Sunday, July 29, 2007

what I did last week

I didn't get much blogging in last week because I was at a herding clinic -- a workshop for training stock dogs. I love going to clinics: getting a fresh perspective on my dogs' strengths and challenges, picking up tips on how to further their training, hanging out and chatting with other herding enthusiasts, and of course getting to watch a lot of different dogs work. This clinic was taught by Jan Wesen from Washington state, but was held at a local farm. (Well, local enough that I was able to drive home every night.)

Here's my current working/competition Smooth Collie at work on the sheep. We're entered in some upcoming trials, but on ducks rather than on sheep, because we have all of her started level sheep titles already. She needs a bit more polishing before I can start competing with her at the upper levels.

I chat with Jan about penning. That's Jan's Australian Shepherd, Royal, in the foreground, and my dog to the left, holding her sheep in the pen. Penning is an area that I find particularly challenging, mostly because my dog and I have not had a lot of experience with it. Most of our pen work is with fence-line pens (like are found on a farm), not free-standing pens (a pen in the middle of an open field) as are found in some trials.

My good doggie, having penned her sheep and waiting further instruction from me. She's five years old, and is the dog that I use for doing chores around the farm, so she had quite a bit of working experience, but hasn't had much training for trial work. I'll be concentrating on her in the coming year to finish up her training so that I can compete more seriously with her, and so that I can start working with another one of my dogs (who is a close relative to this one).

While other participants work, I get a chance to relax in the shade and learn from the lessons others are getting. My dog is relaxed, but at the ready to spring back to work if needed -- in farm work, there is a lot of "down time" while I attend to barn chores, etc, but I may suddenly need her to move the sheep to a different pen, or hold them in a corner so I can work with them, so she's learned to get in her rest time while she can.

Many thanks to my friend, Barb LeBrun of Belchertown, MA for the photos from the clinic.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Today J made his theatrical debut. Ever since I took him to see The Nutcracker at christmastime last year, he's been wanting to "dance on the stage and get all the applause". Today he got his chance. The children's museum hosted an afternoon workshop where the kids learned the song "Supercalifragalisticexpialidotious" (or however the heck that's spelled!) from Mary Poppins, choreographed it, costumed it, and performed it for family members. This first photo is the entire cast.

J during his solo. Each kid had a chance to do a solo -- I was pretty impressed with the instructors, they really knew kids and how to keep them all motivated and engaged. And they threw an actual production number together in the matter of 2 1/2 hours from a bunch of kids with no prior experience who just met each other -- that's pretty impressive in and of itself!

Some of the cast during the chorus of the song. I'm unclear about how the costumes were selected -- J's was merely a yellow t-shirt and a hat -- I'm not sure if it was his choice or if that's all he would wear (or maybe that's about all they had for boys' outfits). The girls had some lovely costumes, but the boys were pretty basic.

J dances with his partner. This was not the partner he'd worked with throughout the class -- his original partner got stage-fright at the last minute and pulled out after the dress rehersal. So he suddenly got a new partner (her partner had fallen after the dress rehersal and bruised her knee, so she was in need of a partner too). J didn't seem to mind at all who he was dancing with, so long as he was dancing!

Ta da! He's certainly my child -- I loved doing theater stuff when I was a kid/teen. Anything for center stage and a limelight!

He had a total blast, I'm sure this is something he'll be wanting to pursue more of. Guess the first step is dance classes of some sort, maybe this fall.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

c'mon baby, do the Locomotion

Tonight we went to see a free concert in the park (specifically Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, CT) by a locally popular band called Locomotion. (Click on their name to go to their website.) Not only is it a very talented band, but an added draw is that a friend of ours is one of the band members. Here's a photo of the bandshell, with the band up on stage.

My kids (in the tie-dyed shirts) having fun on stage with some other kids just prior to the show beginning. In front of the stage is a concrete dance floor, which we used a bit during the course of the evening. (The Map Man and I even got to dance together -- a rare treat! -- in addition to dancing with the kids.)

Once the band took the stage, the kids moved their play to the grassy areas of the park, dividing their time between running around with the gang and hanging out at our blanket with us. In the background the band plays.

My dancing partners! Enjoying a song from our blanket.

