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water babies

The boys have spent a lot of time in the water the last few days. Monday, of course, it was nearly four hours in the pool. Yesterday was cooler, but we brought the bikes to Walden and rode trails for an hour or so until they were warmed up and ready for an hour or two in the pond. Today for park day I had no anticipation of swimming at all, with the temperature in the 60s and rain in the forecast. Of course, I should have known better! Good thing the swimsuits were still in the car.

Elijah wading into Freeman Lake in the rain

just swimming in the rain

Zion's and Elijah's, anyway, even though I suggested they bring them inside where they could dry (Harvey is a better listener). And when we got to the park I requested they stay away from the water; even though we had dry clothes, other families did not. But then it started raining, and we all got pretty wet anyways. And a few kids changed and went in, and reported delightedly that the water was warm: way warmer than the air! While we parents worried a bit about what would happen when they came out, it seemed cruel to deny them the opportunity to try.

Not everyone went in; some of the kids, far from having swimsuits, were wearing long pants and hadn't brought dry clothes. A few of them were pretty unhappy about it. But there were other fun things to do besides swimming, like directing the course of the streams that were flowing down the hill across the beach. And in the end, everyone got wet, either in the lake or in the rain. So we all learned a valuable lesson: when you're going to be by the water, bring a swimsuit. And a towel, definitely a towel too.


spectator sport

Zion is interested in baseball. Not enough to want to join a team—or rather, his interest in baseball is outweighed by his lack of interest in participating in organized activities—but he and I have had lots of fun playing catch since he got his new mitt for his birthday. We're throwing that hardball hard! So when I let him know that the Lexington Blue Sox season was starting up June 1 he was thrilled to hear that we could go to a game. How about opening day?! Unfortunately, the opening day yesterday was rained out (I don't know how the players felt about it, but two boys at my house were very disappointed!). But that just meant that tonight was opening day instead, so at 7:30—when we'd usually be doing bedtime!—Zion, Elijah and I headed to Lexington to be sports fans.

Zion and Elijah sleepily watching baseball from aluminium bleachers

night game

We aren't usually, you know. I don't think any of the boys have been to more than two sporting events where they don't know anyone playing. So we were excited to see that Lexington on a Thursday evening plays host to a wide variety of sporting contests and practices. In the few minutes before the baseball started we were able to take in some soccer, softball, and even cricket! Unfortunately there wasn't anyone on the skate park. Not many people in the stands for the Blue Sox either; I kind of expected a crowd, but never mind, we had our pick of seats in the tiny bleachers. Not that the boys stayed there long: after an inning of attention they left to watch the game in between bouts of active play. Which makes sense! How can you watch those skilled athletes at work without wanting to get in there with some athletics yourself?

And they sure were good. My favorite was watching the throws all the way across the diamond from third to first, like laser beams. Way harder than me and Zion throw! Zion liked that the catcher could throw to second from his knees. This hitting was fun too, starting with a solo home run in the first inning. That fence is far away! The Blue Sox dominated, scoring 11 in the first four innings; we had to leave then since it was way past my bedtime, but no worries because that was all the scoring they did so we didn't miss anything exciting. The Bulldogs got one run in the eighth, but that was it. The Blue Sox have been the league champions the last two or three years, and it looks like they might be on the road to another title. And we were there at the start!


a joyful occasion

Today is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Seems like a big deal! The boys calculated that means she's been married for two-thirds of her life; for my dad it's even a bit longer, since he married young. We got the celebrations off to a good start this evening with a cookout at our house for the honored couple and my brother and his family (the main attraction for the boys was playing with their cousins, who they haven't seen since last summer). Then the real party comes tomorrow afternoon: my mom's been planning it for months, and it's going to be the most elegant affair of the season. Fun too, because I'm in charge of games for all the kids. I'm already tired.

moments from the week

Elijah running across a little stream on stepping stones

running stepping stones

Moments from the past week.

