moments from the week

Zion at the bat

spring training

Moments from the past week.

Lijah playing Hungry Hippos with some bigger kids

playing with the big kids

Lijah holding a saw

carpenter's helper

Lijah on the swing in his cat hat

swingin' cat

the kids painting at the table

painting Swedish horses


kit-based artisanry

Friday there was practically a hurricane, so we were limited to indoor activities. That wasn't a problem—we always have plenty do, especially now that we've added the option of Pokemon TCG Online—but a stormy day seemed like the perfect opportunity to open a craft box we've been saving since Christmastime.

Lijah looking into the craft kit box

he is interested

For Christmas my brother and his family gave our boys a subscription from Tingomo, a company that makes kits highlighting traditional arts and crafts from around the world. As I understand it we're getting four kits; the first one—the winter edition—highlighted wooden Dala horses (Dalahäst!) from Sweden.

The only problem is that the kits are made for two kids, and the gift was for Harvey and Zion. That won't fly in our household. Good thing we own a jigsaw and plenty of scraps of pine board! I defy you to tell my horse from the two which were industrially mass-produced to simulate traditional Dalecarlian artisanry.

three wood horses

see? three!

Then we painted them. The kit came with not-totally-washable acrylic paint—great for turning out an attractive finished project, less-great for a three-year-old's painting style (that's why the kits are officially six and up). And then there were some tears when we didn't let Lijah use his usual technique of dipping his brush in each of the colors in succession. There were instructions for painting a horse in the traditional style, including some brush mixing techniques; we followed them to the extant of starting with a solid-color base layer, but from there creativity ran (relatively) wild.

three painted wood horses


All told, it was a fun craft with high-quality materials attractively presented in beautiful packaging. With our budget I'd never be able to justify buying a kit myself, but it was a fun gift to enjoy on a rainy day. Thanks, Tom!


Elijah is 4

Lijah looking at a candle on his pancake

birthday (pan)cake

Today was Lijah's birthday. We celebrated by letting him choose the menu for breakfast and lunch; pancakes and chicken nuggets, respectively. He also wore a Pokemon party hat for part of the day. I dream of being a proper homeschool blogger and asking him some birthday questions, but we didn't get around to it today... maybe we'll manage later in the week, before his party on Saturday. Because we're making this a whole birthday week!

Happy Birthday Lijah!

still very lion-like

Harvey's tiny snowman, with him building a big one in the background

snow, man!

The weather continues to be wild. After a summer-like warm spell it's hard to feel ready for a blizzard, but it's still winter and we're in New England, so. It could have been worse; the front half of the storm, all day Wednesday, was all rain. But overnight Wednesday to Thursday brought plenty of snow—heavy, wet, solid snow, just right for epic snowmen. And for bringing trees down too, as it happens.

About a third of Bedford was still without electricity yesterday evening, and there are limbs and trees down all over our neighborhood. We didn't lose anything important; the neighbors' lilac breaking onto Leah's car wasn't really a problem.

Harvey clearing Mama's car of snow

pretty heavy

We had friends over for most of the day, in order to help their parents out with school being cancelled. After they left Harvey and I enjoyed some relaxing outside time. Even with dry wood from our newly-built woodpile shelter our fire wasn't totally successful—too much snow in the fireplace—but it made a nice smell and some cheery smoke. And nothing could be more successful than Harvey's snowmen. We can still enjoy winter!

the face of Harvey's snowman

with real home-made charcoal!


moments from the week

the boys on a tire swing

homeschool recess

Moments and images from Lijah's birthday week.

Zion and Lijah being silly on the couch


Lijah blowing out the birthday candles on the cake grandma made him

the party at Grandma and Grandpa's

sticky snow on and around the chicken coop

heavy snow

Harvey building a big snowman

snowman work

Lijah posing with Liam, making a silly face

birthday sillies

Lijah blowing out the candles on his chocolate pokeball cake

birthday = celebrated!


snow days

As of a few days ago the garlic and rhubarb were up in the garden, and the daffodils and crocuses growing fast in the beds; I assume they're still growing, but it's hard to tell because yesterday we got like two feet of snow.

lots of snow on the back porch

pretty good for one storm in March...

I measure it at 18 inches, actually, but I hear from neighbors with reliable information that we actually got over 20; either way, it was enough to close school for two days. So our schedule—never particularly rigorous to begin with—was thrown out the window so our kids could entertain their friends who were suddenly deprived of their usual weekday framework. I missed school today too: I'm taking part in a class at work, and it was cancelled today. It's interesting and engaging material, to be sure, but I don't think I'll even get too old to appreciate a snow day.

