shrove pancakes

Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent. Lent is a church thing, of course, but the name means "spring", and as we move towards Easter we're also feeling more and more that spring is going to get here. We celebrated this evening with the traditional pancake supper: pancakes, sausages, and out-of-season berries. Such luxury! And there was even dessert for those that wanted it. Of course, now that it's snowy again actual signs of spring are more rare than they were at the beginning of last week when the kids were playing outside all day in bare feet. But this morning the first seedlings sprouted in our little nursery upstairs in the office, so whatever happens outside even our first week of Lent won't be without some new green life.


After the big winter feast folks at park day continue to bring food. Not everyone, but enough that the kids have come to expect that there will be a good supply of treats and don't bother to bring their own snacks any more. I try and do my baking part every other week or so, and this morning I got up earlier than I maybe would have otherwise to make mini muffins. Maybe a little bit too early, because after melting the butter I completely forgot to mix it in to the batter, a mistake I didn't notice until just after I put all three pans into the oven. Oops.

Well, we had just learned that the Shrove Tuesday pancakes were meant as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs and butter before the Lenten fast... I never would think to fast from butter, but maybe it was my subconscious saying something? The muffins were fine even without butter; not nearly as good as they would have been, but totally passable for the kids of park day. They weren't fasting either!

out and about, lately

We ended February with 52 hours outside for the month, which is a little bit under the two hours per day we were hoping for. But still respectable! And we had some lovely outings the past few days, very much enjoying the winter that still has us in its grip.

Zion and Elijah on the ice at Estabrook Woods

there's still ice

After the snow on Friday we took a walk Saturday morning at Great Hill in Acton. The parking lot wasn't plowed and as I drove in anyway I was worried we would never be able to get out again. Luckily the snow was light and fluffy so it wasn't a problem, but the same lightness made the walking very tiring indeed. Even though folks had broken trail, we still sank and slid with every step, like walking in deep sand. Also, Great Hill is kind of a big hill. So our walk wasn't long, but it was invigorating... and beautiful.

Harvey and Elijah hiking on a snowy slope

great hill, great snow

Monday we got out for some sledding with friends. I sledded, at least; the boys, not loving the characteristics of the snow, took a walk instead with their crew and discovered that the ice was actually—surprisingly—in fine shape, neither melted nor snow-covered. So of course they had to get the skates out (luckily we always keep them in the car!). The younger kids engaged in some spirited short-track races while the older set lay around on the ice and talked about how to monetize a Youtube channel.

Zion and friend skating, Harvey and a friend lying on the ice

something for everyone

Tuesday's outing was to Estabrook Woods in Concord. We had never been there in full winter, so I was interested in possibly taking the sleds on the "ski slope" that those woods feature—but just like our airport hill the slope looked a little too bramble-covered to make it worth dragging the sleds all the way in. Plus getting up to the top of that hill is no joke! So that will remain an unfilled dream for now. Despite that disappointment the rest of the walk was great—the going was much easier than on Saturday, with most of the trails well-trodden and packed down. And there was some ice to play on. And we got to have a picnic lunch!

Elijah eating lunch on a snow-free rock by a pond

just enough melting to have somewhere to sit

Then yesterday, of course, was park day: three and a half hours of sledding and hanging out with friends. Five hours in the first two days of March... not bad.


our school is music and outdoor education

Years ago, as I looked forward towards a time when I had older children—children who could read and divide and make responsible choices for themselves at least some of the time—I imagined that managing this project of home education would get easier. Wasn't that stupid! As it turns out, even though Harvey and Zion can do all those things, it's actually kind of a challenge to manage learning plans for boys who, were they in school, would be in 7th and 5th grade. It takes up a fair amount of my time. Not that I mean to complain: it's all pretty good fun. I like coming up with word problems and art projects and trying to get the boys to care about writing (well, that last one is a little stressful). But when it comes down to it, what has seemed the most important this winter has been music and spending time outside.

You've heard plenty about the outside part, so here's a music update. Zion has started trumpet; he's in the early stages of his study, so he's making noises that only a brass player trained in early education could enjoy (hey, that's me!). I wrote out a few exercises for him, then remembered I hated writing music and bought an elementary method book. Since the fall he's been doing great at learning to read music on recorder, so he was able to jump right into learning fingerings and building up his face muscles and breath control. He's having fun with it, too; long may it last.

