<< August 2021 :: September 2021

crystalized expectations

School started today in Bedford for the public school kids, but not for us: we've got a vacation trip planned next week so we're in summer mode for a little while yet. But that doesn't mean we're not learning! In advance of our geology study this September I checked out a book of experiments for kids, and the photos of crystals were deeply attractive to Elijah. For days he asked me if I'd help him make one, but I put him off: my feeling is that those things never work. You do all that prep work and imagine a beautiful crystal growing before your eyes, only to have nothing happen at all for days, and then only a vague scattering of grains. I wanted to spare him the disappointment. But he persisted, so a couple days ago we followed the instructions for experiment one: we boiled a cup of water, added three-plus cups of sugar—slowly, stirring the whole time—and some food coloring. Then we poured it all in a jar, let it cool a little, and put in sticks coated with sugar (seed crystals) for the thing to grow on.

As I expected, it didn't work. But the failure mode was the opposite of what I though would happen. Rather than nothing happening at all, within 12 hours nine-tenths of the solution in the jar had crystalized solidly to the point where we couldn't even pull the sticks out. Maybe we used too much sugar? Boiled it too long? The recipe doesn't say anything about what might possibly go wrong, so I guess more experimentation is required. Which is really the point of science, I suppose! It's going to be a good year.

cold

It got cold today! Very exciting, and it made it really feel like September. Harvey is delighted to get to wear his hooded sweatshirt; me, it's baking I'm excited about. We had the oven on and rather than it driving us out of the sweltering kitchen—which is what we've been used to the last month or so—the warmth was positively welcome! The other thing that we all love (all but Leah anyway) is getting to pile blankets on the bed, which we'll certainly be doing because we've still got the fans going at night. Of course, with our Cape Cod vacation coming up next week we're also hoping that summery weather isn't gone for good, but either way we're going to be sleeping good tonight!

special delivery

This morning much noise next door alerted us to the fact that our neighbor was having a tree taken down. Last time the tree service folks were on our street our driveway was clogged up with the old minivan, so as much as I wanted to ask for the woodchips I didn't have any place to actually put them. Today I not only had a spot, but with the chipper working in the next driveway over they could even send the chips directly into our yard! They were delighted to not have to cart the chips away but a little hesitant at my delivery plan—with good reason, because when they eventually decided to go with it the hurricane blast from the chipper sent chunks of wood all the way across the deck into the inflatable pool and probably beyond. I understood then why they wanted to be sure the kids and dogs would stay out of the backyard! I was quite happy with the whole process—free woodchips!—but I guess they felt bad for the mess, and after the chipping was done one of the guys came over and gas-blowered everything off the deck. So not only do we have a pile of prime woodchips, the deck and concrete area by the cellar door are cleaner then they've been for quite some time! Wins all around.

moments from the week

the boys sitting on the edge of a woodsy cliff

best snack spot

Moments from the past week.

Elijah hanging upside down on a play structure

hanging out at church

Harvey swimming in shallow calm water in Rockport

the ocean is the best

Elijah posing on the pond beach in his new bathrobe

Elijah loves his new bathrobe

banana bread on the kitchen table

the banana bread Harvey baked (and posed)

Zion playing lacrosse on the street

sporting

the boys and friends batting balloons in the air at a backyard party

it's a party!

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a morning out

Cooler weather rekindled our enthusiasm for adventure last week, so on Friday we loaded up the bikes for a trip to Fairhaven Bay. I was interested in seeing how high the water was after the recent flooding, but mostly I just wanted to get out and moving! The boys were amenable.

Elijah climbing up the chimney by Fairhaven Bay

adventure

We've been there plenty of times now, but but it's a big place and there are still paths we've never explored, so we were able to try something of a different route. Elijah is constantly improving as a cyclist, and I was very impressed at how easily he handled the hills—sure, he had to walk up a few of the steepest spots, but he did it with a will and without hardly any complaining at all! Of course, the other boys are awesome as well. It's a great place to ride if you don't mind hills: the ups and downs are exciting, and the paths are mostly smooth and free of rocks and roots.

