posts tagged with 'friends'

midsummer delights

While we do like to celebrate the solstice, we've never managed to throw a bash as big as the summer solstice deserves. There's always too much else going on. So this year I was delighted to be invited to a party hosted by a friend from Latvia, where they know how do do solstices right!

a child in a solstice crown of flowers, and me playing guitar

now that's a party

We met these friends in the fall—they're part of our park day group—but we've never been to their house. Mainly because it's a million miles away, all the way out west in Dunstable. But that means they have plenty of yard to run and play in, and also that they live near a beautiful meadow where we started the party picking flowers to make into solstice crowns.

Zion holding a big bouquet of wildflowers in front of a waterlily pond

midsummer child

Once we all had several armfuls we went to their house, where we sat around a fire and ate for the next six hours or so. Well, I guess we didn't sit the whole time. They have a trampoline and there was a bounce house, so the kids got lots of exercise (I may have taken a bounce or two myself). We helped a stray duck get back into her run. We played some music. I got a little less horrible walking on a slackline. Some of the kids made a seesaw. It was a fun time! Oh, and I jumped over the fire.

me blurily jumping over a fire

somebody has to do it

In Latvia, we hear, sunset on the solstice is at around 11:30. That's why they need strong solstice traditions, like the crowns and the solstice cheese pictured below. We didn't last that long, but it was still starting to get dark as we finally pulled ourselves away at quarter to nine. Good party! I hope they'll invite us again next year.

a cutting board beautifully laid with cheese, crackers, flowers, and oak leaves

solstice board


weekend beach day

On Saturday it was supposed to be hot. What to do? Head to the ocean! Of course, when it was still in the 60s and drizzling rain at our departure time I felt a little silly, especially since I had persuaded some friends to join us on our expedition to Rockport. We briefly thought about just staying home, but I really hate giving up on a plan... Plus even if the weather wasn't perfect, we didn't have anything better to do. It was a good call, because the beach is always magical.

the boys walking towards the ocean on the misty beach

especially magical-looking in the mist!

The big beach wasn't actually our original intention—the thought was we could walk around the center of Rockport, climb on the rocks and the breakwater, maybe go in the water at Front Beach. But when I noticed a sign saying that beach sticker parking doesn't start until the 28th I thought we might give Good Harbor a try. Even though there were lots of people taking advantage of the last free parking weekend, there was still plenty of room in the giant lot. Plenty of room on the giant beach, too: the tide was lower than I've ever seen it, so even though there were hundreds of college kids (so many bikinis and lacrosse sticks!) we had plenty of room for photos that made it look like we had the place to ourselves.

Low tide also revealed a path to the island a little ways off the beach, which we'd never been to before. So while we waited for our friends to arrive we headed over to check it out. It was a fun climb up (though a little hard to avoid the poison ivy and 19-year-olds), and with the sun peaking through the clouds we warmed right up.

Zion and Elijah posing on top of a rock on the island

not pictured: 87 other people exploring the island too

Feeling warm meant that, on their way back to the car to meet our friends, the two younger boys let themselves be caught by the waves and got wet up to their middles. Which would have been fine, except at the car they were also going to change into their swimsuits. They didn't think it was a problem that they had soaked their only non-swimsuit clothes, but I wasn't thrilled.

Oh well. In actual swimsuits they took to the water again, first in the tidal stream that runs along one side of the beach. Some of it was shallow enough to wade across, but there were plenty of spots deep enough to swim in... or even to jump in! It's a pretty good beach where you can do cannonballs from the sand.

kids jumping into a stream on the beach

into surprisingly deep water

When they had their fill of that we moved to the waves. While the stream was cold, the actual ocean was positively frigid. Still, there were waves to play in, and that makes any level of chill bearable.

kids thigh-deep in the waves, Harvey raising his arms in triumph

braving the tumult

When I couldn't ignore Lijah's uncontrollable shivering any longer we went back to our blanket for lunch. Beach lunches sure know how to put the "sand" in "sandwich"! After we ate the boys wanted to go back in the ocean, but as we walked over a quarter mile of low tide beach through the fog it got colder and colder, and by the time we were able to put our toes in the water everybody was just about ready for dry clothes and a change of venue. Did I mention it was foggy? In patches, at least, and it was super fun watching them drift in from the water.

Elijah's friend walking on the misty beach

exploring in the mist

So yes, dry clothes. Oh wait, remember that my two younger children no longer had any such thing?! Poor Elijah in his hypothermic state was especially frustrated at his two-hours-ago self (or he should have been: he mostly acted angry at me). Happily his friends, more prepared than he, were able to furnish him with some of their spare clothes. Never mind that the shorts were a size too small and the shirt a size too big, and that both were from the girls' collection, he was glad to have dry cotton on his skin. And with him happy enough, we were able to head into downtown Rockport.