Harvey, for his part, is a multi-instrumentalist. He hasn't picked up reading music as quickly as Zion (or maybe he's working on it at a higher level), but he's great at playing by ear and remembering the songs he's figured out. He's using the recorder as his melody instrument, and has advanced to being able to play in both octaves in several keys. He plays banjo with my guitar for fun, and is reading chord sheets and expanding the range of chords he can play. And on bass he's moving beyond memorizing songs to reading chords and tabs. Up next, learning to read bass clef! (well, maybe in a couple months). All that and he also composes tunes electronically on Garage Band! While he still gets frustrated sometimes when things are hard—because that's his personality—he's starting to reach the point where, instead of just learning his instruments, he can actually play music. That's where the fun is! And it's super fun for me too, so I wholeheartedly approve.


moments from the week

Zion stretching across the finish line in a skating race with a friend

and it's Zion by a length!

Moments from the past week.

the kids atop mountains of snow at church

kings of the mountain

Zion and Elijah in the snow by a rushing spillway

spring flow among snow

a table full of watercolor paint and art

water color

kids sledding down a steep hill with very little snow

as long as there's even a little snow...

the toboggan at the top of a hill, kids on an icy pond at the bottom

look out below!

me and Elijah blowing out candles on our chocolate cake with Grandma looking on

Elijah and I are getting older


age and beauty

When I was a freshman in high school I don't know that I ever imagined being 45 years old, but I do know that if I had I would not have expected that I would, on my 45th birthday (which came this past weekend), be dealing with a big pimple on my face. Ah, the indignities of age: the ways that you'd like to remain youthful you generally do not, but then you still have to worry about your skin. Not that I worry too much, because nobody actually cares very much what I look like. And I really shouldn't complain at all, since it's not only pimples that are keeping me feeling young. My plan of subjecting my body to a constant stream of falls and indignities continues apace, and I think it's working great! Most of the other parents I hang out with are nervous about falling on the ice; there aren't many other 45-year-olds who are out there trying full-speed running penguin slides (well, I suppose technically since I last did that on Friday I was still 44, but close enough). And with all the snow that melted over the weekend I'm starting to think about taking my bike up to the skatepark again soon. That's a young person thing to do, right?!

By the way, as I wrote about being a freshman it occurred to me that I began this blog a mere 13 years after my freshman year in high school, and I've been writing in it now for 18 years. Imagine that! Only nine more years and I'll have been blogging for half my life! What role does blogging play in keeping one feeling young?


birthday joy for my boy?

After my birthday on Saturday, Sunday it was Elijah's turn. He didn't have the best day; come to find out that Sunday is actually a hard day on which to feel special in our house. The birthday banners were up, sure, and he got a card first thing, which was all fine. But church is church, and while it definitely has its fun parts, it was hard for him to feel special when I was paying attention to all the other kids... and there were two other birthdays to celebrate too! Even his birthday breakfast was messed up by it being Sunday. Even though I would have made him whatever he wanted—waffles, muffins, fried potatoes...—the Sunday tradition of cold cereal couldn't be resisted. At least we tried to make his chocolate bunnies a little special.

Elijah getting ready to blow out a birthday candle in his cereal

always a birthday morning candle

Luckily, his actual birthday isn't his only chance to be celebrated. On Saturday he and I shared a party at my parents' house (with Leah's parents in attendance too) and he got way more presents than I did. Plus he's got more celebrations to come. His party with his friends is this coming Saturday, and he's really looking forward to it—not just for the presents and cake, but for the epic game of freeze tag he's got planned at Fawn Lake and the totally cool piñata which'll be stuffed with the wide selection of candy he picked out (we've never done a piñata before! so exciting!). Only... it looks like it might rain that day! What'll we do?!


urban woods

Yesterday we ventured in an unusual direction for us, lately: towards the big city. Not very far towards, since we're very much country mice these days! But a little bit. And Beaver Brook North Reservation in Waltham felt like a very urban woods compared to our usual haunts.

the boys posing in front of a grafitti'd water tower

look how street we are

The outing was prompted by our desire to visit Play Time in Arlington Center, but we also needed to be out of the house for a solid chunk of time so Leah could do an important meeting, so I hopped on Openstreetmap to find somewhere we could explore. There aren't any woods in Arlington big enough to absorb our attention for long, but Beaver Brook looked like it might be just the place. And it was! The graffiti, though beautifully photogenic, wasn't the main contrast with what we're used to. There was only that one bit, on a water tower we climbed up to. No, what was really different was the sheer number of trails crisscrossing the woods every which way.