The river was a little disappointing: it was high, but less so than last time we visited. Never mind, there are other exiting things to visit—like Walden Pond, up on the other side of the woods. Some of us were a little nervous about crossing the train tracks to get there, but we all did it and were rewarded by getting to put our feet in the water. We didn't stay long though, because staying still we started to get cold, if you can believe it. Crossing the tracks again I opined confidently that trains came by very infrequently, so of course less than a minute later, as we were still putting on our shoes, there one was. They're always exciting to watch up close, especially when you're on the same side of the tracks as all your stuff.

Zion and Elijah watching a train go by

whoooosh!

Of course, the best part of adventuring is the snacks—and especially getting to eat them in all kinds of fun spots. Elijah enjoyed half of his on the cliffside perch pictured in yesterday's post and saved the other half until we found this shelter.

Elijah eating a granola bar in a stick shelter

we're not sure it would keep off the rain, but it sure looks cool

All that, and we made it home in time for lunch!

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hitting the beach hard

We're on vacation in Truro again. We made the most of our first day away from home, stopping at the beach in Eastham for an afternoon of play in the surf... and the best part of it is that, since the puppies stayed back home, Leah could join us! Of course, we're missing them, but we're also relishing the unaccustomed freedom and have high hopes for the rest of the vacation. Lots more beaching to come!

butterfly garden

Years ago I vowed to do my part to grow milkweed for the monarch butterflies. But we didn't stop there! We also have all kinds of butterfly-friendly flowers for the adults to sip on and water for them to drink. So every year we can count on enjoying having them around the place. But this year is something else! In our backyard and along the driveway they're always there—at any moment you can look out and see one. Or more than one: the other day I think I counted eight just in a little patch of our backyard! I tried to get a picture with all of them but they wouldn't sit still and pose, so this is just a sample of the monarch excitement we've been witnessing.

a monarch butterfly in a butterfly bush

there's actually two in this picture if you look closely

I have no idea what's led to the jump in their numbers. I've been joking that we've singlehandedly reversed their population decline, but that's probably not it. Maybe they're attracted by all the weed flowers we have growing in the lawn, because the lawn mower isn't working? Or maybe we've just reached a critical mass of butterfly bush, tall phlox, and zinnias, and are attracting all the monarchs in Bedford. Sorry to everybody else in that case... but you're welcome to stop by for a viewing!

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moments from the week

Zion and Harvey playing in the waves, Leah getting ready to join them

beach vacation

Moments from the past week.

Elijah biking on a bike path with the sea in view over his shoulder

the best bike path

the boys playing on the beach at sunset

sunset on their private beach

all three boys swinging on one big swing on a playground

vacation isn't just about the beach

Elijah drawing with friends inside a sliding door, Zion painting out on a deck

back to school

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the 2021-2022 school year gets under way

We had kind of a soft launch to school this year: On Wednesday Zion took an hour and a half out of his vacation to participate in the first meeting of his Zoom historical fiction book group, then on Friday we went to our friends' house so that Harvey could kick off his book group and while we were there we did a few other things together. But today was the real launch of our two-family, three-days-a-week school group, and we had a grand old time. Unfortunately I had to spend a good two and a half hours away from the learning excitement at an in-person work meeting; but no worries, my co-instructor had things well in hand for the morning! The kids talked about learning, and about apples. Then in the afternoon we started a construction project rehabilitating the collapsing sandbox roof. Now that's educational! The only thing missing from the day was the formerly-traditional first day of school pictures, with signs. Oh well. This post will have to go unillustrated, and I don't think we'll do the pictures this year. It's too late: school is well and truly launched!

just like our woods

I may not watch television or follow baseball any more, but I do more than my share of staring at sports on screens—mostly cycling on youtube or Redbull TV. Downhill mountain biking is my favorite, and I've been enjoying it for two seasons now. Shortened seasons, though, since naturally the pandemic made things hard for the organizers of the UCI Downhill World Cup series. And as it happens all of the races last season and the first four this summer were in Europe, so I got used to seeing the action taking place in the picturesque Alps. But this week the last two races of the season are taking place in West Virginia, and this afternoon was the first practice runs. And it looks just like the woods where we ride! I hadn't registered how different the high-altitude forests of Austria, Italy, and Switzerland are to the ones I'm used to: that's just what mountain bike courses on TV looked like. But now they're going to be riding the deciduous forest of the Eastern US, just like I do! I can't wait to watch the race action.

in the waves

Our Cape trip last week was mostly about playing in the waves. With Hurricane Larry somewhere in the mid-Atlantic we expected some heavy surf; in the event I don't think it made much of an impact, but there was plenty of wave action for everybody anyway.

