Our shopping schedule has been a little disarranged lately—not unlike our blogging schedule, clearly—so we're out of whole wheat flour. But Friday is pancake day without fail, so the whole wheat flour in this morning's batch had to be replaced with white. It's not the first time I've needed to make a substitution; a couple weeks ago we only had maybe half a cup of milk, so I filled out the rest with a mix of yogurt and water. You might be surprised to hear that it worked just fine! I wasn't. I knew it would.
I actually found the all-white flour pancakes to be more different than the yogurty ones. I had originally thought that I put in the whole wheat flour just to show my hippy credentials—crunchy granola and all that. But after seven-plus years of making the same recipe, I've gotten used to the whole wheat taste. This morning's version was fine, but somehow lacking in depth. I guess that means my hippiness is now deeply ingrained.
It actually makes me feel pretty old to see how long ago I came up with this recipe. It feels like just yesterday—and also like an eternity ago. That's what having kids does to you. It's just like how when they found the old iPod (pictured here) I noticed that the version of my music collection frozen within is very little different from what I have on my computer now. I thought my taste in alternative hip hop was pretty sophisticated; is it still avant-garde if it's from 12 years ago? Oh well, the boys really appreciated hearing that Antipop Consortium album.
The pancake recipe has changed ever-so-slightly from seven years ago. For the record, here's what it is now:
In a large bowl whisk together:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
In small bowl beat:
2 large eggs
Add to the dry ingredients, along with
1 1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp melted butter
Mix gently with a whisk until well-combined and not too lumpy.
Put your skillet over medium-low heat and butter as required. Pour the batter (I use a quarter cup measure, not quite filled for each pancake) and cook until most of the bubbles on top have popped, then flip and cook the other side for a few seconds.
Enjoy with or without 20-year-old music!
Yesterday we at a picnic lunch and a picnic dinner, in two separate state parks. That wasn’t the plan for the day; I had thought to have a pretty quiet day at home, working and playing here like we’ve been doing a lot of the time lately. We did have an early-morning trip to to the grocery store planned, and I expected that that would be all the excitement I could handle. Only then friends invited us to join them for a walk at Great Brook Farm state park. On such a beautiful day, how could we resist?!
It was indeed lovely; we played around the pond, looked at the livestock, and took a walk through the woods and fields. Then to top it all off we got ice cream—one small dish per family, to share. Hey, we're not made of money! Everyone was worn out and satisfied as we headed home.
But we didn't stay there for long. Harvey just got new swim goggles the other day, and he's been trying to arrange our first summertime trip to Walden Pond. I mentioned in passing that we might be able to head that way at dinner time—some day, when we hadn’t already spent nearly four hours exploring the great outdoors. But no, he was determined. So not much more than an hour after getting home from Great Brook we’d packed another meal and took to the road again. I was worried, with everyone but Harvey—me very much included—showing signs of dangerous tiredness, but the nearly empty beach was just what we needed and the boys ran, swam, and played for a solid hour and a half. Me, I lay on the beach and tried not to fall all the way asleep when they were in the water.
Besides all the fresh air and exercise over the two excursions, we also got to see all kinds of amazing wildlife. At Great Brook the pond was full of tiny frogs, bullfrogs, and fish—including a catfish that came up to strike a cheerio one of the kids through in. We also saw lots of chipmunks and observed ants and dragonflies; Zion found a snakeskin to bring home. Walden Pond had less variety, but more excitement when a bald eagle flew across the pond to land in a pine tree down the beach. (“I didn’t see it!” Lijah tells me. He has a hard time seeing his shoes when I point them out to him, never mind a bird moving fast several hundred yards away.)
It was all super fun. And exhausting. It took til this evening to finish washing all the tupperwares. But as we loaded the things into the car in the beautiful cool of the evening, I reflected that, some days at least, following the moment wherever it leads can be pretty nice too.
We went for a long ride with friends a couple weekends ago (notable for Zion doing over ten miles in his second week on a two-wheeler!). At our turn-around point we did a little bit of off-road riding, to make it seem like we'd gotten somewhere. Most of the kids were unenthusiastic about the rough terrain, but Harvey—on his new-to-him mountain bike—found something to love. So he asked me if we could ride some trails together. Which we did Sunday afternoon.
