all hallows

Costumes are important for us, and the boys were all very definitive about what they wanted to be for Halloween this year. Harvey: Ninja. Zion: Asterix. Lijah: whichever cute Pokemon he had last looked at in the Pokemon book. With Leah very busy with work and other matters, I took the reins of the costume construction, and, with a great deal of assistance from Leah on certain points of difficulty, managed to produce three acceptible costumes.

ninja Harvey, Asterix Zion, and monkey Lijah posing at the farmers market

what great costumes!

You see that Lijah settled on Monkey over the weekend—not a Pokemon at all. Thank goodness, I say. We already have a couple of monkey costumes, but with all the fuss we were making over his brothers' it seemed only fair to give him a shot at something new too. He liked picking out the fuzzy fabric.

Zion's Asterix costume was the one I was most excited about. I think it came out very well indeed; that picture doesn't even do it justice (Zion was pretty cold, sleeveless, but I made him take his sweatshirt off for the photo). Harvey said, "he looks like a real person with cartoon things." I agree.

For his part, Harvey did most of the work on his costume himself, from designing at attaching his math-themed ninja logo to making his own nunchucks. I can take credit for the mask and the swords—he could have done swords, but he put it off too long ("Dada, I feel like playing with Lijah is kind of like helping..."—true enough!) and only I can manage a pair of wooden katanas in half an hour before we need to leave.

Because we were on a deadline to trick-or-treat at the farmers market in Lexington—we wanted to be there anyway, so why not pick up some treats along the way? Then we ventured into the maelstrom of costumed kids down the street in the center of town, where along with about 500 other kids they happily took candy from local merchants. It was quite a scene.

the boys walking on the crowded sidewalk in Lexington Center

crowded with revelers

We noticed with some sadness that out of those 500 we could only see three other kids with home-made costumes. Knowing the joy they took from having something created just to their specifications, the boys felt a little bad for all the poor children who had to be content with something off the rack. At least everyone got enough candy.

We certainly did, but of course that was only the first portion; then we had to hurry home in time to welcome our friends who were joining us to trick-or-treat in our lovely walkable neighborhood. (Out of the eight kids in our group there were five home-made costumes—a much better ratio.) The kids made us go out before dinner, so as our time on the quarter-mile loop stretched out over an hour we started to get a little hungry; everyone was glad to get get home and sit down to a pot-luck dinner. Then the kids ate lots and lots of candy and got really loud, so I don't remember the rest of the evening.


picking back up

I've been having kind of a tough time lately, which has meant I haven't written anything here. But that feels bad, because writing about our life is something I think is valuable—at least, when I'm feeling ok about myself. So I'm going to try and get back into it. Maybe focus a little more on what we do, rather than what I think.

I'm going to start by filling in some things that happened in the past with back-dated posts. That's the only way I can see to catch up. Sorry, historical record!

moments from the week

Harvey and Lijah sitting by the fire in the dark

backyard campfire

Moments from the past week.

Harvey listening to headphones at a museum exhibit


Lijah and Harvey building a train track

train crew

costumed boys trick-or-treating at the farmers market

market trick-or-treat

Lijah and Kamilah reading on the couch


Zion playing with flour

pizza flour


our backyard campfire

the fire in our backyard

homemade heat

On Saturday we built a fireplace—fire ring?—in the backyard. Basically I dug out a circle of grass and then we put some stones around it. We made a fire right away to test it out, which was a little hard to see. It worked better in the evening.

marshmallows over the fire in the dark

hard to see the marshmallows cooking

I'd been thinking about having a more fun place to have fires for a while, but I was waiting for it to get cool enough to make it worthwhile. It wasn't over the weekend, but I went ahead and did it anyway. You can enjoy marshmallows regardless of the temperature.

Besides it being plain nice to have a place to sit around the fire, I'm interested in increasing the appeal of our yard to the kids. Can their own fire compete with video games at the neighbors' house? The jury is still out, but now that they're learning how to build the fire and light matches themselves the attractiveness is growing. I wonder what will happen when they have their own kettle to cook in? Clearly this is an ongoing story... cold weather has come in earnest now, so we'll see what the next chapter brings.