Harvey breasting a wave at Coast Guard Beach

testing them out

As I mentioned our first stop on the trip was Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. We parked in the visitor center lot and the boys and I rode our favorite bike path in to the beach—and this time Elijah made it the whole way without needing to push up any hills! Leah doesn't bicycle these days so she walked, and very much enjoyed the rare opportunity to be out by herself without the dogs. We got to the beach at right about high tide, and the waves were big enough to be fun without being at all threatening. Best of all, they were pushing right up the beach without a lot of rolling chaos, so all the boys were able to body surf without a problem. As the tide went out it got a little more challenging, but no one was seriously injured and all would have been happy to stay even longer than we did. But dinner in Truro awaited!

The beach on the Bay side in Truro is usually pretty sedate, but on Wednesday a steady wind out of the southwest was pushing some pretty good swells against the sand at a 45 degree angle. Expecting calmer waters the boys had the inflatable boats with them, and we spent an exciting couple hours launching them into the surf, riding the swells, then being pummeled back to shore. So fun!

Zion and Elijah launching an inflatable raft into two-foot breakers

waiting for the perfect moment

a view of the launch efforts from above, on the bluff

they're some noticeable waves

the boys playing on and around the raft in the ocean

but once you're in, it's all easy!

There were so many waves packed into those two days that we didn't even mind when Thursday was cool and rainy. We needed a break! Of course, even on the beach it's not all action: we know how to do a vacation right.

Elijah resting on the beach with his legs buried in the sand

what he does when he's not in the water

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steps in the right direction

As I think I must have said at least once already, I tend not to write about my carpentry projects in these pages because I feel like I should wait until I finish one before I reveal it, and I never actually finish anything. Instead I get to 90 or 95 percent and then get distracted by something else—but it's fine because 90 percent is good enough. Like our back deck. I started building it in September 2019 (as seen in the second photo here) and stopped work when winter weather and darkness took over mid-November. Also I'd blown my whole lumber budget for the year.

But in the two years since then I haven't forgotten my original plans, and this week they took an important step forward with the construction of the stairs by the chicken coop and a lower deck section and/or bench that continues the curve of the deck around the fire pit. Last weekend I had just thought I was going to do the stairs, but when I got going I thought the other part should be integrated with them so I tore out what I'd done, got some more lumber, and made it even better. These words would make a lot more sense with a picture or two, but I didn't want to photograph the new part of the deck until... I finish it. Hopefully I'll at least get enough screws in by tomorrow that the evening's guests won't fall through! But finished or not the stairs are definitely usable, and I every time I use them I marvel at how easy they make getting around the backyard now. Just imaging how cool this deck'll be when it's done!

can I organize things?

I don't think of myself as a particularly organized person, much less one who can organize groups of other people. And yet that's what I find myself doing this week. This past Sunday I had to lead a workshop at church for folks who wanted to learn more about the elementary kids program and possibly—hopefully!—volunteer, and with admirable forethought (if I do say so myself) I prepared a sign-in sheet so I could remember who was there and track em down later. In the event only two people came—two people who I already know well—so it wasn't needed. But I would have been ready! Then on Wednesday we ran a Park Day at Varney Playground in Chelmsford, which I advertised on a homeschooling group on Facebook. We're planning to meet weekly through the first part of the fall at least, and since I don't like Facebook I wanted to get people's email and phone numbers. So another sign-up sheet! And this time it was well worth it, since of the eight families who showed up I only knew three ahead of time. Plus getting the kids' names written down helped me learn them all instantly, unlike the last couple homeschool gatherings we've attended where I wasn't even sure at the end who all had come for park day and who just happened to be at the playground. The afternoon was fun for all, and we're looking forward to doing it again next week! Unless it's pouring rain, in which case I'll be able to email folks to cancel. Organization!

moments from the week

folks on our deck under the lights and around the fire

what gathering looks like in the fall

Moments from the past week.

