posts tagged with 'friends'

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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with friends

I've been feeling pretty lonely lately. My family is wonderful and I'm super grateful to get to spend so much time with them, but they've got their own stuff going on and and it's not fair to ask them to fulfill all my emotional needs. So while I admit it does make me a little nervous, I'm happy that we're starting to be able to get out and do things with other people. Yesterday we took a hike with some homeschool co-op friends who we'd missed so much over the past three months, and it was delightful!

the boys with their feet in a marshy river

in Nashoba Brook

We walked in the Nashoba Brook Conservation Area; we'd never been there before but will definitely be going back. The river itself is the best part, with bridges and rocky pools and marshy segments making the walk along it endlessly interesting. But it had some competition in a man-made cave. I would have guessed it was a root cellar, except it was a little more complicated than you would really need for that; I understand that it has a mysterious reputation in local lore. In any case we had fun exploring it.

the boys shielding their eyes from the camera flash in a root cellar cave

the only time I'll ever use a flash is in a cave

The whole family came along—a pandemic bonus! Leah enjoyed talking with Kelley, but not as much as Scout and Blue liked playing with our friends' dog. We walked two miles; the three dogs must have covered five or six.

Leah with the dogs on river rocks

getting some training in while we stop to play

The kids got plenty of exercise too: when he has friends to run with, even Lijah can cover some distance without complaining! And I exercised my socialization muscles. A great morning all around.

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why can't I write to people?

You know I have my struggles to write in this blog as much as I'd like to. In the morning my brain is working well but there are many distractions; in the late evening it's quiet but it takes me fifteen minutes to write a sentence. As hard as that is, it's been even harder for me to keep in touch with my friends. Why on earth is that?! Shouldn't I be able to dash off a quick message—"hey, thinking of you... how are things going?" But then I sit down to write and I get stuck. What if they wonder why I haven't talked to them in so long? What if they've got something serious going on, and my tone is too lighthearted? Why haven't they written to me: did I do something wrong? It's maddening. And as bad as that is, for work I'm meant to be writing to the families I work with and my volunteers, and that's ten thousand times harder! I want to write, I really do. I care about all of those people and would love to be in contact with them. So what's my problem?!

All that is to say, if we're friends and I haven't written to you, I really want to and wish I had. I'll try again tomorrow!

our digital life

We tend to do our fair share of socializing. Before the end of the world we had dinner with friends two evenings a week (not counting weekly dinner with my parents), took part in homeschool gatherings twice a week, and hosted Harvey's friend Jack every Thursday... and that's just the scheduled things! Last weekend it all lurched to a stop and we found ourselves with more private time at home than we've had in years. It was... kind of nice! But we did miss our friends, so we've been enjoying the gradual transition of all those meetings to the digital realm. Today we might have gone a bit overboard, though.

We kicked things off at 10:00 with homeschool Book Club party. We just finished reading The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic—we heard the epilogue this morning—and while we couldn't stick to our pattern of making food from the book we were definitely able to dress up like characters from the book. Zion was King Lucas the Loftier and Lijah was Theodore, the potter. Harvey didn't dress up but he did memorize a 16-line poem from the last chapter (this morning!) which is probably more impressive. We also played a rousing game of Mount Majestic Jeopardy. We finished up at 11:30.

Then we were off until 2:00, when we joined the Jacksons' read-aloud to hear more of Adventures With Waffles. That lasted for an hour, then as soon as it finished up the boys had a date for a video call and pokemon battle with our closest Pokemon-card-playing friends. I had to cut them off at 4:00 before they were quite finished because I was hosting my very first Zoom meeting, for the parents in our homeschool coop. It was supposed to just be a half hour but went almost until 5:00 (happily, the bonus time in the oven made the squash that was going into the squash soup even better!).

As we finished up dinner I had just a few minutes to set up a second computer with Zoom so that the boys could join the Kids meeting of our church-related community group, as Leah and I hosted the Adult portion upstairs from the other machine. The adults had a civilized conversation for an hour and a half while the digital native young people discovered that you can draw on Zoom and had a great time doodling, as well as—apparently—playing hide and seek. Well, most of them had a great time: Lijah suffered a complete breakdown and says he never wants to use Zoom again. To be honest, I get where he's coming from. Maybe a screen-free day tomorrow?

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Wednesday in the woods

Wednesdays are usually home days for us, but we can never say no to a walk in the woods, so when the invitation came yesterday we headed off to Carlisle for a hike with members of the Greater Lowell Homeschoolers facebook group (including a significant overlap with our own co-op). That we'd never been to the Towle Land town forest made it even more enticing! Because we're getting good at this we were the first ones there, but it wasn't long before everyone gathered—a pretty good group, with six or seven adults and uncountable numbers of kids. It was good there wasn't much of a wait, because it was hard to hold the kids back from the trail.

kids standing on a rock in the woods

kids in the woods!

Towle Land is a lovely woods: there are plenty of ups and downs on the trail, but nothing too steep, a generously-flowing stream, and plenty of vernal pool hollows still filled with water and ice this strange wet winter. Plus some awesome rocks to climb on!