Sunset over the park. It was a great way to spend the evening, and we wisely brought toothbrushes and jammies along with us. The kids were asleep long before we got home.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

expansion vs. contraction

As I've mentioned in recent posts, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the way my kids play, in regards to how their various playing affects them physically and mentally, and how that all relates to what I've learned from my Enki Kindergarten curriculum materials. One of the things I've particularly been looking at is what activities cause expansion of my kids into the world around them, and which cause contraction into themselves. Both are important aspects of learning. Learning something new causes you to contract while you study it, figure it out, and come to understand it. But once you've experienced it, that knowledge causes a feeling of expansion into the world around you. A healthy balance is the key to well being -- too much of either, especially contraction in a young child, causes dys-integration.

The first photo is an example of an activity where my kids feel expanded -- running and playing on the beach at the lake.

This photo is an example of contraction. Zoo Boy finds and explores a pine cone on the beach. He brought the pine cone over to me when he found it, asked a couple questions about it (which I answered with a simple "hm..." or "I wonder" -- my open-ended answers were not meant to discourage the contraction, but rather were designed not to draw him further into an analytical study of the pinecone, but to allow him to experience it simply as it is). He spent quite a few minutes playing with the scales, seeing how they fit together and are held onto the cone. Then he ran to get another pine cone to compare, and disovered that they are put together the same way. He then ran off to show it to J, and they both explored it for a bit before they returned to more expansive play.

Another example of contraction, and an example of how too much contraction is not a good thing. Here J is working on a lego set that is a much-coveted prize (i.e. bribe) for having finally potty-trained. (HOORAY!) The set is large and has taken him days to complete. I've been watching to make sure that he takes regular breaks for more active and expansive play over the past several days, and everything has remained fairly well in balance. That is, until today. I had to work away from home this morning, and when I got home around noon, I discovered that he'd been working on it most of the morning while The Map Man took care of stuff that needed his attention. Within moments of getting home, I noticed that J was getting upset over little things, fairly unlike him these days, and once I realized the problem -- too much contraction! -- I quickly worked to remedy the situation. I put on some music and coerced him into dancing around with me and Zoo Boy (he at first didn't want to leave the project, but eventually did and had a great time dancing). For a half hour we moved our bodies and jumped and spun and worked on reintegrating, then we fed the kids lunch and sent them outdoors for some expansive play. After feeling integrated again, J was able to return to his project at tolerate small frustrations as he worked on it.

And here are the kids, expanding and feeling great.

Don't mistake me on this, I really doubt I'm going to spend the rest of my days analyzing whether my kids' play is expansive or contracted. I don't think there's any need for that -- the rhythm just feels right to keep the two balanced. This will be the key for setting up our homeschooling day -- naturally keeping the balance between expansion and contraction, and tweaking things here and there if there's too much or too little of each. But I really like understanding the concepts and being able to recognize each, as it will help me decide how much of each to build into our days, which will keep me from overwhleming the kids with too much contraction and not enough expansion during our school year.

Friday, July 20, 2007

playing the doh

Figured I'd throw up some pics of the kids with their playdoh creations from yesterday.

Here J shows off a sculpture of a seahorse. We've been reading The Sign of the Seahorse by Graeme Base, a lot of their artwork and play is reflecting the themes and images in the book.

Zoo Boy makes what he calls a swordfish sword. (And then proceeds to run through the house chasing us and trying to stab us with it....such a boy....)

J uses one of the clay-sculpting tools with some playdoh to create a flag. He likes using a multi-media approach to his artwork. (For more examples, please feel free to visit a blog I was running for his artwork, The View From The Inside, which I am no longer posting on as I'd rather keep both boys' artwork here on this blog instead.)

Zoo Boy shows off the gun he made. Naturally, we all got shot repeatedly with it. Notice a recurring theme with him??

J shows me something he made (he couldn't tell me what it was, he didn't know the word for it -- neither do I -- it was some complex three dimensional geometric shape that weaves upon itself, sort of like a Celtic knot), while he checks out Zoo Boy's creation. I'm not sure which of Zoo Boy's weapons this was, but I think everything he built yesterday had some sort of destructive power. (This may have been a bomb.)

this post brought to you courtesy of the letters "Q" and "T"

I first posted about Zoo Boy's forays into the world of reading last week. The pre-reading activities have continued around here, and I thought might be fun to document a bit. I unfortunately didn't get a whole lot of photos of the process, but I've been jotting down notes as things have progressed.