Harvey, Zion, and a friend walking on Bearskin Neck

where the action is

We spent a happy hour looking into shops, whining about things we wished we could buy, and climbing on the rocks of the breakwater. The boys found that, out towards the end, there are gaps between the rocks that make some pretty cool caves. They managed to travel maybe 20 feet "underground"!

Zion peeking out from a cave between rocks of the breakwater

how much to those rocks weigh?

Alas, by that point it was time to leave. Two of the children with us were only borrowed, and their parents were probably starting to miss them. Of course, we couldn't leave Rockport without buying some candy! Tootsie Pops and gummi worms we maybe could have found anywhere, but edible beach rocks were the perfect tourist purchase. And all the sugar fueled the long trek back to the cars. On the way I had to pause and snap a photo of Elijah, looking like a model in his borrowed clothes.

Elijah posing against a brick wall

world-weary at 8

What a beautiful outing! It would have been even better if accidents on the highway hadn't made the drive home twice as long as the trip out, but never mind, that's why we have the audio book.


parties upon parties

Zion's best friend is just ten days younger than him, so after they enjoyed some time together at Zion's party on Saturday they got to do it again on Sunday to celebrate the other birthday. It was a totally different feel from our backyard extravaganza, though, because his friend wanted to spend an afternoon at Kimball Farm in Westford. Originally an ice cream store, Kimball Farm has transformed over the years into a veritable theme park, with animals, mini-golf and a driving range, batting cages, bumper boats, zipline... Delightful, but unlike whiffleball at home not cheap. So Zion was one of only two guests, and he and the other boys had an amazing time with a pass that let them do three activities each (they picked nine holes of mini golf, bumper boats, and the zipline. Plus ice cream of course!

Of course, that left some disappointed siblings. Elijah, for example. Luckily he's good friends with Zion's friend's sister (that's what happens with homeschoolers) so, not satisfied with planning their own trip to Kimball Farm sometime this summer, they also requested a special outing of their own for that afternoon. I was glad to oblige, and after lunch together at our house the three of us spent a happy couple hours touring in Lexington Center: we stopped by the Visitors Center, climbed the Belfry hill and explored the rocks (the kids requested I not take a picture of them inside the Belfry's protective wrought iron fence, to make sure they couldn't get in trouble), and played on a playground. Then we came home in time for them to watch a movie and eat popcorn. It's no birthday extravaganza, but still a pretty good Sunday afternoon!



Today we spent just about 11 straight hours with people from a little after nine in the morning until a little after eight at night. Alright, so there almost an hour in the middle there to make and eat dinner without anyone else around, but still, it was a busy day. We started with a "school day" with our homeschool friends all morning and into the afternoon (more gardening and playing that what you might call school, but you know, it all counts). Then we left at the same time they did to spend some time with our public-school-attending friends, because we couldn't let the vacation week go by without a weekday playdate. In the evening we entertained half of our church community group by the fire. It was all delightful and exhausting. And just think: I used to be an introvert! Well actually I guess I still am, because now I need some rest...

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.

what did we do with the old one?

When the younger two boys got vaccinated the thing they were most looking forward to was the annual New Years Eve party at our friends' house. Which of course we missed last year. Then when the omicron surge got going and there was a chance it might not happen, they were prepared to be crushed. Happily, limiting the party to a core group of friends and having everyone take a rapid test beforehand meant that, never mind the pandemic, we were all able to celebrate the New Year the way it's meant to be celebrated!

Or the way some people mean it to be celebrated anyway... the boys were strongly in favor of staying up until midnight, which I didn't think sounded like a good idea at all. I felt sick and woozy just contemplating it! But with a party that got going at 6:00 I figured we'd have plenty of time for fun and then still get to bed at a reasonable hour. I guess I didn't anticipate how much fun it was going to be!

Fun and food. There were only three families there, including the hosts, but we all felt like creating a festive atmosphere required plenty of food and drink. I made coleslaw, rolls, and a pecan pie, and also brought crackers and dip. Then there was chili, cornbread, chips with a green enchilada dip, caramel popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, oreos, and candy. Oh, and a bowl of baby carrots. Luckily there was an appropriate amount of alchohol to counter some of the sugar flooding my blood and keep me from exploding; I'm not sure how the kids survived.