Zion and Harvey sitting by the fire

relaxing after a game of ball tag


beer and firewood

Harvey and I picked up some wood from the town forest this morning, to keep our fire habit going. A big white pine fell across one of the paths a couple months ago, and someone kindly cut it up to clear the way. Because it was so thick, the anonymous caretaker had to saw it into 12- to 18-inch segments, so they could be moved—just the thing for a pair of firewood hunters without a chainsaw. I'd had my eye on them ever since the tree came down, in case we ever had a need for firewood; well, now we do. The cargo bike carried five of them nicely, plus an assortment of smaller stuff. Then the only problem was splitting them. We have an axe, but that doesn't work so well with logs as big as these (it's not so sharp either). So while the boys were playing at a friend's house I picked up a splitting wedge from the hardware store.

Since the liquor store is just a couple doors down, I also got some beer—because what goes better together than dangerous sharp tools and intoxicants?! I have to say that in my cold-weather anarchist/hobo outfit of boots, carharts, and fleece coat over hooded sweatshirt I felt very manly as I purchased my wedge and my mallet and my Cambridge-brewed beer. Then I went home and split all the logs in the cold drizzle. It was very satisfying.

We're pretty busy around here, and not only with making fires (though mostly that). I also broke my camera somehow, so that kind of puts a damper on my blogging, the way I've been doing it the last couple years. But we go on somehow.

We love showing off the fireplace, and now there's lots of wood to burn. You totally should come over and check it out!


they might be stuck in my head

Back in October we accidentally introduced the boys to "Particle Man", by the band They Might Be Giants. Then Leah accidentally revealed to them that we own Flood, the album on which it originally appeared back in 1990. Then we allowed them to listen to said album in the car. Again and again. At first I just hated it—I complained to other people old enough to have experienced it originally that it must have been recorded and mixed by people who hated music and other people. I take that back now. It may be the stockholm syndrome from listening to it 149 times talking, but it's actually kind of good. And I certainly know those songs well now!

I'm especially enjoying trying to play them on the guitar. I'm not a very good guitarist—I can only learn things I have to play, so I haven't progressed beyond the level of strumming preschool songs and worship music for Elementary Kids Church. You know, the ones with two-to-five chords per song (some of the preschool songs are even mono-chordal!). I've tried to play some more sophisticated jazz tunes, but then I run into chords that I don't know how to play at all, and when I do manage to figure them out I can't manage stringing them together. That sort of complexity maybe demands a teacher.

The songs on Flood are a lovely middle ground. The chord progressions are wonderfully varied, but the chords themselves are all simple major or minor. That means I get to practice bar chords all over the neck and strange transitions from one chord to another. The first song from the album to catch my guitar-playing attention was "We Want a Rock", which after a straightforward verse of G, C, and D dives into the chorus with the rare A-B-C-D progression. Also all the chords fly by one after another, one per beat—there's no lingering on a chord like in those worship songs (clearly the band composed more on auto-chording synth than guitar). Next I moved on to "Make a Little Birdhouse In Your Soul", which forced me to learn the bar-chorded progression of Eb-Ab-Eb-Cm-G-C.

The band's lyrics are also clever, at least in the sense of how they fit in to the songs. I still haven't figured out how the timing of the chorus of "Letterbox", for example. In that case I got so frustrated I've given up for now, but now I've set myself a new goal: "Meet The Elements", from the band's science-themed album for kids (which we were exposed to via youtube; there is still some screen time in our house). It's pretty tame, chord-wise, but the way the lyrics lay over the beat is very fun to try and get right. My family and everyone who has been in my house has been very indulgent of my repeated attempts to figure out. Check it out here, and join me in thinking of nothing else for 36 straight hours! Or maybe you have more discrimination. I don't, clearly!