So last week, Zoo Boy was figuring out that he could spell words using his animal alphabet puzzle by looking at a word, and copying it with animal letters.

The next day, he pulled out a set of magnetic alphabet letters. He was getting frustrated at only being able to spell out words without duplicate letters in them with those animals. With the magnetic letters, he had a lot more freedom to spell out more complex words.

The following day, he was building letters with sticks (see his "T" below).

Earlier this week, he was asking for specific books with words that he wanted to see and spell out. I find it interesting that the words he was looking for were all in capital letters in print. He still gets confused with some of the lower case letters -- "l" and "i", and of course the complicated "b" "d" "p" "q". Upper case he seems to have down pat, although I still get the impression that he's not sight-recognizing words yet (other than his own name). I think he was asking for words that he knew had letters he could recognize and wanted to see how the word looked.

"Mommy, where is that book about summer alphabet poems? I want to write long words." Of course, he's NOT writing yet -- what he wants is for US to write them out for him, on the magnadoodle, on the chalkboard, on paper with crayons. He's taking immense pleasure in seeing that the words look the same whether they are in print in a book, written on different surfaces, or spelled out in magnets.

So it came as no surprise yesterday when, while playing with playdoh, he decided to start making playdoh letters. It was a team effort, with him directing: J would roll out some playdoh, and Zoo Boy would instruct him as to what letter to make. J would find the right cookie cutter letter and press it out, then hand it to Zoo Boy, who would practically burst with joy, squealing "P!" or whatever other letter was produced. Again, he's delighting in the letters and words looking the same regardless of the way they are constructed.

It's a fascinating process to witness.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

rethinking toys, part 2

(An Astronaut-in-Training and a Race Car Driver dropped by our house for snack yesterday....)

I wanted to address a couple of responses that I got from my last post on rethinking my toys. I've had some good, thought provoking questions, and felt that clarifying myself and explaining the process a bit further might be helpful for anyone following along at home.

First I wanted to clarify that I'm not trying to control how my kids play. If they are following natural development, there is a certain way they WILL play (according to Child Development research). As for WHAT they play with, I do want control over that. I want to provide access to those play items that will most promote natural play/development. I don't want them playing with video games or plastic figures. That's just my parenting choice, I think that stuff is junk and takes away from natural play. Every parent makes a decision about what their child has access to, that's just where my personal line is drawn. I personally think I'm in a better position to make choices like that than my kids are, but when it comes right down to it, it's my house, I get to decide what's in it. I can't shield them from everything they're going to come in contact with in the world (nor would I want to), but I CAN (and will!) control the content of what comes through my door.

The goal in play is not for them to be unique and creative -- those are by-products of natural development. The goal is for them to feel integrated in their own bodies -- learning can only happen when a child is feeling integrated. When there is not integration, there is chaos -- screaming, crying, meltdowns -- which is their bodies ways of trying to re-integrate themselves -- or worse, there is spacing out and disconnection. These sorts of things happen when their play is too much in their heads and not enough in their bodies. It's what I've come to believe from reading the Child Development research, explained to me via RDI and Enki Education, and from observation of my own children and their response to various types of play.

I also want to clarify that I don't do anything just because Enki Education says to do it. I use Enki because it reflects my developmental/educational beliefs and supports what my gut says with regards to Child Development research. So while I may often say "Enki says...." what I really mean is "I believe, and it's back by what Enki says about child development".

Helping them remain integrated opens and expands the world for them. Kids at this stage of development are little sponges, soaking everything in openly. UNLESS something causes them to shut down that open intake process. Like innappropriate toys and access to electronic media. When that open-intake process is interupted, natural development is replaced with something else. I don't have a word for what that something else is, but I know it's not what I want for my kids. It doesn't matter specifically WHAT they are learning, or what they are doing it with, as long as that open-intake process is preserved. So I'm not providing rocks because I want them to play with rocks. If they never touch the rocks, that's fine with me (although they really LIKE playing with rocks!). I'm providing rocks because it gives them the choice to add them into whatever play schemes they come up with on their own. As opposed to, for example, a farm set with defined animal characters and farm implements, which would run their play for them (obviously, a kid sits down with a set like that and they are drawn to play with it as a farm -- turning it into a space ship or a race track or a beach would be a stretch even for the most imaginative kid). My kids have a farm set, I've only ever seen them use it as a farm. Yet the rocks are animals on a farm, fish in an ocean, bricks in a building, aliens in a spaceship, penquins on an ice flow, various types of food to be prepared and served up, golf balls, marbles, fences, stacking objects, cars, babies, and any other thing their imaginations can produce.