the boys and a friend having fun singing at church

kids come to big church

the boys eating rolls at the Farmers Market

opening day at the market

Freeman Lake in the rain, with some kids swimming and others playing on the beach

rainy day lake

Blue sitting on a trail watching Zion, Elijah, and Scout running up

adventuring with dogs

grandparents and cousins around our picnic table with lots of food

family cookout

kids playing dodgeball

anniversary party entertainment


outdoor birds

The chicks are growing up. We've been weighing and drawing them every Monday, and today we did it for maybe the last time—it was almost impossible to keep them on the scale. They've got real feathers and tails and everything, and it's about time for them to be living outside. Our brooder is very small, and as rambunctious young things they need to be moving around way more than they're able to when stuck inside it. So yesterday I fixed them up a little mini run, and closed the "chick coop" off from the main coop so that they could have a place to hang out without being bothered by the main hens. I finished that all up at about 4, and brought them out thinking that I'd leave them to make their home there overnight. But as the temperature dipped into the 50s and I heard their concerned cheeping drifting in the windows I felt sorry for them and, as dark fell, bundled them back into the brooder for one more night indoors. Today they were out first thing in the morning, and it's supposed to be a lot warmer, so I'm leaving them no matter how hard they cheep. They'll get used to it, right?

pollen nation

The last few days everybody's been talking about the pollen. I don't know that it's been worse than any other year, but for sure there's a lot of it; and a few days ago there were "massive pollen clouds sweep[ing] through Massachusetts", which is something you kind of notice. Some people are keeping all their windows closed, but we can't do that. Sure, yesterday I could write my name in the pollen on the kitchen table, but the fresh air is worth the price. None of us are allergic, necessarily, but with as much pollen as there is we've been sneezing and coughing just from all the particles assailing noses and throats. The news keeps saying that the season of visible pollen is about over, but last night with the fan on there was enough that it was keeping me awake in the middle of the night, I know you have to reproduce, plants, but could you please do it without involving the rest of us quite as much?

these kids can swim

A fun thing about parenting is seeing the kids grow and develop, and a fun thing about being kind of unschooly is getting to be surprised by some of that progress! Like, now that it's turned conclusively summery, I can see that I don't have to worry nearly as much as I did at the beginning of last summer about any of the boys drowning if they fall into deep water. Harvey was already totally there, of course, but I don't remember Zion being such a confident swimmer out of his depth without a life jacket. Now he doesn't seem to have any concerns. And while Elijah isn't going to be swimming across the lake any time soon he's very interested in jumping out of the boat into water just a little bit over his head. And, comfortable splashing around with the big kids.

Elijah swimming, goggles pushed up on his head

yay water!

Of course, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Elijah is so dense he hardly floats, so he needs to work some on his technique. And none of them swim as well as their cousin, who's on a swim team, or Elijah's friend who at seven is such a natural in the water she looks like a seal as she flips and dives. But they're in great shape to enjoy a summer in the water! And six hours of swimming over the past two days seems like a good start.


hardly hearing

The weather was perfect for swimming yesterday, and of course I spent a lot of time in the water. Under the water, even. Super fun! But the problem is that every time I swim I get water in my ears and the water does something to block them up. So now I can't hear out of one ear. I was going to write "I'm suffering a bit because..." but then, on reflection, I realized that wasn't entirely true: I'm actually not minding it that much. Sure, it's annoying to not be able to have a conversation with Leah unless I've got my good ear turned towards her. But so much of my time is spent with children who produce a constant stream of noise, so it's actually not the worst thing to have it abstracted away a little bit. At least for now. If it lasts any time I might start to get frustrated. Plus there's the concern that it will happen again next time I go in the water. Which for sure I will this summer! Swimming is the best.

me time

Yesterday I went to Market Basket by myself while the kids were with their grandparents. I was dreading it ahead of time—there are lots of times when getting out to engage in commerce seems really hard—but when I got there and got the first few things into the cart I actually started to slow down and decompress. Was it the change of scenery? Was it that, even with all the people crowding the aisles, I knew that none of them was going to ask me for anything? I don't know, but I have to report that I had a delightful time calmly perusing the shelves and thinking about what I'd like to make in the week to come. And I wasn't even stressed about making sure I got everything, because as lovely as it was I'd be happy to come again soon!

moments from the week

kids swimming way out in the water at Freeman Lake

open water swimming

Moments from the past week.

Zion sketching on a clipboard in the yard

farm school

Zion, Elijah, and a friend in the little pool on our deck

swimming right at home

Elijah with a guinia pig on his lap

g-pig visit

Harvey in the water at Walden Pond, Zion and Nisia paddling the canoe

boat and swim with cousin

Elijah jumping out of the canoe

boat jumping


doing things all the time

Every little while I have to write about being overwhelmed. Because I often am. Right now it's feeling like we do so many awesome things, but as awesome as they are they don't leave time either for relaxation or for getting things done around the house. And then when I am home with time to do things I'm either too exhausted or too... well, overwhelmed to be really effective. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we do school with friends in the mornings; Wednesday and Friday at other people's houses. Monday afternoon is Backyard Farm Club, and Wednesday afternoon is Park Day (on Wednesdays we're usually out of the house from 8:30 to 5). Thursdays the boys go to their grandparents' houses and I try and get my paid work done. Tuesdays are "open" to do outings or go to the library, but it's a real challenge to do both—and now the farmers market is started for the season so we try and get there at least every other week. Oh, and we still have our two regular group meetings, every Tuesday and Friday evening. Maybe other people do more than that, but it's feeling like a lot to me.

