (the "at least" doesn't need to be said out loud). And everybody knows someone who's gotten it. And yet, when I stopped by the grocery store this afternoon on my way home from a restorative bike ride, the place was packed. Shouldn't people be more afraid?! Or maybe they actually were, because I sure was and I still waited in line to get my giant box of spinach and my potatoes and my soyrizo. But we might not go again for a little while, and certainly not every day. It kind of feels like a real pandemic again! I wonder what will happen next?

snow day

Today we saw our first real snow of the winter. It started overnight and there was easily three inches on the ground by first light, but the boys didn't even realize it right away. We're so used to just getting a dusting at a time. At breakfast they noticed that it was piling up on the outside table—maybe four inches by then—and somebody said, "wait, it's really snowing!" Yes indeed. Leah, who had already been out with the dogs, could have told them that! We had a little work to do before they could go out and play in it but when a neighbor friend rang the bell at around 9, there was no holding them back. They spent the next three hours roaming the snowy streets, shoving snow in each others' faces (and each others' faces in the snow), and, in Elijah's case, working hard to make a snow fort.

Elijah sitting in a tiny snow fort in the falling snow

snow is to dig

I made them a hot lunch in acknowledgement of all their hard playing, and then after lunch we spent some time in that other great snow-day occupation: board gaming. By the time we finished the game (Harvey won, as usual) the snow had stopped falling despite some people's gear being quite wet we pulled the sleds out from the basement, got dressed again, and headed out to go sledding. Despite the kind of late start and the distance we drove to be able to sled with friends on the slopes of the golf course conveniently located across the street from the their house, we made the most of the remains of the day and got a great many runs in before it was too dark to see where the bumps were. It feels like we've waited quite a while for a real snowy day, and when we got it we were ready to enjoy it to the fullest. Plus it gave us five more hours to add to our total!

the boys and friends pausing at the top of a sledding hill at dusk

snow day is done

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moments from the week

kids on the sledding hill in late afternoon light

sledding life

Moments from the past week.

scones with glaze and almonds on top on the table

I made a thing

Elijah sitting in a tree above a frozen pond

above the ice

Zion with his bridge made of popsicle sticks

engineering play

Zion and Elijah walking on water-looking ice on a misty pond

a mistical moment

the kids walking outside in the snow

snow day chilling

Harvey and Zion looking at the Ticket To Ride board on the coffee table

time to play trains

the puppies in the back of the van after a walk with icy chins

dogs love snow

Harvey standing on the top of the sledding hill at sunset

ending an outside day

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board games new and old

We played a lot of board games this past weekend. Or a lot of hours of board games at least; many of those hours were occupied playing Root, which I gave Harvey for Christmas. I've heard it described as "Risk meets Redwall", which means that we get to play as cute forest creatures—cats and birds and bunnies—battling for control of the forest. The real draw of the game, though, is that each faction has different goals and even game mechanics, so when you learn to play one it's still like figuring out a whole new game to pick up another one. Lots of replay value there! And if we ever get bored of the base game, there are (of course) expansions to buy, that add yet more factions. We're sorely tempted already, but at the moment the budget does not allow.

Of course, with new games coming in our game shelf gets more and more crowded, and a few days ago I took some time to neaten it up a bit and pull out all the games I don't see anyone playing anytime soon. It was mostly the little kid games that didn't make the cut, and I was sad to see them go. How much fun we had playing Snail's Pace Race, and Pengoloo, and the Ravensberger 4 First Games! You can bet that I didn't get rid of them; they're safe down in the basement in case we ever want a little shot of nostalgia. Just like with the adventures, sometimes I miss those simpler days of hanging out with small people. Of course, if they were still small who would play Root with me?! These days are pretty good too. Especially since on Saturday, after ten or twelve games since Christmas, I finally won for the first time!

how are my children like the young Alexander Hamilton?

Yesterday morning Elijah asked me if we were having potatoes with breakfast. No, I told him. He asked what we were having and I said french toast. "What else?" he asked. When he heard it was just the french toast he wandered away looking disappointed. Standards are high around here! Despite the lack of potatoes yesterday it was kind of a busy baking day, actually; even if you don't count the french toast I made biscuits, wheat bread, sourdough bread, and brownies. And soup for supper. The biscuits also were not universally appreciated. During our school time with friends I said I was going to go make a snack and Harvey was excited for a second, then suspiciously inquired if it was going to be sourdough biscuits; clearly that's been our school snack too many times for his liking. Whether or not they were as exciting as everyone could want biscuits just out of the oven with butter and jam must have been fine, because five kids (six if you count the baby, who does actually eat now) finished them all in pretty short order. So I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing!

blogging is like a full-time job!