Which was actually perfect for our mood, because we went in not having any idea what we were going to see or do and were all happy to have lots of intersections to make random choices at. Well, mostly happy... after over an hour of walking and playing certain of us started to feel worried about getting lost. As if that were even possible in the smart phone era! But any nervousness didn't last long, since there were lots of steep hills to run on and surprises to explore: a cemetery, an MTB jump track, a causeway with fascinating pipes carrying water to its lower side... and the water tower, of course! Plus some beautiful vistas that showed us that urban woods are just as cool as what we're used to in deep suburbia.

Zion and Elijah on a gravel path looking at a pond

despite the name of the woods the dam was made by people

It was all so entrancing, in fact, that we only made it to Play Time 13 minutes before they closed. So that part of the trip was sort of a bust (though we did pick up a good pencil sharpener, absolutely essential if we wanted to keep writing or drawing at our house). So we'll have to go back again soon. Anyone have any suggestions for other urban woods we can explore on the way?


big milk

If it were up to me, the only milk I ever for would be Shaw Farm in glass bottles from Chip-In. Local, relatively humanely-raised cows; returnable bottles; supporting the most local business... what could be better? Only, those bottles only hold a quart and cost enough that I can never bear to buy more than three at a time, and our boys go through a lot of milk. Leah, who wants to make sure they never run short, fills in the gaps with half-gallons from other stores: Shaw Farm if they have it at Wilson Farm or Whole Foods, or store brand from wherever else she might be shopping. But even those can go pretty fast. So yesterday she brought home a gallon jug of Hood.

So yeah, a gallon is a big thing! All of us had some trouble pouring from the full container this morning, into oatmeal or tea. And many Americans buy multiples of these containers at a time? Maybe we don't drink that much milk, after all...

all the weather

Every time it's gotten warm the last few weeks I ask the boys if they think we're going to get more snow, and they always say no. And they're always wrong. Wednesday close to two inches of snow fell on us in the couple hours we spent at the park, and Thursday morning we awoke to this beautiful wintery scene.

snow covering every twig of the trees out the back of our house at first light

well, it is still winter

But the snow didn't stick around. Thursday was warm—not hot, but plenty mild—and the March sun made short work of all the new snow except in patches of deep shade. Today was even warmer, at least until this evening when we were gathering outside with friends, with the kids sunbathing shirtless on the shed roof mid afternoon. You could almost see the daffodils growing as they started to push their way out of the ground. Of course, tomorrow is going to be another winter storm: mostly rain for us, but sleety rain into wet snow with a high in the low forties. Elijah's party has been postponed until next weekend. Yay for March in New England!


moments from the week

Elijah, shirtless, running on the street with Zion behind him

run the bases

Moments from the past week.

Elijah chasing the chickens with a stick

exercising the hens

Elijah looking out from a little ways up a tree

expedition scout

Zion holding a cat

Chip-In cat cuddle

a toddler climbing on a snowy playground structure in falling snow

fine weather for park day

colorful clay creations on the kitchen table

$3.50 worth of clay

kids playing gagaball at night

gaga ball under the lights


longest birthday ever

Elijah's birthday banners are still up. His party Saturday was postponed, which was probably a good call even though it didn't pour as much as the forecast predicted; it was still pretty wet and windy. Waiting yet longer was a tough prospect for him, so to make it up to him Leah took him and Zion to stay in a hotel in Lexington Saturday night. They swam in the pool and jumped on the beds and watched TV yesterday, and then this morning they enjoyed the breakfast buffet before coming to church. Unfortunately Leah came home feeling pretty sick, so I haven't had a chance to hear what she thought of the experience. It was a win for the boys though, that's for sure! And Elijah still has his party this Saturday to look forward to, and those banners have got to be up for another six days.

Yesterday was also an important milestone: it marked two years since the world shut down because of Covid. That seems like something worth marking as mask mandates end—for now?—and we're once again able to sing in Kids Church. But I don't really have anything to say about it: Elijah's birthday is much more interesting.