fly season

With summer comes bugs. It's been so dry for the last few weeks that there are barely any mosquitos, but other bugs are out in force. I was delighted the other day to see the first fireflies in the bushes round the edges of our yard: even as old as I am they're still magical. We experience the magic more later in the summer—right now we all hope to be in bed by the time they start lighting things up—but it's still a wonderful sign of summer that they're out.

Less wonderful is the sudden appearance of the deer flies in many of the woods where we like to walk. I don't know if there are ever baby deer flies, but starting at the end of last week the world seems full of hungry adult specimens. Happily, while I used to be very nervous of them—we've had some terrifying encounters with aggressive swarms on Cape Cod—I've now discovered the secret method for walking in deer fly territory without being bothered: wear a hat. And maybe a shirt with a higher collar. For me, at least, that's all that it takes. They always go for the head, which means that without a hat even when they're not biting me they're driving me crazy by bouncing off my hair. I hardly notice them when I'm wearing a cap. Too bad for the dogs though: the flies are driving them to distraction. The other day I tried to take a picture of them rolling and snapping at the cloud all around them:

Scout biting at his leg in the woods

you can't see the flies in this picture, but Scout knew they were there

A lot of people freak out about bugs. I for sure know folks who hesitate to venture off the sidewalks for fear of ticks, and of course you see plenty of those little signs showing that a yard has been poisoned by Mosquito Squad. Bedford sprays wetland areas a couple times of year to control mosquitos, in hopes of preventing mosquito-borne diseases. At least that's the official justification; it could just be that people don't like mosquitos. I'll definitely slap a mosquito if it's nearby, and I totally understand the public health concerns around EEE outbreaks (thank goodness we don't have malaria to worry about!) but I wish we could find more targeted solutions so we could chill on the spraying. That spray kills the fireflies too!


the garden in mid June

the garden on June 15

who left that shovel on the ground?!

I can't believe I forgot to do a garden update at the beginning of June! The garden changed more between May 15 and June 1 than all of March through mid-May put together! Oh well, now the comparison with the last update is even more stark. All the beds are filled now, and tomato and pepper plants are growing well (the beans would be too if the baby rabbits would stop nibbling them). We've let the asparagus go, after eating as much as we ever wanted. The strawberries are disappointing—and frustrating!—but it looks like raspberries and blueberries are going to be great. And it's so exciting to look at the baby peas, zucchinis, and tomatoes!

Super Sugar Snap peas stretching five feet high on their trellis

much bigger than last time, and almost ready!

closeup of a small zucchini

baby one


a celebration of strawberries

It's that time of year again: Strawberry season! We actually ate up our own meager crop a little while ago, but for the real players the harvest is coming in heavy now. And at the Congregational Church in town they know how to celebrate! The boys have been excited for the annual Strawberry Festival for over a week (we had some idea it might be last Thursday, so we were thinking about it early) and this evening we finally got to experience all the anticipated thrills. Well actually, in some cases the thrills didn't live up to the anticipation: the strawberry shortcake was great, but Elijah wished he could have more chocolate.

See, the way it works is that the offerings include mashed strawberries (with sugar or without), biscuit, whipped cream, ice cream (vanilla only) and hot fudge sauce. Any three is five dollars, more than three is seven. The past two or three festivals Lijah has chosen to have ONLY the hot fudge, and last year he made out like a bandit when they gave him a nearly full bowl and then didn't even charge us for it! This year, as befits a growing-up boy, he thought he'd try strawberries and whipped cream with his chocolate; and it was fine but he wanted more chocolate. So with his own money—naturally I paid for the first round—he went and stood in line again and ordered just hot fudge sauce. They charged him the $5 and gave him a meager spoonful that would have been disappointing on top of ice cream, so it was hard for him to recover the rest of the evening.