Especially one like today, with some sun and reasonably mild temperatures. Just the thing for spending a few hours shoveling! I still fully trust that March will go out with a lamb, but it has plenty of time yet—and we have another 8-12 inch storm forecast for next week. Flowers or snow-forts, we'll enjoy whatever we get.


moments from the week

Zion and Harvey lying down at the top of the sledding hill

on the slopes

A very few moments from the past week.

snow on the shed and playhouse

one more nor'easter

the hens pecking in a patch of grass amidst the snow

hens appreciate the power of the March sun


Lijah had a party

In our house most days, breakfast is eggs and toast, pancakes, or waffles; maybe some bacon or potatoes every once and a while. So the kids all look forward to Sunday morning, when they get to eat cold cereal before we head off to church. I think the cake situation is similar. Used to a daily dessert menu of homemade cookies, pie, or cake, they stare in fascination at the wall of cake mixes at the grocery store. Well, when it's your birthday you get to pick what you want, and Lijah picked out a double chocolate cake from the fine chemists at Betty Crocker. He wanted a Pokemon cake for his Pokemon party, but he only wanted it to be chocolate with chocolate frosting, so I was limited in my decorative options. This is what I came up with:

a chocolate cake with a pikachu on top

birthday cake for Lijah

It was delicious. And the party was lovely and relaxing; all three of his friends came, along with their families, and enjoyed three hours of free play with a few short breaks for Pokemon sticker arts and crafts, a Moana singalong, and some eating. And then presents. Lijah has never yet been satisfied by presents, quantity or quality, in the short term; maybe his expectations are higher. But I think he was satisfied with his day, and his birthday week. He was roundly celebrated. And now he's just four.

Lijah and Henry with their matching Pikachus



equal night

round sugar cookies half frosted with chocolate

half night, half day

It wasn't as big as our solstice blowout in December, but we did our part to observe the equinox today. Despite the snow in the forecast for tomorrow we took down our snowflakes from the window and replaced them with construction paper flowers, and we made the equinox cookies you see above. I wish I had recorded Lijah's excited explanation of the spring equinox, and how it relates to cookies half-covered with chocolate; he really got the idea, only he wished they were winter solstice cookies in order to have more chocolate.

the boys cutting out sugar cookies at the kitchen table

cookie cutting

With the coming of spring we're trying to get back into a little more focused schoolwork—unschooling kind of focused, which means that making cookies totally qualifies. I don't know about harvesting icicles and snow cakes to sell out of the playhouse, but they had fun with that. A fine way to welcome spring.

Harvey and Zion playing in the play house

snow cakes and icicles for sale



This morning I was delighted to wake up soon after sunrise to the delightful sound of birds singing—a song I don't notice the lack of in the winter, but sure do notice when it returns in the spring! Despite some good March snowstorms spring is well on its way. Even as more snow fell yesterday morning, the snow on the ground was melting away; another inch or two has vanished already today. It's not warm outside, particularly—but warm enough to see us playing and working outside before lunch (I finished pruning and clearing out the raspberries). And the plants are all busy doing their thing!

daffodils emerging


moments from the week

Lijah licking a snow cake

springtime snow cake

Moments from the past week.

kids on the floor looking at Pokemon cards and drawing on the whiteboard

homeschooling this week

the boys playing Dragonwood with new friends

coop Park Day moved indoors

the boys under a pile of blankets on the floor

there's three kids in there!

Lijah in his cat hat, brothers playing in the background



wood and metal

Today was a wonderfully sunny early spring day, and the boys and I spent all afternoon working and playing outside. My main occupation was fixing the wheelbarrows; there were three, and none of them functional. Now there are two working wheelbarrows and some trash, and I'm very proud of myself. As I worked and got dirty in the clear March sunshine I found myself appreciating the beauty of the wood and metal around me. So I took some pictures.

a tree stump with a rusty metal rod stuck in it

tools for wheelbarrow repair

That's the stump where we split our firewood; it's black because Harvey and Zion were using it to chop their own charcoal the other day. I drilled a hole in the middle so I could use it to mount the wheelbarrow tire on the rim. It was much harder than putting on a bicycle tire!

Plastic is a fine material. I was glad to have a piece of thick PVC pipe on hand: I cut lengths of it to center one of the wheels on its shaft. I would have had a much harder time cutting metal parts, even assuming I could have found pipe with the right diameter (I have lots of PVC pipe, since I grab it out of the trash whenever I see it). But as I cut it I regretted the bright white plastic bits falling around my otherwise brown and gray workbench stump. When I finished up my hands were about the same color as that wood and rusty metal, which felt about right.

bolts and hardware on the bench in the shed

leftover parts


why our family is weird

Yesterday Zion's friend from across the street wandered over while I was hard at work on the wheelbarrows. After watching for a few seconds, he asked, "Do you know why your family is weird?" Before I had a chance to accuse him of assuming the premise of his argument, he went on: "It's because you like to make things instead of buying them to save money." Well, that's true I suppose. I was happy to make the wheelbarrows work instead of buying new ones. But saving money isn't really my main motivator... I just happen to like making things.

Though I suppose the money is part of it; I get depressed by an existence built on making money so I can spend it. Since I don't enjoy spending money, that process seems like kind of a waste of my time, and a diminishment of my agency. In buying things I feel like a prisoner of marketing and created wants, but when I make something myself I feel empowered and capable and generally happier. It's not a huge deal; it's not revolutionary or world-changing. It's just my preference. And maybe it is a little weird in 21st century America. Fair cop.