moments from the week

Lijah using the mallet and log wedge

putting him to work

Moments—terrible phone camera moments—from the past week.

the smaller boys in the blue bike with a load of branches

picking up some firewood

Harvey and Zion looking at Pokemon cards by the fire

cards by the fire

Harvey digging a hole in the backyard

digging a foundation


how we deal with cold weather

The cold weather is upon us. I react by switching over to my winter outfit: long underwear, wool socks, and lots of layers on top. I love the cold, but I hate and fear being cold. So I wear the right clothes; the two things are connected. Harvey, on the other hand, doesn't need any such precautions. Today the temperature was maybe peeking into the 40s and, after a few minutes of running in the yard, he had to take his boots off because his feet were hot. At Market Basket the other day the elderly cart-retrieval man commented (positively!) on his choice to wear shorts with the windchill in the 20s. And while he has a new winter coat, he hasn't felt any need to wear it yet—just its fleece liner, over a t-shirt.

Lijah also hasn't worn his coat much, but that doesn't mean he's as cold-tolerant as his big brother. On the contrary, he complains bitterly whenever he's uncomfortable—yet still tries to go out for the morning walk in cotton pajamas. He said a blanket over him in the stroller would be enough; I convinced him to at least put on a sweatshirt and hat. (The hat is important, actually. When you're three your head is like 40% of your surface area, so...) For playing outside this afternoon I actually got his coat on him—the first time this year—as well a pair of actual pants over his PJs. No boots, though: only slippers will do for this determined boy.

Still, we all adapt in our own ways. We're getting used to this cold thing. Now all we need is snow; this morning we were placing bets on when it would show up. Do they make snow slippers?


muffins for us

I enjoy baking. Mostly the boys get the benefit of my desserts—and bread, of course. But for some reason I tend to only make muffins to give away. Like this month I'm making a dozen every Sunday to bring to church, to encourage other people to do the same and diversify our food offerings away from just bagels (it's working already!). Why don't I make muffins just for us?! Yesterday morning I decided to break that pattern, and we had blueberry muffins with our breakfast. Which shows up the best part of baking for family: you don't have to worry about things coming out perfect! I guess blueberry muffins are pretty common, but for whatever reason they haven't been something I've really ever made. Probably because I have better things to do with my blueberries! But now Leah and Zion are really into frozen blueberries, so they're perpetually available.

As it happened yesterday's muffins came out quite acceptably. The only interesting thing was their color: the thawing berries turned the batter a beautiful purple, which I thought was lovely; but when they cooked they came out green, which was less so. Still tasty. They're all gone now. I'll make more soon: my family deserves muffins too.


moments from the week

Leah eating lunch outside, a chicken on the table

chicken for lunch?

A few miserable phone-camera moments from the past week.

the boys playing on the (closed) train


Zion and Lijah playing with toys on the little trampoline

playing outside

the boys looking at the goats at the Thanksgiving market

Thanksgiving market zoo


missing thousands of words

There are many things that are making writing hard for me these days, but one of them is not having a working camera. As you can see, when I'm blogging I think in pictures: first I see a moment I want to capture in a photo, and taking the picture I think of how I want to frame it in writing; then I use words to connect the different pictures together. Even when I just want to write some dumb thing about mowing the lawn, I really like to have an image to anchor my thoughts. With only my disgraceful phone camera available, that method of composition does not work.

So you miss, for example, the full details of how we deal with colder weather. Oh, how I wished this evening to be able to photograph Harvey's outfit this evening, chosen for cycling to the library in 40° weather: shorts, snow boots, an unzipped sweatshirt, and fingerless gloves. Super punk. I totally would have had some good things to write about that. Or, also on the clothing front, I could write about my disgusting work pants that I wear like all the time—but not without a picture of them.

You know, one thing that maybe doesn't need a photograph is the boys' obsession with the disposable plastic knives from the community dinner, how they must always have at least two as weapons, and how Harvey had his confiscated by a uniformed Air Force officer this evening. But now I'm too tired. Maybe another time.