appreciating the bike path

Heading into March we're thinking about cycling a little more seriously again. The snow is going fast! One day the trails will be dry again! But yesterday, when I set out for my once-a-week solo outing, they were not. And unlike last Sunday when I was able do some serious snow biking, the snow yesterday was too soft to ride on top of but too deep to ride through. So when after starting from home with no plan in mind I found myself on the Minuteman bike path, I decided to go with it. It seemed to be working for the 200 other people riding, walking, and running on it, anyway! For most of the pandemic we've stayed off the Minuteman because of the crowds—plus I certainly did my time on it over all the years I was using it to commute, first to Lexington and then to Cambridge. But maybe at the end of February it has something to recommend it.

Certainly, despite the crowds it was lovely being able to ride steadily without thinking about where I was going; and before I knew it I was almost to Lexington Center. That seemed like a fine destination, so I pushed on the rest of the way. When I reached it I almost kept right on going, such was the thrill of the ride, but I restrained myself with the thought of walking around in civilization—that is to say, a bustling commercial center—for the first time in months. It was momentarily delightful, but there wasn't actually much to do, so before long I was back on the homeward trail. It was cheery passing some of the same people walking or running that I had seen on the way up, almost like we were getting to know each other. I'm really looking forward to getting back onto the real trails—the ones in the woods—but you know, at the end of February the old bike path isn't so bad after all!

the lion was late

Yesterday it was in the mid to upper 40s, with enough clouds and wet to make us at least consider whether this March 1st was doing the lion thing. Today when I woke up it was 10°, and let me tell you that a 35 degree swing in less than ten hours will produce some serious wind! Certainly, by the early hours of March 2nd the weather was properly leonine. We lost power briefly overnight, which woke Zion up—he needs his fan running in order to sleep. Or maybe it was the wind that woke him up and lack of fan that kept him from going back to sleep for a while; my sleep was certainly interrupted by the wind shaking the whole house. The wind kept up through the morning, and on our mid morning walk with Grandma I was ready to declare it the coldest day of the winter so far. But even as frigid as it felt, the March sun is strong, and while it was well below freezing all day I got too warm moving around outside mid afternoon. And at least on the edges the snow kept melting. The lion is here now, but that lamb is on its way!

practicing for spring

There were some solid signs of spring at our house today. The snow is going fast—it's gone completely on the far corner of the yard—and this afternoon I shoveled off the bulkhead entrance to the basement. We need access for all the spring work that will be coming soon! More importantly, there was lots of outside playing. I've set the kids a goal of two hours a day outside in March, and that was easy for them to reach today. There was some tag, some imaginative play, and some baseball. In the picture below you see Zion in sweatshirt and long pants; he felt warm enough that not too long afterwards he was in shorts and short sleeves. I don't know if it was that hot, but it was certainly delightful to be out in the bright sunshine.

Harvey and Zion playing baseball in the street with snow on the lawns

spring training

To cap off the day I built a fire to grill hot dogs and black bean burgers for supper. Nobody was available to enjoy it with me as I was cooking, but after supper Zion, Elijah and I had a fine time around the embers toasting marshmallows for smores. Elijah was excited for what he felt like was his first smore in a year; I told him it was probably just a little over two months since his last one, but never mind, it was still special! I wouldn't say no to one more snowstorm and just a bit more sledding, but you know, I'm fine with spring too!

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upgrade cycle

Today I drove to Landry's Cycles in Natick to pick up a new bike for Elijah for his birthday (I did the online shopping and the pickup, Grandma paid for it; we're a good team that way.) While I was there I also got some new pedals and new tires for my own bike. That wasn't a luxury purchase: my old right pedal was so worn down and broken that my foot barely fits on it, and my tires are practically bald. But the new parts are still definitely an upgrade. As I put the new pedals on (as soon as I got home, I was that excited!) I reflected that this may be the first time I've ever bought something new to make my bike better. Yes, I've gotten new tires before. You need to do that. But only when I didn't have any more not-quite-broken-down tires I could pull off another bike. And it made me worry a little bit! The new pedals are so much better, I'm already starting to wonder what else I could buy to improve my riding. This is how it begins...

it's birthday season

a chocolate cake with many many candles

how old am I now, again?