I'm trying to get all the pictures together for my annual photo recap post, but I keep running into the problem of all the times this year when I left gaps in the record. If I hadn't intended to ever fill those gaps, it wouldn't matter at all; sometimes the blog here just isn't a priority and that's ok. But in February 2021 and again in November I had many half-finished posts that I fully intended—still intend, sometimes!—to finish at some point, and some of them include photos. Plus there's the last day of camping I never wrote about (failing to finish the camping write-up is actually a disappointing theme in this blog, actually). I've been filling in November the last couple days, and it's a lot of work—I see why I didn't manage to do it when it actually was November! Oh well, I'm sure it'll all be worth it some day.

our ice expertise

We've had some icy adventures the last few days. Yesterday's park day saw its fair share of sledding, but the snow was really too thin for sustained fun so it was the ice that really held everyone's interest. It was a solid as you could wish for—well, as I could wish for, anyway. Plenty of other parents were a little nervous, so I did my best to reassure them. My line of reasoning was that once a big section of pond is frozen to any depth, to the point that it doesn't move or squish when you step on it, its failure mode becomes much less obvious. Nobody's going to "fall through" at that point, unless they find a weak spot, and I checked before the free-for-all began to make sure there weren't any near the beach. And we weren't totally reckless: I bet we could have ventured pretty far out, but to the disappointment of a couple kids we kept them within 20 yards of the shore. Where, I must say, there was still plenty of fun to be had.

kids playing on the ice

new vistas of delight

So nobody got wet, like the last two weeks. But don't worry, we had our ice-tastrophe for the week a little earlier, on Tuesday, when on a walk at October Farm Riverfront in the beautiful 12° weather Zion stomped through the ice next to the river and got wet up to his knee. No real harm done, of course, except we had to cut our walk short, which made Elijah very grumpy. Even with the quick retreat to the car Zion's pant leg froze completely solid before we got the heater on it, which was pretty cool!

I think it was actually my stories of all the times that I and the children in my care did fall through the ice that convinced some of the other parents that the park day ice wasn't as dangerous as they thought. Clearly, we've had vast experience and must know what we're talking about! So eventually everyone let their kids venture out and they all slid around on feet, tummies, sleds, a snow skate, and in the case of one prepared family actual ice skates! It could only have been better if we'd had hot chocolate, and if there wasn't a thin layer of sticky snow on the part of the ice we allowed the kids to play on. We did manage to scrape some of it off, though a shovel would have made it easier; but in the absence of anything designed for the purpose the big kids were happy to use Elijah as a sweeping tool!

two big kids dragging Elijah by the legs on the ice

he's happy to do his part

We all hope it stays cold, and also snows, so we can play on the ice more next week and also sled down the hill behind the beach way out onto the ice. I'm checking the weather forecast a couple times a day now...

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pandemic calcium

I've written before about strange shortages resulting from the pandemic, and now with the omicron we're into shortage time again. Or supply chain disruption, at least. Over the last week our family's been disrupted out of salad greens and pasta, but what's been the hardest to cope with—and lasted the longest—has been the lack of regular orange juice at Market Basket. We prefer the kind with pulp, and it's been completely absent for at least three weeks now. Initially we were able to sub in the regular pulp-free kind, but before long even that was gone and all that was left was pulp-free with added calcium. So that's what we've been drinking the last two weeks. (I guess the calcium from the orange juice can fill in for what we're missing in not having salad greens? There's certainly no shortage of milk in our house, ever.)

What I wonder most about the whole situation is, why is there so much calcium-added juice available? What strange twists of the supply chains allowed it to be supplied when other, more palatable orange juices couldn't be? Or is it that the people who like calcium in their juice are also the people who are afraid to shop during pandemic peaks, and other regular orange juice drinkers are pickier than we are about substitutions (or less desperate)? I have no idea. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

moments from the week

the boys on the ice at Freeman Pond under lots of lumpy overcast sky

big ice, big sky

Moments from the past icy week.

Elijah in a cardboard mask

mask project

Elijah posing on the ice of the horse trough

the closest ice to our house

the boys kicking a flat yoga ball in the snowy yard

games when you need hours outside

the boys and dogs on ice at October Farm

coldest day ice

Elijah working on a hairdresser's practice head at the library

the library has all kinds of things to play with

Elijah riding his bike on the ice at the reservoir

it's harder than it looks!

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<< December 2021 :: January 2022