posts tagged with 'friends'

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!

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what a day!

I've heard from people that they're just easing into in-person meetups with friends—both because of ongoing virus fears, and because being with people is hard sometimes! I haven't really thought about it, but certainly to judge by the fruits this week we're not going that route. This morning we went over to our bubble friends' house and did some work together, then went on a bike ride. From there we headed directly to a hike with some other friends, and walked and played in the woods with them for a couple hours. When we got home there was just time for dinner before we started up the Zoom meeting for our weekly church community group meeting. Ok, that one's not an in-person meeting, but if you count it anyways the boys and I were with other people for nine hours today!

And that's on top of another 2+ hour hike with different friends yesterday, and a dinnertime fire-pit gathering on Tuesday. It's like it's not even a pandemic here!

can you miss people you see three times a week?

One thing that helped us survive a week without our bubble school friends was a chance to hang out with different friends for the first time in over a year. While we see lots of them over Zoom—the kids do things together online three or four times a week!—they have an immunocompromised family member so they've been quarantining hard since February 2020. But now the vaccine has opened their horizons a little bit and we were able to take an expedition with them on Thursday afternoon. We drove to their house and then biked all together to Great Brook Farm: a short ride for the sake of the youngest cyclist, new to her own two wheels, but one that gave us a new sort of challenge as we navigated the high speed auto traffic of Concord Road in Chelmsford. We survived! And then we were glad to take to the trails at Great Brook.

It wasn't all cycling though. We spent lots of time watching and chasing the bullfrog tadpoles in the pond and comparing notes with another aspiring zoologist, a boy who approached the kids looking to play—and who turned out to be a long-ago member of our church community group. That was like six or seven years ago and he's only eight, so it didn't really matter to their interaction, but it was still a fun coincidence. We also jumped onto and over some horse jumps for a surprisingly long time; and, most importantly, the nine-year-olds had time to wrestle a little bit. You can't do that over Zoom! We were masked up of course, but it was still a wonderful opportunity for connection that we were missing. The only problem was that it was so much fun I didn't take any pictures of the kids playing together! Oh well, we'll have to do it again soon.

back to school

I don't know how the school kids felt about going back this January, whether to their classrooms or their remote terminals. Given what Christmas looked like this year, maybe they were fine with it; even excited. But there's no way they were as happy as we were, because our return to "school" this week has been absolutely delightful. We started off on Monday with a joyful reunion with our bubble group, who came over for the day. Certain of the children were looking forward to doing some math work, but that didn't happen; instead, we talked (and wrote and drew) about what we're looking forward to in 2021, listened to some stories, ate lots of dessert together, then took a long walk in the woods. After school time ended, the kids who got to stick around a little longer did woodworking in the basement and made some swords, which they of course proceeded to battle with.

kids on a rock ledge overlooking the airport

school friends together

On Tuesday Harvey's online classes started back up. He enjoyed playing his banjo with his grandpa and cousin in his music class, and had an even better time hanging out with the boys of the ancient history class. The younger boys did Zoom yoga with Grandma, which activity has replaced their read-aloud now that they've finished Tuck Everlasting (and received yoga mats and blocks for Hanukah!). And Wednesday was the online book group party celebrating the completion of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Elijah was super excited to wear his monkey costume and bring a peach, and the other boys were interested enough to come up with costumes of their own. In the event peaches were not available, it being not at all the season, but Lijah was contented with a jar of canned peaches from the basement. The best part of the party, though—the best part of this whole book group—was the tea: herbal tea has a fairly important part in the story, so one of the things all the kids enjoy is having some as they listen. I'm working during book group time so the boys have to make theirs themselves... which I think makes it even more fun.

I thought today might be a bit of a letdown, with nothing on the schedule, but that was actually perfect for Harvey. He's been after me for a couple weeks to teach him programing, and today we finally had time to get started. Not that I know too much about the subject, but more than him—and certainly enough to pique his interest. Today we wrote some pseudo-code to talk about functions and loops and things, and then did some actual programing in Apple Basic (which, delightfully, is implemented in Javascript here). And we also took a good exploring walk. All in all, I think our first week back is going pretty well.

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moon walk

We took most of December off from bubble school for our pre-Christmas quarantine. Totally worth it, but boy did we miss those folks! School doesn't start up again until the new year, but we couldn't wait that long to hang out again, if only for a little bit. So yesterday our friends invited us to join them for a fire, dinner, and a walk under the full moon. Never mind the cold, we were excited to go an happy to bundle up. Not that the kids needed all those layers once they got going with their friends—they were soon out of their hats and coats, despite the entreaties of their shivering parents. We played and talked until the moon was well up, then headed out for a moonlight hike. We had headlamps for the short portion along the road, but then once we went into the woods we shut them off and relied on the light of the moon—and, even with the snow all melted, it was plenty.

