did it

File under "minor achievements that make us feel good": I wrote something for every weekday and Saturday in October. That's this blog's schedule right now, because "every day" is about the only sort of schedule I can manage to keep in my head. If you were paying attention you noticed that some of those entries didn't technically appear on the day they're dated, but that's ok because I totally thought of them in time.

I've been trying hard to keep writing, if for no other reason than to get a little sense of accomplishment from something. I almost managed every day last month—I just missed two. And I worked really hard to catch up back in July; that month had something for every day except the week when we were away camping. But to top October's achievement you have to go all the way back to April, 2011, when the blog saw posts for every single day of the week (including Sundays!). Leah wrote most of those though, so I don't get much credit. October 2021? That was all me!

Besides giving me meaning, the blog also preserves our family memories. This past week Harvey (and his brothers) have been excited to hear about Harvey's old imaginary pals Jop and Boonin, who Harvey had forgotten about entirely (not surprising, since he was two when I that post). They all wished we had written more about what Harvey said about Jop and Boonin, and about their own early childhoods too. So I'd better keep at it; I wouldn't want to miss anything that might be important later!



Halloween this year was wonderfully celebratory: just like a real holiday! It's because it fell on a Sunday so we were able to devote the whole day to a series of varied observations. We started at church. Last year in the pandemic we did a church thing on Halloween (on a Saturday) because it was a chance to gather together outdoors. This year lots of us are meeting indoors but not all, so we thought we'd do it again! The kids all had the opportunity to wear their costumes to Kids Church, then we did trick-or-treating and photo-ops out in the parking lots.

me and the boys posing in our halloween costumes

church halloween photo op

As you can see, we were a warlike bunch! (well, I was actually a peaceful farmer—as Elijah pointed out I picked that costume so I could just wear my regular clothes!—but I couldn't help but get into the spirit for the photo). Zion was a ninja for the fourth year in a row and Elijah joined him in that brotherhood of the night; though as you can see Elijah had a little more liberal interpretation of the canon. Harvey was a ranger again, this time with a bow instead of a sword. As you can see he's in middle school which means he likes to make his costumes exclusively from things he already has (his high-school friend went as a wizard dressed as a muggle, which if you know Harry Potter you can see took even LESS effort!). The younger boys made new swords and masks for the event at least.

Then we had some time for resting—and for Zion to renew his hair dye—before the main event that evening. For trick-or-treating we were joined by four more kids, three of whom were ninjas. The fourth was a katana, which was significantly more original while not departing at all from the theme. The trick-or-treating was a joy, with excitement high on the streets after a gap of two years. Everybody got lots of candy.

the boys and friends posing in the street before trick-or-treating

mostly ninjas

Then we went home to gather around the fire with a few more folks who had trick-or-treated in their own neighborhood. I made hot cider, and the kids ran traded candy and ran around. We didn't stay up super late: it was school night, so by eight everyone was about ready to head home. But even with that prompt finish, the day was well celebrated.

the boys and friends sorting their candy at the picnic table

the reason for the season


riding in Fairhaven

Yesterday we introduced another family to the joys of cycling by Fairhaven Bay. They have a fourth-grader and a kindergartener who are kind of into mountain biking, but not totally sure about either the risk or the energy requirements involved... and one parent who would really like to get them into the woods and moving. So I thought the Fairhaven trails would be perfect—they're practically designed to introduce folks to the fun of trail riding. The landscape between Fairhaven Bay and Walden Pond is beautiful and varied, and there are lots of fun spots to stop and play off the bikes. And on the bikes, there are steep hills where, for a second or two, you can feel like a real downhiller. And most of all, the paths are almost entirely smooth and free of roots and rocks—super rare for woods around here. So the little ones can ride for way farther than they would be able to otherwise! We managed four or five miles, which felt about right, and which took in the cliffs, the boathouse and its lawn, a stop at Walden Pond, the train tracks (where we waited for a train to pass and the boys successfully signalled the engineer to sound the horn), and the old race track. Then back at the car there was plenty of Halloween candy for a recovery snack. Good times.

we need a time change

It's been so hard for us to get going in the mornings lately! We're all early risers (well, mostly all) but once risen we also have to make a start on the work of the day, especially when we need to leave the house by 8:30. Who can be bustling around getting ready when it's still dark out?! Well, lots of people apparently: everyone with school or jobs out of the house lately, and everyone on the other side of the time zone. But we're not used to it, and it feels pretty challenging. We're all looking forward to some morning sun Sunday morning!

moments from the week

Elijah jumping into the halfpipe to slide down on his socks

dropping in

Moments from the past week.