Elijah making a zombie pose with a cereal box over his head and face

breakfasthead

Harvey and a friend painting

the art of school

lots of kids playing dodgeball on a basketball court

dodgeball at Park Day

the boys sitting around on the halfpipe at the skate park

sometimes you relax at the skate park

the boys and other kids watching a fire truck in the Bedford Day parade

Bedford Day parade!

Zion in the dusk with glowstick hoops around his neck

a beautiful end to a beautiful day

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catching up (again)

More cheating from me! Like last time, I've been trying to do many things at once the past couple weeks (including getting an appropriate amount of rest—self-care is essential!) and one of the things that's slipped through the cracks is keeping up with writing. But I've been feeling guilty about it! So I'm delighted to report that I've now finally got all of my thoughts and ideas from last week into publishable form (publishable on my low-standards blog, of course) and posted retroactively to make it look like I was on the ball the whole time. I hope you enjoy six (seven, counting this one) new posts in one evening!

Bedford Day returns!

Bedford Day was cancelled in 2020 thanks to the pandemic. So was Pole Capping, Fourth of July, and Halloween. Then we also missed Pole Capping and Fourth of July in 2021. So let me tell you, there was some excitement for Bedford Day 2021! It happened this past weekend, and it was spectacular.

Zion watching fireworks

boom!

I don't know if there were more people out than the last time we celebrated as a town, but enthusiasm certainly felt higher as we arrived at the center of town for the parade Saturday morning. We met the same friends as last time—well, mostly, since in the intervening years all the kids have gotten older so some of them are now marching with karate or soccer. So we waved at them. There was a little less candy-throwing than past years but still plenty, lots of which—again—failed to reach the barricades along the side of the street. We didn't let our kids crawl under, but they still managed to get enough to kick off their sugar rush.

the boys and friends watching the boys scout float go by

local color in full flower

Zion, Elijah, and some other kids scrambling for candy at the parade

their instincs kick in

Not that they needed much parade candy, because the fair following the parade was full of sugary treats. Elijah was possessed by the idea of cotton candy so the first thing we did was wait in a long line to get some at $3 a shot (Zion too; Harvey chose a much shorter line for pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream). We felt a little sheepish later when we found another booth with free cotton candy, but that just meant the kids got another hit. We also enjoyed snow cones (free), popcorn ($2), and homemade chocolate chip blondies ($1: much the best deal). Plus we even found time to eat the lunches we brought!

Elijah with a big pink cotton candy

he's been waiting for this for two years

Zion's two best friends were in the karate demonstration this year, so it was extra fun to watch. And there were balloons to play with, and fire trucks to tour, and the library book sale. Elijah got face paint. Then everything started closing down and we went home.

Zion, Elijah, and a friend sitting on little steps eating snowcones

everybody starting to wind down

But unlike past years, that wasn't the end of the festivities! In Bedford we have Fourth of July fireworks only every five years, and we missed our shot in 2020. Never mind, leftover fireworks are much better in September, when the show can start at 7:30! We rejoined our friends—they brought glow sticks!—and the kids ran and played until the sky lit up with the most amazing fireworks display I've seen for at least two years.

more fireworks

now that's a celebration

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farewell to summer

We're never quite sure where exactly the equinox falls. On the calendar we marked it down for today, but does that mean that tonight is the same length as today, or was it last night? In any case, we figured that yesterday was the last day of astronomical summer and we determined to celebrate it appropriately. Which, never mind that it was actually kind of chilly, meant taking the boats to the pond!

