I really wanted to do the moments from the week post on Sunday, or at least Monday: we did so many exciting things last week that I captured on pretend film! Or at least one very exciting thing, a trip to Hartford so Harvey could compete with the nation's best in a day of Pokemon card battles. But my phone is not cooperating. It doesn't want to share its photos with my computer. I'm sure we'll work it out, but for now that's the hold-up.
However, I do own an actual camera. Quite a good one, actually, thanks to my family's generosity a couple Christmases ago. Only it's a little cumbersome, and also a little complicated... I confess that after a year and half I still haven't managed to read the manual enough to really bring out its best. Even with my lack of skill, though, there are definitely still some areas where it far outstrips my phone camera, and on our visit to the Acton Arboretum today it totally proved its worth.
We'd never been before; I had no idea it was there, even. We went with friends from our homeschool coop, and had a great time. Besides the flowers, there were also turtles and frogs.
Pictures of humans will hopefully be forthcoming in the near future.
One of the good things about elementary school is recess. It's pretty great for kids to get to spend time running around outside with lots of peers—it can get their bodies and their imaginations going in ways that are hard to reproduce in other contexts. Certainly, our own homeschooled kids sometimes find themselves stuck in a low-energy rut without other kids to encourage them into active games. So I'm glad we have homeschool coop, and especially Thursday park days.
Our coop is just a little over a year old, and we're still kind of struggling to get launched and to discover what all of us really want in a group. Sometimes just three—or even two—families show up on Thursdays. We're always glad to hang out, but at that size it doesn't manage to hit that recess vibe. With today's fine weather, though, the group was out in force: thirteen kids between the ages of two and eleven, plus four parents who did their share of playing too! There was frisbee, tag, cycling, wrestling, and just hanging out. And while park day is just once a week, we were there for almost two and a half hours... how many recesses is that? And best of all, nobody got yelled at! That's something you can never say about any elementary school recess I ever saw. I'm already looking forward to doing it again next week.
Eight years ago when I last wrote up a pancake recipe on these pages, I was still using canola oil rather than butter. Just laziness. Besides that it's a good recipe—as you can see by the fact that I'm still making pancakes almost the same way every Friday morning. Recently, though, we saw the biggest change in the recipe in years: we've switched to buttermilk.
A potential problem with making buttermilk pancakes regularly is that it can be hard to keep buttermilk around. I mean, what else are you ever going to be doing with it?! In our case, though, it went the other way: I wanted to have buttermilk for making cakes—not just for birthdays anymore!—but even with an accelerated cake-baking schedule it proved impossible to use up a carton before it went bad. So I thought I would try it in pancakes.
It turns out to be dramatically better than making them with milk. Who knew?! Actually, I guess lots of people knew. But not me. Thankfully, I'm now enlightened. In case you were also among the buttermilk innocents, the main difference is that buttermilk and baking soda make for a much better rise than baking powder alone (that's why buttermilk is in the cakes, too). Then the higher rise makes for a more tender crumb, which is good for its own sake, and also lets the pancakes soak up lots of syrup. Which of course is the real reason we're doing this breakfast!
Here's the (new and improved) recipe.
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
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
Add to the dry ingredients, along with:
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp melted butter
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently with a whisk until they're well-combined and smooth.
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 about 30 seconds.
Serve with butter and slightly-warmed maple syrup or preserves.
Since it's the middle of May, we've started to step up our academic work a little bit. Got to have something for those portfolios! Harvey and Zion are both writing a little bit most days, and I'm actually kind of jealous. When is my writing time?! Some days I think I can write at the same time as them, but that doesn't work. Lijah isn't writing, so sometimes I'm doing something with him. More often it's dishes or making dinner or something else I'm trying to catch up on. Plus, it's not really that easy to get into the flow of composition when someone is asking you every one and a half minutes how to spell something. "Like it sounds! What do you have so far?"
I got lots to catch up on... Zion's birthday and birthday party, a big pokemon tournament we went to, homeschool outings—Easter!—so it's not like I'm hurting for subjects. I just need time when I'm not doing other things. It's kind of a busy time in the garden. Hey, I should write about that!
A month ago today the boys were very excited about Easter, mostly because they were looking forward to wearing new suits, and Leah was quite stressed for the same reason. Needless to say, she made it happen, and everyone was thrilled with the results!
Besides the outfits, Leah also saw to the Easter baskets, which were low-key but still delightful.
I don't have any good pictures from church because, for the first time, we ran kids programming on Easter. That's what I saw to. It went well and felt properly celebratory, but it was also a lot of work. After the service there was an egg hunt. Being small Lijah got to go in with one of the earlier groups, so he got his ten eggs without any trouble. The bigger boys had a tougher time with more competition!
Never mind, we had another hunt at our house with plenty of eggs for everyone—filled not just with candy but with little plastic Pokemon too.
Many of the eggs were easy to find, but a few were very hard, so there was some hard searching time for the older kids. Some children, traumatized by hunts in years past, didn't want to try; but anyone who did try got all they wanted.
There was plenty of food too—pot-luck style so we didn't have to work to hard—so even though they didn't get 25 eggs filled with candy the adults didn't go hungry either.
Looking back, I feel lucky we got to experience such a lovely Easter: wonderful friends willing to hang out with us and a fun, laid-back church even with 80 kids to look after. Good times. I'm glad I could finally write about it.