Actually, I'm not 100% sure how they spent most of the party. The hosts kept them off screens until 6:30, so they got to participate in a couple card games, but then they vanished into the other room to play on a couple Switches and watch some of the old Avatar show. There was also an air hockey table in there so I guess they had the option to move a little bit if they wanted. Me, I didn't move much unless it was too and from the buffet. I just sat at the table and played games: Pit, Dungeon Mayhem, Spit, Pokemon cards, Root, and Regicide. I lost most of them but that doesn't matter; I was still having a great time!

I knew it was getting late, but I was still surprised when I finally checked the time and saw it was just past 11. Awareness of the hour sent my body into shutdown mode, and I barely managed to collect the boys and say a polite goodbye before stumbling out the door. All three boys had been advocating that we stay up til midnight, so when we got home at 11:30 they felt that we were so close we might as well wait up that last half hour! Plus they wanted to hear stories. I knew, though, that if I didn't get myself into bed instantly I might die, so I declined. Of course, I told them they could stay up as long as they wanted! Tucked in their beds Harvey and Elijah fell instantly to sleep—as did I—but Zion, our king of willpower, held on til the bitter end. Though, as he reported in the morning, he was a little disappointed to miss the precise turning of the year: he looked at his watch at 11:57, then blinked and it was 12:03.

All that excitement was pretty hard on us! We took a walk in the afternoon on New Years Day and Elijah, who began it full of joy and energy, was in a grumpy sulk before we got back to the car. Back at home he unspeakingly ran himself a bath and soaked for a while, then came downstairs in his bathrobe and promptly fell asleep on the couch for two hours. Yes, it was hard work but worthy work: this New Year was properly celebrated.


time for friends

Vacation week is kind of awesome. On Sunday afternoon we took a fun short walk with some friends, and as we were all getting into our cars we wondered if we could get together another time during the week. Sure! So yesterday we had one family over to play board games and video games—carefully masked and socially distanced inside our house. While we were happily engaged I got texts from two other families who wanted to play outside, so I invited them over too. We ended up with nine kids running around battling with light sabers and laser tag pistols for an hour and a half, plus a handful of adults coming in and out. It was so fun! If only people didn't have to work and go to school all the time, we could do it all more often!

this life

In something of a turnaround from our usual practice over the past year, we've had a full in-person social calendar the last couple of days. We hung out with three different groups over yesterday and today—and even more amazing, I enjoyed three mixed drinks over those two days! Yesterday we closed the day with a delightful driveway picnic at our "Bible study", which is atypical of Bible studies in many ways and most notably yesterday in that the host offered us his signature cocktail of the summer, a beautifully colored concoction of mango juice and rum. How could I refuse?! Then today we took a hike with friends and then went to their house to play—indoors in that case, because while we're now somewhat dispersed they're still technically members of our bubble. No drinks there, though.

In the evening we were at my parents' house to celebrate the birthday of the boys' cousin Nisia, who they hadn't seen for something like two years. The visit was a last-minute surprise—I don't know if the boys were even more excited at the short-notice party than they would have been with more advance notice. I will say that, denied the opportunity to count down the days, Elijah did his best to count down hours. "I can't wait!" he told me at something like 11:00 in the morning. And my dad was ready for us all with free refills on the gin and tonics. I stopped after just two: even more than the socializing, I'm just not used to drinking any more!

big kids in the neighborhood

Leah said the other day that one good thing about this pandemic is, when the kids are out of the house playing with neighborhood friends, at least you know they're not actually in someone else's house playing video games. It's true, the forced outside time is leading to lots of energetic and imaginative play—and lots of sitting around on the porch together telling jokes and stories, which is good too. But the most exciting development is that the kids are now starting to go places together! A couple days ago Zion and Elijah went up to the library and playground with their friend from across the street (I went too as a chaperone, but I stayed decently far away the whole time). Then yesterday all the boys plus three friends biked to Chip-In to get candy. Neither of those were first-time happenings, but it does seem like outings like that are getting easier and more frequent. Seems good!

we had a party!

All through the pandemic we've kept up with all our friend groups over Zoom. And of course we have our bubble friends over every week or so. But all that is nothing to the amount of entertaining we did before the plague hit. Well, now that it's maybe drawing to an end—or we're pretending it is, at least—we figured it was time to have a party!

several marshmallows toasting over our fire

what you do when you have a party

Well, it actually wasn't much of a party. Just our church community group, and only half of the families were able to make it. Still, that means there were ten people on our back deck not counting us (and really not counting Leah, who was in bed with a migraine). That's a big deal! It was delightful seeing folks in our space, more delightful even than I imagined it would be. The only problem was everyone had such a great time they stuck around past 8:30, and then there the cleaning up to do. When we met over Zoom I never had to put away chairs!