Harvey and Zion swimming with the canoe, Elijah lying on a rock on shore

waterfront action

We actually haven't gotten them out all that much the last couple months, so it was extra exciting to hit the water. The sun came and went as we paddled around looking for a good spot to set up camp, but by the time we found one, ate our lunch, and got ready to swim, it was solidly hidden by low gray clouds. So while the water was probably warmer than just about every time we've swum this summer, it was a bit of an effort to take the plunge. Of course we all did eventually, and after a while the clouds parted again for a time. Elijah had to take the most breaks to warm up, but there were rocks to jump on (and lie on when the sun was shining) and he and I even took a little mini hike up the hill above the pond. Harvey and Zion just swam and swam, and played with the boat and paddles.

With peaches from the farmers market on the way home it felt like a perfect way to see off the summer. Then at supper time we made a fire, and, though we were a little too busy playing and chatting with the friends who came over—and toasting marshmallows—to do any real reflection on the change of seasons, I think it did the job of marking the equinox the way it deserves to be marked. Now bring on the fall!

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foxy laddie

There was so much else to report when I was writing about Bedford Day that I wasn't able to give Elijah's face paint the attention that it deserved. I need to remedy that because, just like every time, he went all in with it and looked amazing.

Elijah in fox face paint

face paint is serious business

I can't remember either of the other boys being so into face paint at seven, or any other age. I think they lack his commitment to personal ornamentation, and also his willingness to communicate with strangers. Which you need to do if you want someone to give you that kind of attention! He's also really patient: there wasn't much of a line for the face-painting booth, but he still needed to wait at least ten minutes before he got his turn, and then the painting itself took close to that.

Elijah being face-painted at the fair

the process

Totally worth it though! I only wish the paint job itelf lasted a little longer... it was already smudged by the time we headed home an hour or two later, and after 24 hours all that was left was the white triangles above his eyes and a lingering spray-tan looking orange cast to his cheeks. He tells me we have our own face paint set somewhere in the basement though, and he's already planning his next look.

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out of abundance of caution

We had to cancel school today because of illness. Our Friday school group is three families: last night one family's kids were feeling sick with sore throat and runny nose so they decided they'd stay home today; then the other family decided that it'd be safer to stay away too; and that turns out to have been a wise plan because in the middle of the night Zion woke up with a little fever and sore throat. Now, in pre-pandemic days none of these symptoms would have stopped us from doing anything—with such a fun day ahead of us we would have needed to be dying to call it off—but the coronavirus is a whole nother thing. Never mind not wanting to get it: that goes without saying. But almost as bad would be having to tell your friends that you had it and exposed them. How embarrassing!

It's probably nothing. Everybody will probably be all better tomorrow. But I don't mind missing a day. In the old days we probably used to all get each other sick all the time! At least today we spared giving one other family a cold, and that seems worthwhile. And just in case, we have Covid tests to take before church on Sunday!

moments from the week

Zion running on a beach with a play parachute

he didn't have a kite so he tried this parachute

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Elijah watching a friend pour from a jar of purple juice

grape-lemonade from the the grapes they picked

Zion looking at a snowy egret from the canoe

birding from the boat

apples in a pie before the top crust goes on

apple pie season

Grandpa David blowing out the candle on his birthday pie

happy birthday Grandpa!

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is this the pandemic?

We had a busy day yesterday. Indoor in-person Kids Church started up again—for the first time since March 2020!—and the boys and I left the house at 8:00 so I could be sure to be ready for the 9:15 start time. It went wonderfully, and it was so lovely to be there with the kids doing fuze beads again, but it was a little more involved schedule-wise than turning on the computer for a 45-minute like I was used to for the last year and a half. Then straight from church we headed to a mini-golf course for a birthday party—well, the first part of a birthday party, because after a mostly successful 17 holes (one of them was closed) we headed to the birthday boy's house for a couple hours of backyard socializing. By the time we got home at 5:30 I was wiped out!

I guess we've been doing plenty all summer, so it's not a total departure. But being inside again for church, and the fact that the party was with friends who we've seen much less over the past year and a half than we always used to, made the day feel like one from before the pandemic times. Of course, we were wearing masks all the time we were inside, and there weren't many people at either Kids Church or the party. So maybe we're just getting used to this life?

<< August 2021 :: September 2021