He attacked the climbs ferociously (as pictured above), enthused about finding the best line between roots and rocks, and worked on building courage for steep descents. (His mechanic gets most of the blame for his nervousness: in typical Archibald fashion, he only has one set of working brakes at the moment.) We did probably a mile in the woods, trying to find the funnest spots, and then maybe four more riding to and from the trail. Maybe more, who knows?! We were out for two hours.
I don't know how much time we'll find for trail riding in our busy schedule, but Harvey is already a fan. On our hike on Monday he noticed a particularly smooth, rolling section of singletrack and pointed out how much fun it would be to ride it. Yes, yes indeed.
The boys are all very excited about the day to come tomorrow. The best part is the Pan-Mass Challenge charity ride in the morning. We put in some training miles today, not that anybody needed them particularly; despite his short time on two wheels, Zion is already in peak racing shape and totally ready to dominate the three-mile course. But it was still fun to ride the part of it near our house to make sure. We also rode to the library this morning, and stopped by the bike shop to get Harvey a water-bottle cage. Absolutely essential for doing the ten-mile course on his own, unsupported by anyone except the army of route volunteers and a couple water stops (I'm abandoning him for the first time in his PMC history so I can ride with Zion; he's totally cool with that).
Then as soon as that's all over, the bigger boys will be going to one birthday party and Lijah another. The 6-year-old party has a Ninja Warrior theme, and the kids will be testing themselves on a fantastic home-built course. We got a chance to preview it this evening: it's totally awesome. There's also a bounce house. I think it's safe to say that we'll all sleep well tomorrow night.
Today was a hot one—though not as hot as forecast—so we did our best to spend as much of it as we could in the water. We started the day off with a visit with our friends in Lowell... we expected to be luxuriating in air-conditioned comfort, but in the event we spent the whole visit outside in or around their lovely new inflatable pool (luckily there were spare swimsuits for the boys, since we were not at all prepared!). Even just a foot-and-a-half of water was plenty for hours of fun.
I didn't go in that pool—though I got splashed plenty! Then when we got home Harvey and Zion ran next door for an hour of swimming in the neighbors' beautiful new above-ground pool. I didn't go in that one either; I was taking a nap. Getting splashed is tiring!
To continue the theme of ever-bigger swimming opportunities, I dragged the boys away from the pool in the late afternoon to head to Walden Pond, where we planned to meet yet more friends (and also Mama). We brought a picnic supper, and while we waited to be hungry enough to eat it we all—me too finally—had a delightful time in the water.
Unfortunately, when Mama showed up it made Lijah remember how tired he was from all that outside time, and he became not the most relaxing beach companion. So the two of them headed out early, but as it turns out they didn't miss much—just moments after they left lightning and thunder had us scurrying out of the water and running for home ahead of the rain. It's not that I minded too much getting wet; just that there was no rain in the forecast, and everything—bikes, tools, laundry on the line—was out at home.
We made it back just in time—or almost just in time. The bigger boys and I got wet one more time as we raced to bring everything in. We didn't make it to the ocean—our thought for what would be the next step up from the pond—but the thunderstorm was plenty big. And just as wet!
On Saturday the boys took part in the the PMC kids ride here in town.
It was our fourth year taking part, and excitement was high in the days leading up to the event. Lijah kept asking if it was "this day"; he doesn't always have a clear sense of the progression of time. But eventually the day arrived, and bright and early we joined our neighbors to ride over to the middle school to kick off the festivities.
Zion, riding on two wheels for the first time in this setting, was signed up for the three-mile course. He got to ride with his friend Nicholas, and also with me, the volunteer route leader for his group (plus his little brother; Mama was otherwise occupied for the first part of the morning. It always takes a while for everyone to get organized, and energy started to flag in the hot sun. But our little team stayed focused!
Needless to say, once things got started Zion did great: he rode with confidence the whole way, didn't crash into anyone, and enjoyed his goldfish and ice water at the half-way point. (A snack stop in the middle of a three-mile ride is maybe not quite necessary, but it does make the whole thing feel more special; so does Mama cheering at the end of our street!)
Harvey also rode with confidence, and easily finished his course despite a mechanical problem with his brand-new water bottle cage. Without a friend alongside this year, though, he was a little bored. Riding ten miles takes some time. While he was finishing up, his brothers had time to enjoy the rewards for their morning's efforts.