Zion with black hair die

halloween hair

me, the boys, and friends putting in garlic in our garden

farm school garlic

Elijah standing on the horse ride at Market Basket

daring at Market Basket

the boys reacting to the noise watching a train by Walden Pond

witnessing the train horn up close

Elijah and Harvey in hammocks at a playground

hammock town at park day

Elijah and a friend playing Candyland



a little out

Sometimes the outings are little ones. Today after lunch we hopped in the car and headed out to the Great Meadows bird sanctuary in Concord. It's only a 25-minute bike ride away at an easy pace, but some days even that is more than we can handle. Plus we wanted all the time to explore the meadows! Well, maybe explore isn't the word: most of the preserve is water, so even if they were willing to disobey the signs and disturb the birds visitors are pretty much limited by topography to the paths. But, after an obligatory trip up the observation tower, we at least felt like we had time to choose the longest path.

It was lovely to be out in the warm sun, at least at first; pretty soon it actually got a little TOO warm! But in November we'll take it, and we strolled along happily talking and pretending to be in a video game. At least the water, when we were able to get into it, was cold! (at least this time all of us were able to successfully adjust to ambient temperatures, which hasn't always been the case). It was a good time; it's always nice to get out and about, even in a small way.

the boys wading through the ford (right next to the bridge)

they don't need that bridge

experiment a success

When I conceptualized this park day thing I scheduled four meetings, thinking that was a sweet spot for encouraging people to commit: they would know the meetup was something that would definitely happen for a period of time, and they knew that they had an automatic out after that period. I don't know if that was the key factor, or if there was just a big demand for connection among homeschoolers in the greater Lowell area, but Varney Park Day has a been a huge success. So much so that it's still going strong into November. There's always a good-sized, diverse group of folks, and there's always something different going on. Last week it was "hammock town," with one real hammock and a bunch of other ones improvised out of big pieces of fabric one of the parents was genius enough to bring along; this week we were trying to catch falling leaves. Best of all, as the weeks pass we can see kids starting to play in more different groupings and arrangements—not just by who they knew coming in and played with before, but by age and interest as they get to know each other. That's something that happens in a good community. I think we can call this experiment a success!

moments from the week

the boys walking down a dirt road under fall trees

fallish walking

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Zion raking leaves in the yard

it's raking time

many leaves falling over the playground at Varney Park

park day leaf day

Elijah dressed up in a tutu and things at a friend's house

dressed to dance

a double rainbow over Great Brook Farm

the joy of rainy days

Elijah up a tree

he does like climbing trees


outings with pre-teens

It's interesting being a parent. As soon as you think you're starting to have things figured out, they change. Not that I in any way feel like I've got anything figured out! But this past Saturday I did have notice how much the experience of going on outings has changed with big kids, as I got the boys—well, some of them—out the door for a bike ride to the Old North Bridge.

Harvey and Elijah walking their bikes over the Old North Bridge

can you see them up there with their bikes?

On the one hand, they're all much more capable than they used to be. It's a little under five miles along the unpaved bike path to get out to the river, a distance that used to feel like a major expedition. Saturday we took it at a pretty relaxed pace and made some stops to see the sights—especially the bird sanctuary tower again—and we still did the whole trail in well under an hour. That surprised both boys, who remembered it as being much more arduous.

Wait, "both boys"?! Yes, there were only two. Zion declined to join us, which points to the other difference: going out and doing things doesn't have the appeal it used to. It's easy to get preschoolers psyched up for an adventure—they trust you that it'll be fun, and they don't have the competing pull of preteen activities like sitting on the couch reading books or playing Minecraft.

Oh well, hopefully we had a fun enough time that he'll feel better about coming along on future outings! Certainly it seemed plenty fun to me. We floated bark boats in the river, which is flowing much higher and faster than is typical for fall; Elijah and I rode some stairs; and we enjoyed an early snacky lunch (slanch) at a table on the pavilion above the river. Then, best of all, we explored and played hide-and-seek among the crazy overgrown ornamental trees that cover the bank below the visitor center house.

Harvey and Elijah eating lunch at a table on a lawn over the Concord River

lunch pavilion

the two boys in a crazy tree

just one example of the fascinating vegetation

Then we zipped home in plenty of time for Harvey to play Minecraft with his friends. See, it's possible to adventure AND be a preteen!


chicken club

No, I'm not talking about a sandwich. After 12 years of non-joinerism, the boys have finally signed on with an organization formal enough to require dues: Middlesex County 4H. Specifically, the Backyard Chicken Club.

kids sitting in a semicircle of folding chairs in a farm parking lot

club meeting

In some ways it's just like things we've already been doing. The group at the first meeting last month was over 50% homeschoolers, and there's definitely a homeschool feel. The activities are loose and fun, and there are plenty of movement breaks between the sitting times. But there are also some distinctly unfamiliar elements. The cost, for one, which at $15 per kids per year is super affordable—but we've almost never paid for any group ever before! And there were all those forms to fill out. There are officers and elections. And strangest of all, every meeting starts with the Pledge of Allegiance! (and the 4H pledge, which is less noteworthy). The boys had no idea that was a thing, but they learned it pretty quick ahead of the second meeting this past Sunday.