Today is my birthday. I don't like to make a big deal of it, but I can't say I mind a little celebration either; so I was pretty delighted when I showed up at school this morning and saw an enormous chocolate layer cake our friends had made for me. Then after school I got to relax, because Leah made a delicious dinner of clam chowder (and corn chowder for Harvey). She was going to make a cake too, but my mom asked if she could bring one over instead. And all that was after I woke up to the beautiful cards Leah and the boys had made for me. It was all so lovely that I wanted to hold onto it, so when Lijah started talking about his birthday at supper I told him to hold on: it wasn't his turn quite yet!

But of course, it will be soon... and now that supper is over and everybody else is in bed it's time for me to get to work preparing his celebration. I need to hang the banners and finish the card for him, and, most importantly, bring the bike up into the living room so it's the first thing he sees when he comes downstairs. Leah is MCing his Zoom party after lunch; we made cupcakes for the attendees and Leah packed them up beautifully with some party favors and materials for an activity. I'll deliver those tomorrow morning. Yes sir, exciting times around here the first week in March!

moments from the week

Lijah blowing out the candle on his birthday pancake

birthday breakfast

Moments from the past week.

Zion cuddling with Blue on the couch

what dogs are for

Zion and Elijah standing on the ice in the horse trough in our woods

ice in the horse trough

a fire in the firepit with snow all around

first cookfire of the year

the chickens in the grass at the edge of the snow

some grass at last!

Zion giving a stick puppet show from behind the kitchen table

pig puppet show

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Elijah's birthday in time of pandemic

On Saturday morning, Elijah was heard to ask, "how long is my birthday?" Three wonderful days, my son! At least, that's how long his birthday banners were up, and how long he got to say things like, "I get to have that because it's my birthday." I think all things considered—the main thing being, as always, coronavirus—he had a pretty good one. On Saturday, which was his actual birthday, he had his Zoom party with his socially-distanced friends. The birthday boxes I delivered along with the cupcakes had little animal erasers that were the centerpiece of an animal trivia game Leah led the kids through. It was a great success, and I learned that kangaroos can't fart! Sadly there's not that much for six-year-olds—and one brand-new seven-year-old—to do on Zoom, so after the game, watching each other eat cupcakes, and a little shared drawing, they wrapped up after about 50 minutes. The shortest party we've ever thrown! But since one Zoom minute is like eight minutes in real life, it was actually a little over our usual time.

Then today we got to celebrate in person in real life with our bubble school friends. Which basically looked like a regular day of playing and learning together—which is so wonderful it's like a birthday party every day we do it! Treats are also pretty usual in our school day, but today one had a candle in it, so that was different. More to the point, the friends came with presents! Lijah was delighted to open gifts containing stuffed animals, notebooks, and a playdough candy factory, plus a lego set sent over by one of the Zoom party attendees. And those were on top of the amazing things he got from his parents and grandparents on Saturday: a new bike, a new helmet, and a matching stuffed bunny and fur cloak handmade by Mama! It was a hard birthday in some ways—in our house it marked one full year of pandemic life, as Lijah's 6th birthday was the last open social event we held before the world shut down just a couple days after. But I think even with that we did a fine job, and our little boy feels properly celebrated.

One way I did under-perform, though, was in the picture-taking department. I was too busy having fun. But here's an image of him riding his new bike wearing his new cloak early Saturday morning. Isn't it delightful!

Elijah riding his new bike on our street

birthday ride

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how we support life-long learners

We had a busy day in school yesterday: besides celebrating Elijah, we had to do some actual school work! After a fashion. See, sometimes when homeschoolers do school it's not totally clear what the learning objectives are. But looking back on the day, I think I can recreate them...

As part of their Narnia book study the bigger kids made tissue-paper stained glass art, an assignment which was actually quite a challenge. For two reasons, actually: because they had to follow exacting directions, and because the work involved cutting little details out of card stock with an exacto knife. There were some moments of extreme frustration, but in the end they all finished. They learned perseverance.