I ate too much pie

Sometimes it's nice to have these random non-holidays to notice. Yesterday it was Pi Day. We wanted to make a pumpkin pie, but found that we didn't have any pumpkin left so we had to settle for pecan. Well, Harvey had to settle; I like pecan better myself, and so, we find, does Elijah. In fact, it's the only kind of pie that I know how to make that he likes; usually he just eats the crust. He asked for a chocolate cream pie, but after I looked up the recipe I told him that I would need a little more time and mental space to attempt to make one. I never have before. I also made pizza—pizza pie, right?—but when I told the kids we were having pizza pie they imagined a wonderful pizza/pie combined concoction, so a couple of regular old pizzas was a little disappointing. But not too disappointing, because pizza. There were only two downsides to the day: we ate it all so quickly that we forgot to calculate any circumferences, and I ate too much of everything. It was so good! But I really didn't need that last slice of pie right before bed...

pecan pie and pizza on the table

pies all round

like in the before times

We have this weekly gathering with friends that we call "Bible Study" which has been going on since the late 2000s without much change of personnel (we last talked about the Bible sometime early in the last decade but the name has stuck). Since March 10, 2020 we've mostly been gathering over Zoom, with a few months of delightful outdoor get-together last summer. But now that most folks believe that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, our friends felt ready to invite us over to meet in person indoors again. For dinner, even! It was only a coincidence that the resumption came exactly two years after the start of the pandemic, but it felt pretty meaningful.

Of course, life isn't completely back to normal yet. We all took antigen tests before got together, mainly because there are two young people under vaccination age in the group. And the boys had some questions beforehand about what, exactly, they were going to do with their friends indoors. Of course, it turns out that wasn't a problem at all. They ran around and yelled inside the house, and then we told them they had to go outside so they ran around and yelled outside just like they have for the past two years. But then they got to come back in and we all sat around one table (ok, two tables pushed together) and shared a wonderful meal mostly made by the hosts (we contributed some warm fresh bread). It was a good time. We need to get some more tests in so we can do it again next Tuesday.

out in the sunshine

My favorite thing about this time of year is watching the kids walk on snow in their bare feet. Not that there's lots of snow left, but certainly pockets. And you know it's warm enough that they're having a hard time bothering with shoes. On Tuesday we went for a walk at October Farm and I'm not even sure if Elijah brought any. He reports that, even where there wasn't snow, the mud was pretty chilly. But the air was charmingly mild, so much so that he and Zion didn't even feel that they needed to keep their shirts on.

Zion and Elijah walking on snow shirtless, Elijah barefoot

enjoying the air

We brought a lunch, and the hardest part of the whole trip was waiting until almost 12:00 to eat it. Picnics are still so exciting! There was ice to try—not at all safe—and water to wade in—pretty cold—but most of all we just walked and talked and enjoyed the mild air. It was so lovely being outside that when we got back to the car we did a little tailgating to soak up as much early spring joy as we could.

the boys sitting on folding chairs in a dirt parking lot

good thing we brought the chairs!

Then on the way home we stopped for a minute at the boat launch to wade in the river. But only for a minute. The Concord is still cold!

the boys wading in the Concord River, being cold



so tired...

Last night I was thinking about so many things—Elijah's birthday party, work, homeschooling, spring housework—and feeling so stressed that I just didn't go to bed. It wasn't insomnia: when I finally lay down I was pretty instantly asleep. But it took quite a while to get to that point. And then I was up at 6:00. Somebody I was talking today mentioned that if you want to get rich you need to limit yourself to six hours of sleep a night, but even if I did want to be a financial success I don't think I'd be able to do that. I wouldn't survive! One night of six hours and I was collapsing this morning and practically hallucinating. And now it's past 10:00 and I'm still awake. Help! Good thing I have a restful day tomorrow... wait, what's that we have planned?!

moments from the week

kids standing on the beach at Freeman Pond with ice off in the distance

ice receding

Moments from the past week.