Again, it's not creativity that we're looking for specifically, it's an integrated child. After using a toy in a restrictive, heads-only manner, a child is easier to upset. Things that go wrong cause frustration, crying, lashing out. A toy used in an imginative, active way results in stability with the kids. In my experience, it's pretty unusual for truly creative play to end in a fight -- it's fairly usual for that to happen when the kids are contracted into themselves while doing puzzles or the like . (I'm talking about for my kids here, by the way. I make absolutely NO claims as to what is nourishing and integrating for other kids, all kids are different, and what pulls one child into their minds may inspire open creativity in another -- Zoo Boy definitely plays with Zoobs in a much more open-intake manner than J does -- he just grabs a couple pieces and "flys" them around the house, pretending they are airplanes and bugs, he never sits down to figure out what he can build from them.)

About my dislike for plastic, I happen to believe that kids don't get as good a quality of sensory (tactile and proprioceptive) input from plastic as they do from natural materials. Hence my desire to rid my life of plastic toys. That may not be as important to a family whose kids' aren't having sensory integration issues (although I personally believe it would be beneficial for all kids), but in our case, where both our children struggle with sensory integration, it's just one more thing I can do to provide an environment that promotes natural development.

As to rules, I DO have rules, but nothing that I've talked about so far has anything to do with any rules. My rules are things like "Don't throw things in the house." "Don't climb the bookshelves." "Don't do anything that hurts someone else." Rules are good, I like rules. They are the river banks that hold the meandering stream in check and keep it from flooding over yet allowing it to meander. However, there are no rules on how to play. The kids can play however they want to. It's up to me to provide access to appropriate play things (those things that promote natural child development), and limit access to inappropriate things (those things that don't promote natural child development). It's up to the child to play how they will with those things. Or not. Zoo Boy tends to prefer play with clothes hangers, hand tools and my camera tripod. More power to him!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

rethinking toys

As I carefully read through the Enki Education Kindergarten curriculum guide, preparing myself for organizing our coming homeschooling year, I've been giving a lot of thought to our toy situation. I've been trying to make better choices this past year as to what my kids do and do not have access to, but I'm finding that the line is not always so black and white as to what is nourishing and what is not.

In the Enki materials, it is stressed that creative play is the most important part of a young child's "curriculum". By creative, they mean imaginative play acting out their experiences, recreating their worlds. This is most easily accomplished via non-specific play materials. A lot of the common kid toys like puzzles and legos have a "right fit" solution -- what the kids need are open-ended toys that welcome imaginative creativity. The idea is for the child to openly explore with their bodies and imaginations, not get sucked into their heads looking for solutions.

Although that sounds like fairly clear criteria (to me at least -- obviously rocks, silks, and other natural materials would inspire the right sorts of play, and puzzles and general "educational games" would cause them to look for solutions), I've found there's a lot of gray lines in looking at the types of toys that are currently in our house.

For instance, in the first photo, Zoo Boy is playing with a set of wood beads that comes with sequence strips -- the way the toy is "supposed" to be used is to use a sequence strip to string the beads onto a wooden rod in the "proper" order. Very in-the-head, limiting type of toy. But that's not how Zoo Boy is using it. He's pretending he's toasting marshmallows over a campfire. A great example of the nourishing type of play we're looking for!

In the second photo, J has built a foot with his Zoobs (a plastic building toy with interconnecting parts), and then drew a picture of the foot. Eventually he built an ostrich to use that foot on, and then erased his picture of the foot and replaced it with a sign that says "the ostrich is here". While this is a lot closer to creativity than how he's traditionally used this toy (just following pictoral directions to assemble things), it's still an activity that is very much inside his head. I've not let it bother me too much to this point, because there were some therapeutic benefits from both the toy itself (which takes quite a bit of effort to put together and take apart, good heavy work from an Occupational Therapy perspective, and also promotes small motor dexterity), and from following directions, which is a pre-reading skill that works on his motor planning difficulties. However, the limiting nature of this type of toy has really been bothering me in recent days. It's something I need to ponder more, as J really enjoys this toy (it's his favorite) and I don't want to strip him of his favorites -- I'm thinking more in terms of limiting access to it.