While that was going on I was reading with the smaller kids about how people make maple syrup. We talked about plant circulation, and about evaporation, and about pancakes. Then we boiled some syrup until it reached 240°F, at which point we poured it onto bowls of snow to make maple taffy. We learned that boiled syrup is very sticky, and also delicious—except to Elijah, who continues to not like it. Oh well, he still had fun anyway. How can you not, at a school like ours?!

picnic season

The best part of this time of year is eating outside. We like it so much we even push into days when it's maybe a little questionable. Yesterday it was warm and entirely delightful; today our lunch on the deck was somewhat aspirational. It was barely 50°F, after all. But the sun was hot! And we're so excited by the coming of spring. And when we eat outside we don't have to clear all the projects off the kitchen table!

the boys eating lunch at the picnic table with snow in the background

lunch

the status quo in sleeping

As exciting as the arrival of warmer weather is to all of us, there are things that I find myself missing about winter. Last night, for example, I missed the cold in the bedroom because I had to take off a layer of blankets. That's hard, hard for me to do. See, I love the coziness of our bed, and to me coziness is a product of the fluffiness and weight of the blankets above me. For most of the winter I've had three blankets on me, which was fine. But a couple weeks ago the boys were playing and left a comforter on the floor; passing by, I picked it up and threw it on the bed. There it stayed until bedtime, and when I went to bed it was dark and I didn't want to put it away, so I just went under it. Of course it made the bed even cozier than before! So it's been there ever since. Only... last night I had to throw it off in the middle of the night because I got too warm. So sad.

I'm not the only one in our family who gets used to the situation in their bed and has a hard time changing it; nor the only one who appreciates coziness. Harvey and Elijah both have four blankets. Zion has at least four, plus three or four pillows, a sleeping bag, and infinite stuffed animals. Additionally, Zion also has his fan going every night: he needs the white noise, and also claims he needs the breeze. When it's below 50°F in the boys' room I have a hard time understanding that desire, but last night, when I was forced to give up a precious blanket, I decided he might be on to something...

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spring chickens

I don't feel completely confident assessing their mental state, but it might be that the creatures happiest about the warmer weather at our house are the chickens. Some chickens walk on snow; ours do not, so for the last month plus they've been confined to their coop and enclosed run (which I spiffed up with a snow-shedding roof last summer). But over the last two weeks the snowless expanse has been slowly growing towards their front door, and early this week they finally had a snow-free pathway out into the yard. They appear delighted with their freedom.

some of our chickens pecking at the ground

peck peck, peck peck, peck peck

They show their delight early every morning, which has been a *little annoying, since the way they show it is by making lots of noise before I'm necessarily ready to be getting out of bed. At least that's one good thing about the upcoming time change: Sunday morning they'll be making all that racket at 6:30 instead of 5:30! And I can't begrudge them the noise too much, because the extra sunlight means that egg production has ramped back up almost to summer levels. No more buying eggs for us until next winter! (or until we need to have a big brunch...).

eggs in a bowl on the back porch

one days' haul

My only concern is that we still haven't figured out how the hens and the dogs can share the yard. Right now they can't; the dogs will try and kill the hens if they're out together. So that's a little stressful. Something to work on this spring.

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moments from the week

the boys eating a picnic on a bluff over the Sudbury river

spring adventure #1

Moments from the past week.

Elijah swinging at the playground

swing!

Elijah and Zion playing with his new birthday playdoh candy factory

candy factory

the boys walking in the snowy woods... Harvey wearing shorts

proper attire for spring walks

Zion eating dinner at the picnic table

first outdoor supper of the year!

Zion balancing on a tree growing up out of the river

flirting with water

the boys on the paved bike path

going places

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kicking off adventure season

At the end of last week we took three bike rides in three days, covering a total of more than 15 miles. Saturday saw us journeying up the bike path to Lexington, where we played on a skate park and a playground and a mountain and bought some Pokemon cards. On Friday two sevenths of our school population was absent, so after lunch we took off for an easy ride through the woods up to the center of town where we rode some stairs and ramps and then played at the playground (the kids took part in a fantastic tag game that deserves its own post). But it was our Thursday off-road adventure that was the most epic! Not for mileage—we went twice as far on the smooth pavement Saturday—but certainly for difficulty. And it's always thrilling to penetrate into the wilderness to reach the remote waters of Fairhaven Bay!

the boys dipping their feet in Fairhaven Bay, wearing bike helmets

testing its soothing waters (is it called soothing when you can't feel your feet?)