Still, there we were among the happy crowd on a beautiful midsummer evening, listening to a very talented young person sing and play acoustic guitar... so it was hard to be too upset. And now we're ready to start anticipating for next year.

connecting with literature

As the "school year" winds to a close I'm leading a book group for the smallest kids in our bubble school. It's mainly because all their older siblings are doing book groups, so one of them at least requested that the first- and second-graders get one too. We're happy to oblige! Other adults led them through Dragons and Marshmallows and Catwings earlier this year; now I'm taking a turn with Betsy and Tacy. Of course, the main feature of a book group is that the kids do activities related to the text, so I need to satisfy that requirement. I think I'm doing ok: last week we cut out and colored paper dolls, which was super fun, and this week we went even bigger with a project to make colored sand.

jars filled with stripes of colored sand sitting in front of ferns

the finshed product

In the story Betsy and Tacy are playing with leftover builders' sand, and realize that they can color it with the dyes that Betsy saved after dying Easter eggs. Then they sell the jars they filled with colored sand. That sounded like something the kids could do and enjoy! Naturally, I didn't try it ahead of time to make sure it worked, but I did supply food coloring and play sand and a number of jars. And it came together pretty well! We mixed the colors in a jar, added sand til there was so extra liquid, stirred it up, then poured it out onto pieces of cardboard to dry in the sun. Betsy and Tacy made their sand in early May and it took hours to dry; with a little bit of stirring under the mid-June sun ours was ready in about an hour, and we poured each color into a cup of its own. Then with a funnel the kids laid in stripes into the vessels of their choice.

Elijah and friends sitting on a driveway making colored sand

hard at work

They were very excited about the selling part of the project until they saw how nice their jars came out. Despite all the work and starting with plenty of sand we only ended up with enough good colors for each kid to make one jar, and they couldn't bear to part with them. But they were inspired by another bit in the story to make calling cards and drop them in all the neighbors' mailboxes, so they were able to scratch their awkward-interactions-with-unfamiliar-adults itch another way. Though actually, they didn't see anyone as they dropped off their cards. I wonder what people will think next time they check their mail? Maybe the kids could have left flyers for a colored sand sale... we could make more next time!

my hand spotted with different splotches of food coloring

we colored skin too!


moments from the week

boys reclining on grass with bikes

bike rest

Moments from the past week.

shirtless Zion and Elijah playing run the bases in the yard

running the bases

a crowd of homeschool kids and parents at Freeman Lake

the park day beach scene

Elijah making colored sand wearing a top hat

sand coloring in his visiting outfit

Zion eating pizza at a birthday party at the paintball range

pizza and guns

Harvey and Zion picking wildflowers in a meadow

gathering flowers while they may

Elijah toasting a hotdog over a fire

solstice fire hot dog


happy birthday Harvey!

Harvey turned 13 today. Amazing! He is not yet invested in the idea of being a teenager, though; he doesn't feel that he has changed in any way. Fair. Unfortunately we don't feel organized enough to celebrate him properly: on Saturday, when his party might have been, we had two other birthday parties and a solstice party to attend (or at least drive to). And the problem with a midsummer birthday is that his friends are all traveling. So while his grandparents have made him cakes and showered him with gifts, his immediate family is definitely falling down on the job. We'll make it up to you, Harvey!

midsummer delights

While we do like to celebrate the solstice, we've never managed to throw a bash as big as the summer solstice deserves. There's always too much else going on. So this year I was delighted to be invited to a party hosted by a friend from Latvia, where they know how do do solstices right!

a child in a solstice crown of flowers, and me playing guitar

now that's a party

We met these friends in the fall—they're part of our park day group—but we've never been to their house. Mainly because it's a million miles away, all the way out west in Dunstable. But that means they have plenty of yard to run and play in, and also that they live near a beautiful meadow where we started the party picking flowers to make into solstice crowns.

Zion holding a big bouquet of wildflowers in front of a waterlily pond

midsummer child

Once we all had several armfuls we went to their house, where we sat around a fire and ate for the next six hours or so. Well, I guess we didn't sit the whole time. They have a trampoline and there was a bounce house, so the kids got lots of exercise (I may have taken a bounce or two myself). We helped a stray duck get back into her run. We played some music. I got a little less horrible walking on a slackline. Some of the kids made a seesaw. It was a fun time! Oh, and I jumped over the fire.

me blurily jumping over a fire

somebody has to do it

In Latvia, we hear, sunset on the solstice is at around 11:30. That's why they need strong solstice traditions, like the crowns and the solstice cheese pictured below. We didn't last that long, but it was still starting to get dark as we finally pulled ourselves away at quarter to nine. Good party! I hope they'll invite us again next year.