Zion playing tug-of-war at 4H

4H tug

the boys eating lunch outside on the deck

outside for lunch

Elijah hiking barefoot, with muddy feet

spring feet

kids playing dodgeball in our yard

the regular dodgeball game

Elijah, painted with mud, standing on the bank of a stream

mud season, mud paint

Elijah licking chocolate cake batter from the beater

cake batter beater

Elijah whacking his pinata

finally his party!


a birthday like old times

Do you remember March 2020, when Elijah's birthday was the last party we had where we were able to invite people into our house? Well, I don't know if the pandemic is really over, but the weather the last two weeks seemed determined to force us into a symbolic statement about where we stand now virus-wise, two years later. The poor boy had his actual birthday a couple weeks ago, and his party was scheduled for the 12th—outdoors, like things have been lately. But the forecast was terrible, so we postponed it a week. Then, after a week of beautiful clear days, the next Saturday was wet too. But Elijah was determined to wait no longer, and with the extra week to think about it all our friends were fine with coming indoors to celebrate with us. And what a party it was!

Elijah blowing out the candles on his cake with a friend looking on

he still remembers how to do it

Of course, it wasn't all inside. Elijah's biggest hopes and plans were a game of freeze tag at Fawn Lake and a piñata, and neither one of those were really possible to do in our house. The Fawn Lake part was first, and while it felt kind of bad to be leaving our house in downpour by the time we reached the pond—all of seven minutes away—the rain had faded to falling mist. So all the kids were able to have a great time playing tag, and all the grown-ups were able to stand around like grown-ups do, mostly without even needing their umbrellas.

kids in the field at Fawn Lake

I couldn't ever get them all in one photo

After about an hour Lijah called a halt and we headed home (through another rain squall—good timing!). The birthday boy was so excited about presents that he opened them before lunch. Lunch itself was amazing: all those kids around our table for the first time in two years! Amazingly loud, too. The adults stayed in the other room. Besides the pizza the highlight of the at-home part of the party was smashing the piñata, which we did on the front porch—not because it was particularly wet, but because the thing was so big and heavy I didn't think anything but the ring bolt for the porch swing would be able to hold it up! It survived two rounds of kids whacking it with a plastic bat (though it was looking definitely battered and leaking a fair bit) before Elijah dispatched it with the wooden one.

Zion hitting the pinata

Zion showning good form

Then we had cake. At that point it was 1:00, the official end of the party (which had begun at 10:30). We weren't kicking anyone out, though, and I was very gratified that everybody who didn't have somewhere else to go stuck around til almost 3:00. Just like that last birthday, back in 2020! I guess we still know how to throw a party.

Elijah's cake, decortated with sunglasses

the theme was "cool kids"


oops, it's spring!

With all the drama and excitement around Elijah's birthday, it totally escaped my mind that the equinox was coming until yesterday morning when I went to write the date on the chalkboard. 21st?! Hey, it's spring! I know that the printed calendar says that Sunday was the actual equinox, but never mind that: we celebrated it yesterday night with a big fire (fires are good for all astronomical events). We grilled hot dogs and seitan, and then after supper we made a bonfire with lots of greenery from the wreathes and other decorations, and some branches of the Christmas tree that the boys brought out of the woods. It was quite dramatic enough, but we wished we had someone to share it with, so this evening we invited some friends over for a reprise. This time we had smores. Harvey said it was the first smores of the year; I have my doubts, but I can't remember the last time exactly. Either way, there's sure to be lots more before long: it's spring now!

you know winter's over when...

For the last couple months we've really enjoyed the ice on Freeman Pond at park day. Skating, exploring... even sailing! Last week it was barely a ghost of its former glory, but we still had a little bit of fun throwing rocks to break the thin skin of ice that still floated a few yards from shore. Well, today the ice was finally gone completely, and you know what that means!

Elijah and Zion wading deeply in Freeman Pond

that's what we do with water, right?!

Let me say that the water was in no way warm, nor, really, was the air: you see that Zion didn't take his shirt off, and Elijah was wearing long pants out there under the water. But open water and a beach is so exciting that it didn't take them long to progress from wading, to splashing each other, to dunking sweatshirts in and then putting them on. By then everyone was so wet that it would have been silly not to go in all the way! For those kids, anyway. Somehow all the adults, teenagers, and younger kids managed to resist the allure of the pond. This week, anyway: Spring's just getting started! Let's see what they get up to next week.


moments from the week

Harvey and Elijah worshipping the equinox fire

celebrating the equinox blaze

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Elijah sitting by the open trunk of the car, near their bikes

after a ride

Zion and Elijah cutting out sugar cookies

making the equinox cookies

the boys in the water at Freeman Pond

spring swimming

kids having lunch on the back deck

all together on a Friday