When we were loading up to head to our friends’ house yesterday, I tucked my camera into my bag in hopes that we could actually get a family picture. My dear friend Katie snapped this one for us before everybody got too sweat-drenched (although E’s hair was already curling down in sun-bleached wisps around her face).

It is hot here, day after day. Yesterday morning at 6:45 I went outside  to run and almost turned around at once. I slogged on because it wasn’t hot enough to be dangerous, but the air felt heavy. The only way I can tolerate the outdoors at the height of the day is with my feet in an icy wading pool. So yesterday afternoon we joined in while the little ones did a lot of this:

 In the evening my daughter got to drive a tractor (with a little help from her big brother in manning the bucket):

And  then it was time for fireworks. This is traumatic in our household. I don’t think it’s so much a physical reaction to the sound as it is a fear of the volume. (And we have had both boys’ hearing checked, so nothing is wrong there.) Last year both boys broke into panicked screaming at the first big boom, and we had to watch the rest of the show peering out a window. This year I tried the tactic of very cheerfully telling the boys about it in advance and suggesting they wear their headphones. C was doing fairly well but B dissolved in hysterics. We stood on the sidewalk amid the crowd of friends headed for the fireworks, E perched happily in a wagon and C holding my hand while B wailed on Daddy’s shoulder, and debated whether to just give up and go home. Then I had the bright idea of a reward: “We’ll get you a train,” I offered. The sun peeked through the clouds. C piped up: “Can I have a train? I’ll go to the fireworks!” (In defense of this shameless bribery, it got the boys past their deathly terror of all indoor zoo exhibits, with their shadowy entrances and creepy jungle noises.) We went.

As soon as the actual fireworks started, all three were rapt, haloed in glowsticks, faces upturned to the shifting light and small mouths open. And headphones on.

I have no idea how to shoot in these lighting conditions, but I had fun playing with my camera settings.

E covered her ears, but was doggedly independent: she preferred to spend most of the show in the wagon and had to be coaxed onto my lap.

For the first time in our family life, we all sat on a blanket on the grass together and watched the fireworks. And no one cried. This makes my heart happy.

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We talked to them a little about the fourth of July. It went something like this:

Mama: “…so kids, the 4th of July is Indpendence Day, when we celebrate–“

B (interrupting): “LOOK! A PARK!”

I said more but the chances that it sank in are clearly not good.

And yet as time goes by, I hope they will see the goodness that we celebrate by barbecuing with friends and walking to a wide-open field for a fireworks display.

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O beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern, impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness!

…O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years

Where alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.

…America, America, may God thy gold refine,

Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.

                                                                      –Katharine Lee Bates

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