At the same time, it's also possible for this toy to inspire creativity. Here, J built a "Zoob Dude" by following the directions, but then got creative with it -- he set the dude up in his beanbag chair and gave him a remote control and a "bowl of popcorn" (he put a bunch of yellow zoobs in a plastic container), then claimed that he was watching a movie. Here he's creating a reflection of something that happens in his own world, which is the very definition of creative play.

Here's Zoo Boy playing with some Lincoln Logs. Lincoln Logs is one of those middle-of-the-road toys in my mind. There ARE "right fit" solutions to putting them together, but they aren't as well defined as other building toys (such as legos and zoobs). And at least they are made of a natural material (wood) for the most part (some of the accessories in our set are plastic) -- the fact that the zoobs are plastic is probably the thing that bothers me the most about them (yet at the same time is the reason they are so good for concussive heavy work, natural materials wouldn't hold up to the force required to push them together and pull them apart, although you could find other ways to get that same sort of input without using a toy, like pushing and pulling large rocks and logs). When we got this large set of Lincoln Logs off of Ebay, I threw out all the instructions and pictures of what could be made from it, hoping that would inspire more creative play. It's certainly meant that they have to think and plan more about how to build things, but in the end I think I actually created a situation where they are even more "in their minds" than they would have been if they were following instrcutions. Obviously, avoiding (or at least limiting access) to this type of toy would be a much better plan if I'm trying to encourage creative play. Then again, occassionally the "logs" become drumsticks or the buildings they build come under attack of a giant building-stomping monster, so it's still possible to incorporate quite a bit of creative play too.

Here's some active social play. Zoo Boy hooked up with a couple of other lake-goers recently to join them in a game of tossing a sponge ball around. They had a lot of fun and physical activity, but there wasn't much creativity involved with this. Sports are like that. They inspire something else in the child, and even though they are active while they are doing it (as opposed to sitting absorbed in putting legos together), this does not fill the need for creative play. From the activity perspective, I like this better than assembling with legos, but using this type of play as a "substitute" for creative play would not be appropriate either. There's certainly a place for this type of play, but creative play is absolutely vital. And active creative play is best. So, for instance, when the boys pretend that their playscape is a firestation and they climb up into their "bunk house" to "sleep" until the alarm sounds, then race down the slide to their firetrucks (swings) and race (swing) off to the fire, then scramble back up into the structure (now magically converted from the firehouse to a burning building) with pretend hoses dragging behind them to put out the fire, they are fulfilling that criteria that I'm looking for and that developmentally is so important for them.

I think it's not in the toy itself, it's in how it's used. And that's where my challenge lies in making decisions about what they should and should not have ready access to. My goal is to keep open-ended objects available for play any time-- rocks, wood blocks, seashells, silks, sticks, crayons, clay, and non-specific craft materials -- because these objects, by their own nature, can only be used creatively, so having them as the primary available toys should naturally lend towards more creative play. And then to at least limit the time they have access to more restrictive type toys.

It's a work in progress.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

a life well lived

We said goodbye to our old friend Devon last night. She was 15 years, 3 months old.

A few photos of Devon throughout the years. This first is a photo from her show career. She was about 3 years old in this picture

Here's a photo from her obedience career -- this picture was taken when we earned her CDX (Companion Dog Excellent) title. About 3 years old, same as above.

About 8 years old.
Devon at her 15th birthday party this past April.

Monday, July 16, 2007

the next big project

I know you've all been wondering what we've been up to now that our playscape building days are over. (OK, so maybe you haven't been wondering, but I'm going to tell you anyway!) For the last several weekends, we've been diligently digging holes and setting fence posts. Well, "we" in the loosest sense of the term. The Map Man's been doing all the digging and setting. I've just been telling him WHERE to dig and giving him the nod of approval on alterations and suggestions.

So since we've got all those nice new fence posts in the ground, it's time to get busy putting some fencing on them! So yesterday The Map Man cut some oak boarding to size, and we worked together to get it up on the posts. ONE... TWO....