Besides the cotton candy (Lijah had three) and other free foods, there was also the bounce house, slip-and-slide, tricycle obstacle course (once Lijah completed his one lap it was open to the bigger kids to enjoy too), and hula-hoop contest. And there was face paint!
The morning ended with the raffle drawing, and for the first time in history we won something! Committing all our tickets to an otherwise unpopular item really did the trick; though I can't imagine who wouldn't want a free loaf of Nashoba Bakery bread a week for six months! Now we have that thing, plus a $50 gift certificate to a Concord farm stand. So ask us if you ever need any bread.
The ride was just one highlight of what will no doubt be a full summer of cycling. That said, now that it's out of the way Zion at least is wondering if we can, the next couple weeks, put a little more time into canoeing...
From his birthday pancake this morning to the cake he helped make with Grandma, Harvey was well-celebrated today. It helped that he got to spend all day with Grandma and Grandpa, it being a Wednesday. Two "Happy Birthdays", two candles to blow out, and two presents already... and his real party isn't for a couple more days! That's the way to do it. Happy Birthday Harvey!
We don't celebrate the summer solstice as much as we do some other astronomical moments, because Harvey's birthday is at the same time. But we're totally enjoying this midsummer thing nevertheless. The best part is of course all the evening light—so much to play outside for a couple hours after supper. The strawberries are good too. I'm hoping to get the jam done tomorrow. One disappointing thing though: today was the first weekday of summer vacation for the schoolkids here in town, and our boys were really looking forward to playing with their friends all day. But none of them were around—two families on vacation already, and one all jammed up with activities. We didn't do any activities; just read books, rode bikes, weeded, and went to the library.
No, that's not quite true... there was a little more than that. Last summer our complete formlessness was a little trying at times, so I'm trying to hold on to a bit of a schedule even as the weather calls us to wild outdoor adventures (and to lying around on the hammock...). After breakfast we spent some time thinking about how stories are structured, and then Harvey and Zion did some writing/dictating of their own accounts of playing in the rain yesterday. It was fun, and it made the rest of the delightfully relaxing day all the sweeter. A good start to the season; let's keep it going tomorrow!
Harvey's birthday party was Saturday. Because it's all we think about he chose a Pokemon theme; unlike the other kid he was happy with buttercream frosting on his chocolate cake so I was able to have a little more creative freedom in the decorating. I was pretty happy with the result.
The rest of the party was almost as good. With his birthday falling right at the end of the school year some of his friends weren't available. Just as well, since it was a cool drizzly day, and the folks we did have quite filled our house! While I did manage to get a fire lit it didn't look hot enough to cook anything safely; never mind, hot dogs and hamburgers on the stovetop were almost as good. And the kids, tougher than grownups, got plenty of outdoor play. Then when they were tired of that they came in to play Pokemon.
Only problem with that was half of them had never played before, so it was more of a learning experience than a full-on tournament battle. Oh well, we get plenty of battles, and it's always fun to introduce people to the joys of Pokemon. We also introduced them by giving away some cards: I bought a retail box of packs to give out, with the stipulation that if anyone pulled one particular valuable card they would need to trade it to me for something equally shiny but less essentially playable. Sadly it didn't come up, but everybody got some pretty cards to take home. And from his guests Harvey got some Lego sets to build, because you can't play Pokemon all the time.
A few years ago Harvey had his birthday party at the berry farm; falling as it does at midsummer his birthday is always closely associated with the strawberry harvest. He hasn't let me put strawberries in his cake for a few years now—he doesn't care for fruit with cake, he says—but he's still a big fan of them generally. And now that he's big he's a fantastic help picking them too!
We went picking last Tuesday, first thing in the morning before it got too hot. The boys enjoyed the hayride out to the fields, and all three of them were raring to go when I passed out the containers. Lijah's enthusiasm lasted until his fourth berry picked, but the bigger boys worked hard until their four quarts were well filled. It was very impressive. We got ten quarts—fifteen pounds—all together. Then a couple days later all three boys helped Leah mash the berries; and once the weather cooled down a little bit this week I made most of them into jam. Ten and a half pints should last me and Harvey a little while... (Zion prefers blueberry jam; Leah doesn't eat sugar and Lijah doesn't eat food). Of course, we set some aside for strawberry shortcake. The only thing better than strawberry shortcake is leftover strawberry shortcake, and we had that too yesterday. Strawberry season and life is good.