At the beginning of the week Thursday's forecast called for warm weather, so we gleefully scheduled our first mountain bike exploration trip of the year—and Elijah's first ever on his new bike. As the week passed, we only got more excited, and it was with lots of enthusiasm and supplies that we set off at mid morning (you have to time these trips for the optimal picnic lunch experience). We got off to a good start when, with his brand-new gears, Elijah was able to surmount the steep paved hill that leads from the parking lot to the trailhead. But then, when we reached the woods, we were dismayed to see that the trail was still a sheet of ice with snow stretching as far as the eye could see on either side. I'd like to say we pressed on undaunted, but a certain member of the party was very daunted indeed. (It's because he fell first that Zion had such a hard time; that, and the fact that Elijah didn't fall.)

But I refused to turn around and go home, and riding over the slightly slushy ice—and the kids actually did wonderfully well!—we soon came to a stretch of clear, dry trail. What a delight! Then more ice, but at least we knew that the ride wouldn't be all slow and terrifying. It was interesting: on the way in we were heading south, so all the uphills—north-facing slopes—were icy, but the downhills mostly clear. Of course on the way home it was the reverse. There was also some just plain snow, which was almost impossible to ride on even on the flat. Certainly Elijah also got lots of practice pushing his new bike too.

Elijah pushing his bike uphill on a snowy trail

hike-a-bike

What that picture doesn't show is how warm it was. At the beginning of the ride it was actually a little chillier than we anticipated, under cloudy skies, but after lunch the sun came out in it was soon positively spring-like. Perfect weather for adventuring, and adventure we did: besides the riding we got to explore the marsh around the boathouse, play hide-and-seek and tag, and climb dangerously high in trees.

Zion way up high on a fallen tree

good thing he's wearing the helmet?

With the sunshine we hoped the snow would go quickly and ease our way home; when I said that, in the heat, it was melting "as we speak" Elijah made sure to do lots of talking to hurry it along. But there was still enough left to make the homeward leg (on a different path around Fairhaven Hill because of course we like to do loops) pretty tiring. Especially for Elijah. And when the road through the woods, hoped and dreamed of as an easy mile, proved to be muddy and slow he was almost undone. He actually revived a little bit when we got back on the snow and ice and did some really fantastic riding. But when took a spill into a puddle about a quarter mile from the car and got actually soaked, he was done, and it was with great difficulty that I persuaded him to get back on the bike at all. Then he abandoned it in the snow about 100 yards short of the parking lot, but that was find. I got it for him; he had done enough!

It was tiring for everyone: Strava says I put in 6.1 miles, which includes some running around and also the extra riding I had to do when I realized I'd left my water bottle behind at the lunch spot, so the boys must have done about 5. And they were hard miles! But despite all that, I think we might be game for another big ride soon. These kids are fine cyclists. And at least the snow should be gone by the end of the week!

the boys pausing on their bikes on a snowy trail

accomplished adventurers

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missed opportunity

This is a tough time of year as an off-road cyclist. The sun is shining brightly, the birds are singing, and the world is returning to wonderful life—all things that make me want to get out and ride! Only all the trails, this time of year, are all mud (where they're not still snow, that is). So we have to wait for things to dry out. But the last few mornings have offered an alternate possibility: both last night and the night before the temperature was down into the teens, so if I could have gotten out before, say, nine or ten in the morning I could have ridden on the most delightful concrete-like surface (delightful unless I fell, I suppose...). Of course, there are other things in my life besides cycling, and those things—housework, my job, spending time with my family—kept me from hitting the trails while the conditions held. Good thing the days are getting longer... maybe next week I'll have time for all the things!

still managing to read

As we started spending more time at and around the playground the last couple weeks, I remembered that I really miss the library. Really, not getting to visit there once a week—or more!—is one of the hardest things about this pandemic for us (which shows how incredibly fortunate we are, something I don't take for granted in the least). But even without the library for fifty-three weeks and counting we haven't done that badly for books. Sure, we'd love to have access to new and interesting picture books, and research on the internet isn't nearly as fun as paging though age-appropriate texts. For chapter books, though, we've managed to find enough new material to keep up our habit of reading half and hour to an hour every day. My habit of stocking up at every used book sale I see is paying off!