A new addition to the early-morning chatter of birds in our neighborhood is the low, musical chortle of a tom turkey. Despite how much it really does sound like "gobble-gobble-gobble" I actually wasn't sure what it was at first; then on a walk I saw the turkey in action to dispel all doubts. It's a low and musical sound at our house, but not so much up close. He's been calling from the same spot all week, which is basically under Harvey's friend Jack's bedroom window. This starts at maybe quarter to five. I haven't had a chance to ask Jack what he things about it. But for me, already awake and ten houses away, it's nature at its finest!
Moments from the past week.
It's been a bit of a tough spring for gardening, in that we haven't had three consecutive dry days since March 26-28 (literally). But work is proceeding well nevertheless, since the boys are now old enough that I can ignore them for hours on end in order to pursue landscaping projects. Plus they and their friends helped start lots of seeds way back in the beginning of March, so there's no shortage of plants to put in once I make beds for them. Now of course, two plus months in cell packs or three-inch peat pots isn't the best growing environment, and the tomatoes especially were showing some signs of stress as we headed into the second week of May. The first dozen of them are now in the ground, and I'm happy to report that they they're much happier after just a couple days in our well-composted soil.
Tomatoes are very gratifying actually. The seeds stay good for years and always germinate well, they do their best to grow in whatever container you give them, and then once you do plant them out they take off so fast I wish I had a time-lapse video of their growth. New leaves are already springing out, and with the benefit of compost and the pinch of fertilizer in each hole they're noticeably darker green by the day. I have high hopes for them... how long til we're eating our first tomato sandwich?
We haven't made it to the library this week, so Harvey was grumbling about not having any books to read. He checked out, I believe, five chapter books last Tuesday, and eight days later they were all finished. I told that we have books here—as an elementary educator, I love scouring used book sales for good stories. I guess he knows that, but he didn't trust the selection. So I picked out a few good options to present him, and he chose Dogs Don't Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar. That was at around 2:15; by 5:30 he had finished it. It's just as I predicted back when he started reading so I'm not surprised, but the sudden increase in his rate of consumption over the last month is a little startling.
Zion is getting into reading too. He's at the stage of mostly doing graphic novels. We have lots of them around, and they're good for private learners: he spent a lot of time looking at them back when he wasn't reading, so now he can put as much or as little energy into the words as he wants without me paying attention to what he's doing. Self-directed reading instruction is what we like around here. I actually tried to do some actual reading instruction with Zion back in the fall, on the theory that he's not quite as self-directed as his big brother—I had to make him learn to ride a bike, for example. And for a little bit he was interested in phonics lessons. But then he got over it. Which was fine, because I know he loves books and can ask for help when he needs it. Then he surprised me a month ago when I asked Harvey to do some writing about the chicks, and he did a page too. I had no idea he could write! I guess that means he can read too. He also read from a chapter book this afternoon during rest time.
We're in the stage of the homeschooling year called pre-reporting panic; don't worry Town of Bedford, at least I know they can read!
When we first dipped our toes into competitive Pokemon about nine months ago we figured it would just be a practice year—getting used to the game and the scene. The goal of serious players is qualifying for the World Championship in August, but I thought that was out of reach for both of us. But then Harvey won that first event, and then he won a couple more. Pretty soon it was clear that, while I was a still no-hoper, he had a pretty fair shot for some success. And today, with about a month left in the season, he crossed the finish line and earned his Worlds Invitation!
This year's Worlds in in Washington DC on August 16. We already have our hotel room booked, and we've started psyching ourselves up for the long drive down. Harvey is super excited, and he's also looking forward to a couple months of more relaxed summer Pokemon play. And after late June he—and I—will start collecting the points for next season.
Zion's birthday was nearly a month ago, but we needed to postpone his party a little because of Harvey's Pokemon tournaments. Such is the life of a second child. So it was that a couple weeks ago three of his best friends and their siblings gathered to celebrate his turning 8.
It was a cycling party. May is usually a fine time to celebrate with outdoor activities, and though this year most of the month has been more like April the day of the party was clear and mild. After a little bit of running around here I gathered the kids and we all headed out for a ride to Fawn Lake. Not everybody rides all winter, so a few of the guests were a little rusty—as were their bikes. But I had chain lube for the literal rust, and since we were in no hurry there was plenty of time to work out unused muscles on the 2.5 mile trip to the pond. When we got there we had a picnic lunch.
After lunch the kids ran and then biked on the lawn there, then waded in the pond, then climbed on the cliffs. Then we rode home—downhill, and with newly confident legs—for cake and ice cream. How do you make a cycling cake? I don't know, how about a wheel? (A singlespeed wheel!)
Happy birthday, Zion!
Speaking of cycling, it's about that time for our favorite sign of summer's imminent arrival, the PMC Kids Ride. There was some question about whether it would even happen this year... most the folks in charge of organizing last year decided they were done, and as late as mid-March the call for volunteers was plaintive enough that I, for a tiny moment, thought I might help out. Thankfully for everyone that wasn't necessary, and even without my organizing skills the ride is going ahead on June 15. Which means it's your turn to help out!
We've got a donation page up here... as of this writing our total pledged stands at $0.00, so every little bit helps! The kids are excited about the ride and about the party afterwards, but they also do enjoy knowing that they can make a contribution towards cancer research. Harvey and Zion will be riding the longest course offered this year, 7.5 miles, and Lijah will once again be wheeling his way through the tricycle obstacle course. For the last time, I promise! Thanks so much for any amount you can give.