a cutting board beautifully laid with cheese, crackers, flowers, and oak leaves

solstice board


a new source for strawberries

If it's time to celebrate strawberries, it must be time to pick them too! Only, we're down on Parlee Farms, where we've picked for the last, oh I don't know, 15 years. Too much of a farm-themed amusement park now. So we had to find another place. Happily, a friend told us about Farmer Dave's in Dracut, and even better invited us out there to pick together! It was lovely.

the boys in the strawberry fields at Farmer Dave's

perfect picking weather

Farmer Dave's is clearly growing, and I wouldn't rule out them reaching Parlee levels of horror at some point in the next ten years. But for now the farm is perfect—for us, at least. The farmers who directed us to the strawberry fields were very apologetic about the smallness of the berries, and the weeds, but when we got out there the picking was fine. Great, even! We filled the ten pints we'd asked for initially and went back for six more. The kids were great helpers for the first two thirds of the picking, then they started fading; but that was fine, because that freed them up to watch the toddler in the group over at the playground the farm has recently added.

Elijah standing in front of giant butterfly wings being a butterfly

with butterfly wings

The berries were expensive, of course, but unlike Parlee Farmer Dave's takes food stamps and HIP, so that helped. And even if they hadn't, it would have felt worth it. Supporting a small farm, getting spray-free local berries... seems good! And just think of all the jam we'll make!

16 pints of strawberries in the trunk of our car

the haul


jumping off boats

Over the last month or so we've been doing a lot of swimming and a lot of boating. So it's only natural that the boys combine the two activities in the most delightful way possible.

Elijah jumping out of the canoe

living his best life

Over the course of the month they've really been working on their boat jumping game. These pictures are all of Elijah, because I managed the best ones of him, but the others are getting into it too. Back at the beginning of the month they were doing it with their cousin.

Elijah jumping out of the canoe, with Harvey holding it

the other kids jumped too, I just got the best pictures of Elijah

Lately we've taken to using the sailboard, an easier platform for launching. Elijah is working on flips.

Elijah upside-down, jumping off the sailboard

good thing he's learning how to swim!

Who needs a diving board?!


moments from the week

the boys and friends atop a big grafitti'd stone bridge arch in the woods

this walk has everything!

Harvey blowing out the 1 and 3 candles at his cake at Grandma's house

classy cake for a new teenager!

Elijah playing Guess Who at the therapy office

at the speech therapy office

Zion sliding down a piece of fitness trail equipment

sliding on the fitness trail

Elijah picking strawberries in a weedy row

there's lots of good ones under those weeds

Harvey mowing the lawn with the electric mower

Harvey's new favorite job


pokemon again

Not playing competitive Pokemon for the last few years left us with some time to do other fun things, but when we hear that there's a chance to play again that doesn't matter: we need to be back in it! The only problem is that, since we weren't playing, we've barely gotten any new cards for the past couple years! Not being collectors, we only either buy singles that we need to make particular decks, or open packs that we get as prizes from events. OK, so there are some packs from birthdays and Christmas. And we did three or four prerelease tournaments at home when the new sets released during the pandemic. But that's nowhere near enough to build competitive decks, so when I heard that Omar's in Lexington was hosting a tournament on Saturday it was kind of a scramble to get decks ready in time! To get three decks ready, even, since Zion wanted to play too. But with a lot of money thrown at TCGPlayer.com and some help from friends, we did it. And then it was so delightful to be back in the scene!

kids sitting and standing around a table with Pokemon cards

some of the Poké kids

Stores still aren't able to host events that give out Championship Points, so this one was only for prizes... but that was alright because we've made the sad decision that we're not able to go to London this year for Harvey to compete in the World Championships (the World Championships that he qualified for back in 2019). Since we paid $10 each to enter the event our goal was to get at least six packs in prizing—they cost about $5 each on the open market so that way we're breaking even, plus getting in some fun games with awesome people. As it happened we walked away with eight, thanks to Zion taking first place in the Juniors division. Harvey and I didn't do as well—we each only won a single game—but we both got a bye and thanks to resistance both ended up in third place for our age categories. So we contributed our share of the family pot too.

Of course, the real draw was getting to play with people again! There was a good mix of kids and adults, and of good players and beginners—fewer competitive adults than we're used to seeing, but then again Omar's has never really been able to draw them. While I wished I was able to win more than the one game, the two that I lost were close and competitive and actually more fun than my one win, which was easy and quick. And the good games didn't end with the tournament! In order to get ready we needed to do some practice sessions, among ourselves and with friends, and that was lots of fun on its own. And now everyone is excited for the next event in July, so you can bet there'll be lots more playing to come.


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