It also helps, of course, that the boys all really love being read to, and that all three of them are interested in a wide variety of styles. In the last couple weeks we've read Misty of Chincoteague and The Tale of Desperaux (that's a new one for us; Leah found it at Savers), and now we're working our way through My Family and Other Animals, an autobiographical account of zookeeper and naturalist Gerald Durrell's childhood on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s. I don't think I would have tried to read it to them a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic: it's more episodic and atmospheric than plot-driven, and while it's filled with beautifully written description it's not necessarily a story you'd expect would be enjoyed by a seven-year-old. But it's also silly and full of animals, so I guess that's a winner.

That's not to say I wouldn't much rather have the option, at least, of finding some good new books at the library. Every time we reach the end of one book I start to get nervous that, this time, we've really come to the end of our supply. Everything else is open now: even the elementary schools are now back in person four days a week, and middle and high school will be going back full time in a couple weeks. And we can go to supermarkets and malls and, for all I know, bars and movie theaters! So why not libraries?!

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so that's why they invented pavement...

In the bright afternoon sunshine yesterday we headed out for a ride down the dirt railway line to Concord to visit the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The bright sunshine was delightful, and so was the almost complete lack of snow on the path, but unfortunately those two things combined to make the surface more than a little muddy. It wasn't all a complete quagmire, but even where there wasn't three inches of squishy ooze much of the surface was distinctly tacky. Enough that we felt plenty of increase in rolling resistance, and the flat path took as much energy as if we were going uphill the whole way. So we certainly appreciated those few short stretches of pavement!

the boys riding along the Reformatory Branch Trail

I could only take pictures on the drier spots

I do wish I had taken some pictures of the deep mud; it was really something. Folks out for a walk in shoes they cared about had to make their way through the trees on the side of the path, and cyclists on gravel bikes found themselves unable to make any headway at all. With our big tires we could plow through the mud pretty well—even Elijah only had to get off and push a couple times—but it was certainly a challenge!

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chicken chores a-changin

I always tell people that chickens are easy to take care of. And they are! But sometimes there are challenging moments, like when your flock gets attacked by a hawk or a fox or your own dogs. Or when a windstorm blows a hole in the henhouse roof and you have to make emergency repairs, and then subsequently build a whole replacement roof (that's a recent story for us). But aside from those sort of rare occurrences, the hardest thing for me in chicken ownership is keeping their water filled in the winter. In the past it was even harder, because it froze every night, so every morning (and sometimes more often!) I'd have to bring the waterer in and melt the ice so I could get it refilled. Now we have a heater, so that doesn't happen; but because the outside tap gets turned off for the winter, I still have to bring the waterer in to the kitchen to fill. It's big, so there needs to be no dishes in the sink. And compared to the tap outside, the kitchen sink takes forever to fill the two gallons or whatever the hens need in a day. So it's not too much trouble, but it's enough that it seems like occasion to rejoice when it's warm enough to turn the water on outside again. Which I did yesterday. Just another way we're celebrating spring around here!

moments from the week

Elijah, masked and barefoot, sitting on the edge of a low bridge in a marsh

barefoot season begins

Moments from the past week.

Elijah sitting on the table, making cookie dough with friends

cooking school

the boys walking on thin ice on a ditch in the woods

testing the ice...

Harvey and Zion getting ready to walk across a shallow ford at Great Meadows

testing the water

Harvey hammering a nail on the back deck

henhouse repair

a sheet of butter cookies ready to go into the oven

the last batch

Elijah and a friend playing in the dirt

mud work

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warm afternoons, chilly mornings

In the old days, apparently, people opened their windows at night even when the weather was cold, and then shut them when they got up ("old days" in this case meaning the middle of the 20th century). We learn this from Eloise, and also from The Saturdays. In this era of energy efficiency it doesn't seem like quite the thing, but aside from that the practice does have an appeal. We did it last night, and it was delightful!