The original plan was to walk for an hour, all the way to a field on the banks of Nashoba Brook, but one family couldn't stay out that late so we only walked for half an hour, out around a cemetery and back. With so many happy friends it didn't feel spooky at all, only beautiful (though the gravestones with a few dim red Christmas lights on them were a little bit creepy). Before the walk we had listened to the wonderful book Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen; there was a little disappointment that we didn't see or hear any owls ourselves, but then again the book makes it very clear that, "when you go owling, you have to be quiet." We were not quiet: it was too much fun being with friends! It was a great night.

bubbling up

Monday was an exciting day at our house. After a couple weeks of thinking and planning and feeling each other out, we had the first full day of our in-person school bubble. It was so great. With two other families, we gathered on the back deck to talk about Indigenous Peoples' Day, do some math and literacy work together, and process acorns in water boiling on the fire. And play and talk, of course. And when the rain got a little heavy for the group working on paper, we even went inside! The first time anyone but us has sat on our couches in almost seven months was a big moment... and it's not a coincidence that it was some of the same people who were here the last time back in March.

Lijah and two friends doing math work in our living room

math with friends!

We're part of a co-op, but it's having trouble getting going this fall. That may be my fault—I refuse to admit to any particular leadership, but I'm certainly one of the main organizers. In any case, between everyone's different schedules and risk profiles, nobody's really wanted to commit to in-person events; and most of the kids aren't that big on video-conferencing (we're trying to stay away from it ourselves, at least while the weather stays warmish). So a couple weeks ago I reached out to two families who we see socially who were also willing to consider getting together, and we agreed that we could try bubbling up to do some school work.

The bubble part is, of course, new and exciting—we spent five hours together yesterday, easily the longest stretch of time we've shared space with anyone since the pandemic started. But the school part is new too! For the last few years our co-op activities have been limited to fun outings, enrichment activities (awesome ones, to be fair!) and book groups. This fall we're going to be trying to do a little more consistent work together on things like math and writing, and giving our kids a chance to work with age peers rather than their siblings all the time. It's still a work in progress, but it was encouraging yesterday to observe the attention span the kids showed for working together. We're planning to gather every Monday and Friday, and we'll see how it goes... we have high hopes!

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a week without Zoom

As "Zoom Through a Book" wrapped up last week, the hosts let us know that they weren't going to be joining us for the Friday evening meeting that we usually have together because they needed a break from Zoom. Good, I said, because we weren't hosting it—we need a break too! Videoconferencing has been a lifeline for us over the past five months, but it's also been draining to be spending so much time on screens. Hopefully pausing it for a week or two will give us some room to stretch and do some other things before we have to get back on the Zoom for the fall.

We did kind of break our Zoom fast yesterday evening though. While we cancelled nearly all of our regularly scheduled gatherings this week we didn't talk with our Bible Study friends, and we didn't want to just not show up. Happily, one of those friends lives in our neighborhood and invited us over to their backyard where they set up the Zoom meeting on a big TV. Zion and Elijah were able to run and play with friends, while Harvey joined the adults for a hybrid virtual/real-world conversation. We brought some dessert over to share, too—just like when we got together back in the old days! I'm really looking forward to the day we can do that without masks and careful distancing; til then I guess it's Zoom. But not this week!

our six-hour pond visit

Even though it got us all sick our outing a week ago was pretty fantastic, so I wanted to note some its positive aspects. Because there's not much better than boating with friends!

the view from our canoe to our friends' kayak on Walden Pond

delightful

Even though there was no forward planning—I just thought of the outing that morning and invited our friends at around 7:00—we were able to throw things together in time to meet at the pond at 8:30 (we had to make sure to get in before it closed!). We took a leisurely paddle across, and all around, the pond, then set up camp at a nice spot to swim. Of course, when there are boats pulled up on the shore they exert a powerful pull, and before too long the swimming was well-mixed with boating. Left on shore without a boat I could only hope they would come back! (Of course they would: I had the lunches!)

kids and boats out in the pond

can you spot them all?

As the morning wore on our beachy spot got a little crowded, so we re-loaded the boats and headed to another cove which, besides being less occupied, gave us a chance to swim in the shade! It was also right by the rail line, and we were lucky enough to be by the tracks right as a train went by. I should have shot a video!

Zion and Lijah holding their ears as a train roars by ten feet away

whoooooosh

Soon afterwards our friends needed to head home. We saw them off, stopped by the bathroom, then re-embarked to find a quiet spot to have lunch. People definitely spread out more at Walden now than they did pre-Covid, so it took us a while to find a private space—we never would have managed it without a boat! After lunch I tried to nap while the boys swam, then I joined them for some water play. Then finally it was time to leave—not to go home, but to visit the Farmers Market in Lexington. What a full day!

Lijah sleeping in his car seat

zzz

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