Zion climbing on a cliffy rock

rocks are fun

With all the fun terrain we didn't just hike on through. In fact, I don't think we ever went farther than a couple hundred yards before we stopped to play on something or other. That's the way to make a mile-long hike take two hours! Two hours for us, at least; the group had varied levels of woods experience, so other people were done sooner. Especially the ones who didn't bring any food (you know we never make that mistake!). Also the ones who fell in puddles playing on the ice.

I enjoyed interacting with the (slightly) wider homeschool community, and meeting some new people. The boys were fine with it, but they were happiest when everyone else had headed home and they were free to play with their good friends from co-op. They can never get enough time with them. "Why can't they come over to our house after?!" is the constant refrain. Because everybody has lives to live! But don't worry: we've got full days of co-op fun with them today and tomorrow. Living the homeschooling dream!

Zion and Lijah posing with friends on a horizontal tree trunk, Harvey photobombing

best hiking buddies

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if you want people to join your group, offer chocolate

I thought we were impressive with our 22 people for wreath-making last week, but today our second co-op event just blew that out of the water with 35 people at our friends' house for a hot cocoa bar and board games. It was a little chaotic at times, but our hosts showed a perfect combination of elegant preparation and obliging equanimity as their house was being overrun, and everyone had a great time. How could we not, with this spread to greet us when we arrived?!

fancy accompaniments for hot cocoa

we're part of a classy group

Zion and Lijah very briefly played some of a board game, played with their friends' toys, and romped in the snow outside. Harvey was convinced to join a Monopoly game and did that for three hours, questioning his life choices towards the end. At least he was winning when they had to stop! (naturally, they weren't able to finish the game). And we all drank lots of hot chocolate—even better, hot chocolate covered in whipped cream and other chocolate—and ate cookies. There was even something called "liquid truffle", which is basically hot chocolate but more so. Since the chocolate was basically the purpose of the gathering we jumped right into that at 10:30, so needless to say the kids weren't super enthusiastic about their lunches. Hopefully I restored them to health with soup for supper.

It was awesome to have so many people come out for the event. I now have 11 families on the co-op email list, and there was one other family there today who's not on the list yet. So I've got to feel that our efforts to build a learning community are going pretty well! Now all we need to do is find out how we can afford to rent a space that'll fit all of us...

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afternoon in the kitchen

Every Tuesday we share a meal with the friends who make up what we still call "Bible Study" despite not having opened a Bible together since Zion was born. Call it eight years. But we still get together, and once there are no kids under five in the group we might be able to get back to the studying (that'll be three years from now, unless someone pops out another kid). Unlike our regular Friday evening gathering, which is always at our house and a pot luck, the Tuesday dinner rotates among four families (well, 4.25 counting 5th Tuesdays) who make up the group. So we get three free dinners out per month—but when it's at our house we have to do some work. Well, let me tell you, today I did extra.

Yesterday evening Leah asked me what I was planning to cook, since she was going to Whole Foods and cook pick up what was necessary. When I said I had no idea she read me the sale items for inspiration, and we settled on a pork loin. What is a pork loin? I wasn't entirely sure, but it sounded like something that could feed a crowd. (It may surprise you to know that I have never cooked pork; lots of bacon and ham, but no pork.) After some confusion over recipes—it turns out pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing!—I figured out basically what I should be doing; and despite my not having a meat thermometer, which was strongly recommended by most sources, it seemed easy enough.

Of course, making a roast seemed fancy enough that I needed some top quality sides to go with it! Mashed potatoes, sure (and I had to do them with the food mill since Lijah didn't care for the lumps last time). Roasted broccoli so we'd have something green. Then in my searching for pork recipes I came across one for butternut squash with maple syrup and sriracha; I'd been wanting a new way to do squash! So I thought I'd try that as well. And then, since I forgot to feed the sourdough starter yesterday, I had to make yeast rolls too.

I have to say, while I'm not sure about pork—my ethical considerations are particularly strong when it comes to pigs—the meal came out so good I might have to shell out real money more often to repeat the experience. Certainly, it was worth all the afternoon's work and stress. Too often I get into a rut, just cooking the things I know how to and buying the same ingredients again and again. Rice and beans mostly. Which would have been fine with one of the young visitors: that's what he asked for when he saw what we had on the table. You can't please everyone all the time. But the evening's meal sure pleased me!

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it's fun at our house

Harvey's friend Jack came over today before nine in the morning, and he didn't leave to go home until 8:30pm. Well, he did stop by his own house briefly in order to pick up his bike and pack a picnic lunch, so he could join us on the day's summer camp outing. We just went up to the center of town today, where we played on the playground and the skate park and visited the library. And ate lunch. Besides that outing, the kids also played Pokemon and baseball, jumped on the neighbors' trampoline, and created a role-playing game based on the Percy Jackson series. Oh, and ran around in the dark (that game is called "shadow ninjas" around here). We're really enjoying the last little bit of summer vacation!

School starts September 3rd here, for those folks that go to school. Jack is going into 6th grade, so he'll have more freedom after he gets out in the afternoon. We hope to see him around lots more!

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