It was beautifully warm yesterday during the day, and as soon as it gets at all summery our upstairs starts to feel a little stuffy. So we opened the windows in the afternoon, and when we were ready for bed it still didn't feel cold, so they stayed open. It didn't feel at all cold overnight, either, but that's because we have good covers, because when I got up I couldn't help but notice that it was barely above 50°F downstairs (for the record, it was a bit warmer upstairs). So I shut the windows and turned on the heat. I expect that the windows will be open again before too long. I guess we're just old fashioned that way!

boating!

Ever since the ice started melting and the rivers rising, we've been wanting to get out on the water. And this year we've got navigable water closer to home than ever: this past fall the town had our local pond, Fawn Lake, dredged out, so now where there used to be mats of tangled water lilies there's beautiful open water. That's where we went today. We've spent lots of times at Fawn Lake over the years, and it was lovely to be able to finally see everything we know so well around the shore from the water!

the canoe by the big rock at Fawn Lake

scenic overlook

Of course, while it's called a lake, it really isn't; maybe the grand name comes from its being the largest non-swamp body of water in town. So it only took us about four minutes to get from one side to the other. Never mind: we weren't there to get places, we were there to have fun! We visited the island that has always intrigued us by being just out of reach, even for a determined wader (though out of respect for the beavers who live in the two lodges on the island—lodges that take up more than half of it's total area—we didn't land). We climbed on the cliffs and played tag on the field. And we marooned Zion on a rock that was barely awash (he volunteered).

Zion standing on a tiny rock out in the lake

walking on water!

Best of all, the two bigger boys had a chance to take the boat our on their own. Harvey's done plenty of that sort of thing already—he knows he wants a boat of his own so he doesn't have to put up with the rest of us, and he's made sure to get lots of practice. But it was newer for Zion. He had a great time!

Zion paddling the canoe by himself

out there

Of course, as much as I enjoyed being on the water, when we landed I couldn't help looking at some of the paths and rocks and wishing I had my bike there to try and ride them. Never mind—that's tomorrow's adventure!

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we need to do this periodically

With the acceleration of adventure season, I started to notice some ways our experience of the car could be improved. The main problem it had was that one of the seatbelts had gotten stuck: the plastic covering on the side of a middle row seat is loose, and its seatbelt had somehow gotten twisted around the sticking out piece, pulled all the way out, and then retracted. With no way to get more slack, it only got tighter and tighter every thing we tried. We left it for a while; after all, we have other seats. But it was annoying when we wanted to have all five of us in the car. So I tried some things, and did lots of internet searching about how to release a locked seatbelt.... but no luck. Then yesterday I had a brainwave: the middle row seats in our van are removable! So with Harvey's help it was the work of half a minute to unhook it and slide it back far enough for the seatbelt to be slipped free. Why didn't I think of that before?!

Of course, with the seat out I was confronted with how dirty the car had become over the late winter. Piles of clothes (mostly Zion's, but some from all of us), books, school materials, and, most of all, a thick coating of rocks, sticks, shells, and other treasures from nature. The sticks are the worst, since the dogs chew them every time they ride with us the create a pretty good mulch. Then once we got all that stuff mostly cleared out I discovered that the trunk was pretty wet, from what cause I have no idea. Spilled water bottle? Melting snow from sleds? Leak? Car left open in the rain? All are solid possibilities. The worst of it was that the back row seat which had been folded down was also wet, and starting to get a little moldy. Yuck!

So we wiped the mold off and left everything open so it could dry out. With all the sticks and crumbs cleared away things looked pretty good—like we could go anywhere and do anything! Then of course it rained overnight. So that was a setback, but still, I feel like we made forward progress towards a usable and comfortable vehicle. And we'll have a dry day soon I'm sure.

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bikes take us farther

We had plans yesterday to meet up with friends and go exploring on bikes, which seemed like just the thing with the forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures touching the 70s. So we were surprised to wake up to cool drizzle (especially since I had left the car open!). The unexpected gloom and wet was too much for our friends, who preferred to stay cozy at home. But we get plenty of coziness and laziness, so we pushed on with the expedition—and we were glad we did!

Zion and Elijah sitting by a misty pond

what could be finer?