Even though some of our best friends are also members, I had to force the boys to give the first meeting a try. Happily, they took right to it, and demonstrated once again that, while they aren't joiners by nature, they're generally pretty happy to be with other kids and are ready to jump into whatever is going on. There was a food drive last weekend that they had to help with, and Leah, who took them, reports that they were all great at talking to shoppers outside of Donelans in Acton. And while they declined to throw their hats in the ring for any of the major elected positions on Sunday Elijah tells me he's interested in running for Games Organizer when the minor positions are filled next month. Way to get into the spirit!

Elijah a chicken run holding a bantam hen, Zion watching

sometimes they even get to be with chickens!


we need to see the ocean every couple months

Elijah, in blue coat and backpack, looking out over the blue ocean

ocean's blue

Tuesday is our outing day. So yesterday, after some work time and recorder practice, we packed up and headed out for a big one to Rockport, where we hadn't been since August. And our main goal was somewhere we've never been before: Halibut Point State Park, which came highly recommended by a good friend in our Friday evening group. While we're usually pretty smooth at getting out the door, there were some hiccups in the planning process. Zion made his lunch and packed it up in his backpack, but when we arrived (after a drive of close to an hour) he found that he never managed to get his backpack into the car. Also, the clothes he had chosen to wear weren't quite up to the rigors of the weather, which was pretty cold and windy. As it was already past noon when we got there, we ate lunch at the first semi-suitable spot we found, which was only... semi-suitable. It was pretty cold. On the other hand, we had a great view over the deep cliffs of the quarry pond!

the boys huddling behind a rock to eat lunch above a quary pond

if we could just lift our heads to look...

It turns out Halibut Point is a pretty cool spot. It's the site of a former granite quarry, which means there's the big pond that would be the best place ever to swim if there weren't 400 "no swimming" signs (ah, the sadness of living in 21st century Massachusetts), and also an immense looming headland which seems to have been made made by piling up mined-out gravel boulders and filling the spaces in between with dirt and gravel. But before we went up there we had to go make our acquaintance with the ocean, and play on some naturally occurring rock features.

Zion sticking his head out of a cave between boulders

he could live in there!

The ocean was as fascinating as it always is, and the rocks near it as fun to explore. Zion took the camera for a while, but the only disappointing thing about rocky shores is how hard it is to capture photographically the power of the waves. Still, he did his best!

the waves beyond the rocks

actually I think I took this one

Moving on after a bit we found a spot where, on a giant flat rock just like a table, people had built up dozens of piles of rocks large and small. As I looked at it I saw a crazy walled city, ancient or cyberpunk, and I told the boys about it. They totally agreed and we spent the next ten minutes adding to the city. Especially bridges. Finally turning our back on the epic creation we headed back up the hill to the headland, where besides a dizzying view over the edge of a cliff we found another stone table with a hole in it just right for recreating that scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Harvey sacrificing Elijah on a stone table on a headland

Elijah is Aslan

By that point we were running out of State Park energy, but we had enough left to finish our loop around the quarry pond (stopping at a couple amazing "no swimming" swimming spots) and find the way to the visitor center building, which was closed. The whole place was very accessible—I bet it's mobbed in the summer.

Zion pointing across the pond

"that's where we ate lunch"

Back in the car we decided that we actually weren't done with the adventure: we needed to visit the playground by Front Beach that we missed out on last time we were there. And the beach too, of course. The water there wasn't too cold for wading, and, even more exciting, there was actual sea-glass to find! Only very small pieces, but still thrilling. And then we had all the time we wanted to play on the playground and explore the rest of the park. By then we weren't even so cold any more! It was a fine day.

Elijah jumping over a stream on the beach

yay ocean!


moments from the week

Elijah jumping into a pile of leaves

leaf season!

Moments from the past week.

pieces of a felt owl assembled on the rug

Elijah is crafting

the boys on the ocean rocks at Halibut State Park

Halibut State rocks

kids listening to a story surrounded by balloons

just a typical day at school

Zion and Elijah getting their vaccine in the middle school gym

finally the jab