The idea is to match the board fencing that you see in the background, which surrounds two sides of our front yard. We're fencing in the other two sides to enclose the front yard entirely, and re-fencing along the other side of the driveway (the pony pasture, which you can see in the first photo) to match. We're also dropping our driveway gate back a bit (and increasing the size) so that there's more parking outside the gates, and so that there's room to put in a gate to drive into the pony pasture without having to back down the driveway first and negotiate a tight turn. (Our hay man will thank us for that! And I won't have to worry about him getting stuck on the front lawn anymore.) The new configuration will also give me a little area outside our fencing to plant a shade garden in, which will be nice. I've been itching to do some gardening, but we need all of our currently open land for grazing, and there's just no sense in planting anything you care about in an area that hungry sheep mouths have access to. And finally, we're completing the fencing around the kids' play area to match as well. It'll keep us busy and out of trouble for the summer.

Zoo Boy had fun sorting through the cut-off pieces of oak boards. We actually brought a quantity of the ends into the house for the kids to build and play with. This is rough-cut lumber (straight from the sawmill), so the tactile feedback is wonderful and well worth the chance of a splinter or two. There's even a bit of bark on some of the waste pieces. Good stuff for the imagination.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

surf and sunset

It was a breezy evening on the shore last night -- there were some good strong gusts coming in off Long Island Sound, and as a result there were actually WAVES. Not a common occurance on the CT shore, given that Long Island protects us from a lot of the wave-producing effects of the open ocean. It was the first time the kids had seen waves like this, and The Map Man (a surf lover) was more than happy to introduce them to the finer points of body surfing and wave riding.

J gets a turn at riding his boogie board on the waves. Both of the kids fell in love with it. I was grateful for The Map Man's presence, and the existance of float vests.... Zoo Boy swallowed more than a moutful of sea water, and J experimented heavily with throwing his boogie board into the surf to watch it washed back ashore further down the beach. He also discovered that if you throw it far enough (beyond where the waves break), it doesn't come back it, but starts to wash out to sea instead (until Daddy swims out to fetch it back).

After swimming and snacking, the kids have fun climbing all over the unoccupied lifeguard chair. Better than playground equiptment!

The Map Man, looking more like a weathered beach bum....

Sunset over Hammanasett beach. On our way out, we watched a gorgous coyote hunting in the salt marsh from our van. He actually got quite close to where we had pulled over to watch him. I took some photos, but they didn't come out -- my camera phone is not much good in low light, unfortunately. But it was the perfect end to a fun evening.

thanks Barb!

My friend Barb went on safari in Kenya recently and brought home these really cool t-shirts for my kids. I told them that they should pose for a picture to use as a thank-you note. Here's what they came up with.

The boys love the shirts and of course immediately put them on for the day. I had suggested to Zoo Boy before we went to beach last night that maybe he should change into a shirt that fit him better. He looked down at his coveted Tembo ("elephant" in Swahili) shirt and said "But Barb gaved me this shirt. I love it." So the shirt stayed on and flapped in the breeze at the beach all evening.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

friday night campfires

One of the traditions we've started this summer has been Friday night campfires. At dusk we gather at our fire "pit" and toast marshmallows and make s'mores and sing songs and just enjoy hanging out together as a family. It means the kids go to bed a little later, but it's worth it, and generally they fall asleep quickly after some nourishing family time.

J and The Map Man toasting up some yummy gooey sweetness. It amazes me that it always seems to be cold on Friday nights! We've had to wear sweatshirts each time, which is pretty nice since it's no fun to sit around a hot fire on a hot night, and the mosquitos would have us for supper if we didn't have hoods on!

Zoo Boy likes to relax in his camp chair and eat graham crackers. Here he's keeping himself busy looking at a book about bugs by the firelight while his brother and father do all the marshmallow work.

J makes one more snack for himself. He's a pretty big marshmallow fan, and has become a pro at getting them just right for squishing between the hershey bars and graham crackers!

The boys enjoying their campfire snacks. We're planning to continue the tradition in the colder weather with a fire in the fireplace indoors on Friday nights. We'd love a fire every night, but it's not good for the environment (air pollution) to burn so much wood openly. Besides, it makes Friday night a special time for us. Sometimes we even have friends join us.