Our target was the Estabrook Woods in Concord. We've been there before, but on foot we can only get so far so there was lots we hadn't been able to see. Of course, there's some question how much faster the four of us can move on bikes on a wet spring day over some serious hills! There were certainly some spots where Elijah at least was pushing his bike up a hill because it was too steep to make progress, and then back down the other side because it was too scary a descent. But we was working hard and trying his best, and he got some great practice in! And then of course there were spots where we all needed to walk our bikes. The four serious water crossings we had to do, for example.

the boys pushing their bikes across a wide rocky stream

when you have to walk it's a real expedition

Of course, it wasn't all riding and pushing: we took our time and made plenty of stops. There were big rocks to climb and vistas to admire, and we found a great spot to have lunch by the side of a giant shallow pond (pictured above). The most exciting part of our lunch spot was the goose drama that played out on the pond as we watched, with one pair harrying another all around on the water and in the air, with plenty of noise and dramatic take-offs and landings. But the best wildlife sighting belonged to Elijah: he was the only one to notice a tiny newt clinging to the side of a tree. When he called us all back to look the little guy very obligingly held still for a picture.

a little red newt on a tree

the boys wished they could bring him home as a pet

Even though we only went about four miles, it was a challenging ride and the boys were plenty tired when we made it back to the car. But we didn't see all of the woods, so we'll have to go back soon! Though maybe when it's a little less wet...

the boys riding through a giant puddle on the trail

the pond was invading the trail

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moments from the week

Zion and a friend sitting on a rock at the edge of a pond

private time at school

Lots of moments from the past week.

Harvey riding by a grassy hill

last month we were sledding here...

Elijah stretching out his bare legs pumping on our swing

must be spring!

the boys sitting looking down from a scrubby hill

airport hill

Elijah feeding a goat

the farm is open!

Harvey rowing our canoe past a beaver lodge

visiting the beavers

Elijah climbing up the side of a large boulder or outcropping

bouldering

all the bubble school kids on a slackline

bubble school slacking off

Zion pushing his bike up a hill, Elijah far behind him

this is our life now

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it's Passover!

On Saturday, the first thing Elijah said after he got out of bed was, "It's Passover!" He wasn't the only one to be excited: I jumped right into the spirit of the holiday with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and matzo with jam. Then Harvey told us both that, actually Passover didn't start til Saturday at sundown. Oh yeah. Well, that's alright: it's a longish holiday anyhow, so an extra day probably won't signify.

We're not Jewish (that might jeopardize our careers in the Christian writing and pastoring field). But we all think that Passover is an important holiday to observe. As Leah says, it's the only holiday commanded in the Bible! Plus there's all the good food. Last year we did a Zoom seder with Leah's parents—our first experience of Zoom holiday celebrations. But they weren't feeling it this year, so we were on our own. Which means there were no haggadahs or anything, and also that our meal on the first night of Passover took 20 minutes rather than an hour and a half (if you think that's short, it's at least twice as long as our usual dinner times). Leah made all the food: haroset, eggs, and matzo ball soup; plus chocolate caramel matzo for dessert. It was a delightful, relaxed way to observe the holiday.

the boys sitting down to the Passover table

festive meal

video production is challenging

Leah is on vacation this week for Holy Week. I'm the opposite. For our second pandemic Holy Week (second and last—it had better be last!) our Kids Church team thought we'd tell the story over a series of videos, with one for families to watch each day of the week. Great, right? Only making that many videos is kind of a lot of work! I'm certainly used to video production by now: I record and edit about three video stories every month, plus the occasional extra. But I've never before had such a sustained stretch of production... and we're only halfway through the week! Of course, that necessarily means that I'm more than halfway through the work: all of the videos are now recorded, and only two of them remain to edit. I may survive!

Of course, while I talk about my own suffering it's really the rest of the family who should get most of the credit. We don't have soundproofing here, so I really appreciate their patience as they refrain from their usual yelling or else take the dogs out for a walk to stop them barking on film (can you match the family members to their roles?). Not that any of that helps when the neighbor needs to be running the chainsaw, like he was all Saturday afternoon (in the noble work of clearing away the bittersweet around his yard, so I can't really begrudge him.... but it still stopped my work in its tracks). And then there are all the planes. Did you know we live right by an airport?

If you want to check out any of the fruits of my labor, they're available on Reservoir Church's Youtube page. You might even give them a like!