camping 2014: homeward bound

the Archibalds at the seaside

happy to be at the beach, not all happy to be photographed

After only two nights in the tent, it was time to head home. Following a rough night of strong gusty winds and lashing rain, we felt both super hard-core and ready for anything—and also ready to be home sleeping in our beds. Leah and I did, at least; Harvey was not at all happy to be leaving.

Harvey eating a bagel in the tent porch

warm and dry within

He did enjoy his bagel breakfast with me in the tent porch, while the wind howled and the lantern swung wildly back and forth, but once we started packing up he turned unpleasantly uncooperative. Zion followed his example, and things were pretty rough while we packed up the car—but at least the rain mostly stopped and we managed not to get everything soaked.

Ellesworth's main street under wet overcast skies


With the mood in the car bitter and mutinous we stopped early in Ellesworth for some second-breakfast treats. The town didn't excite, but we found a cafe inside a toy store that was perfect for brightening up the boys' moods (never mind that I hated everything about it!). Then it was back on the road to Searsport to meet up with the Stevenses, who were camping there. The plan was necessarily vague—camping with kids doesn't lend itself to precision scheduling!—but once we got going we decided, via a series of text messages, to meet at the playground where Harvey found the swimmin guller.

clouds clearing over Penobscot Bay

light breaks

We beat them there, but nobody minded: not only is the playground plenty of fun on its own, but the skies cleared and it was suddenly a beautiful summer afternoon! With the sunshine it was hard to stay away from the water.

Zion with the bay in the background

down by the bay

And things only got better when the Stevenses arrived. The kids played and played, first on the playground—where our collection of introverts even managed to involve some local kids in their game—and then on the beach, for a long time. The grown-ups talked.

Bruce sitting on the beach with his dog; Harvey, Zion, Lily, Ollie, and Eliot playing in the background

they could do this all day

Of course, you know what happened with a collection of clothed kids on a narrow beach.

Harvey, clothed, knee-deep in waves


Zion also got pretty damp, but Lily won the prize of allowing herself to be completely soaked—and she didn't have a complete change of clothes handy in the car, like our boys.

The only problem with all the fun was that when it was time to go Harvey picked up right where he left off in grumpy resistance. Even though our next stop was ice cream with our friends! He was fine once he had a cone in his hand.

Harvey and Zion sitting at a red picnic table holding ice creams

temporarily mollified

But things turned sour again when the ice cream was gone and it was time to say goodbye to friends and to Maine. At least the length of our stops meant that our drive took all day, and nobody can be completely unhappy when they're as cozy as the boys got at our last stop, alongside the highway somewhere in New Hampshire.

the boys tucked in in the back of the car, at a rest stop

getting cozy

Besides me taking a wrong turn on the way out of that rest stop—nobody was happy with me for that!—the rest of the trip was uneventful, and we finally made it home with three sleeping kids. And when they woke up there was more summer fun to look forward to, so all unpleasantness was forgotten.


Bedford Day 2014

the boys watching a fire truck go by, holding their ears

Bedford Day is loud

Last Saturday was Bedford Day, and the boys were very excited. Since we had a birthday party to go to in the afternoon Mama and Lijah stayed home, but Harvey, Zion, and I were up to town in plenty of time to get a good seat for the parade.

Zion and Harvey sitting on the curb smiling

giddy anticipation

Unlike some other parades, this one doesn't have too many musical units, or any clowns; what it does have is many loud trucks—Hanscom snow plows, DPW loaders, and fire trucks from all the surrounding towns—along with local politicians, martial arts schools, and kids sports leagues. And their all tossing out piles of candy.

a mob of young soccer players in the parade throwing candy, kids scrambling to pick it up


Aside from our parental doubts about how much candy our kids need to have at any one time, this bonanza of sweets has another downside: kids between 9 and 13 or so are driven mad by the bounty and spend the whole parade in a frenzy of accumulation, mostly blocking the view of the adults and little kids sitting obediently on the curb. This year was better, though both because at the start of the parade I spoke sharply to some suspicious-looking youths nearby—they went somewhere else—and because Zion and, especially, Harvey are much better at scrabbling for treats themselves than they were in years past. Here's Zion with some of the booty.

Zion sitting next to a pile of candy

better than Halloween!

After the parade we headed over to the fair, which was packed with an overwhelming number of people. The boys snagged some free balloons and petted the 4H animals, and we ate lunch while watching karate and dance demonstrations. But the highlight of our fair experience was the library book sale. Whether at the main sale in the library our out at the auxiliary booth, all three of us were happy to look at books for quite a while.

Zion and Harvey sitting on the pavement in the book sale booth looking at books

fair reads

And with our lunch from home and all the candy, the only money we spent was five dollars on books. A wonderful and successful day at the fair!

(Now all we have to do is make the leftover candy... disappear.)


is there a point to goals?

So I was at the gym yesterday PUMPING IRON... okay so not really. Really I was lifting 20lb weights over and over again to make my biceps look like they can lift heavy things, which in reality they can't, as Dan knows from my lame-ass attempts the other day to help him move two big pieces of plywood to the stage he was building (Dan: "Can you hold this up while I get the ladder?" Me: "Nooooo!"). And when I wasn't lifting those vanity bells I was doing crunches on the decline bench with a 10lb weight, also a non-transferable skill unless the skill I'm trying to build is professional loathing of my mid-section. So I wasn't really "pumping iron" which sounds hard and productive, it was more like I was airing out my personal vanity while treating it to a spray tan.

Anyway, while I was so engaged I eavesdropped on a personal trainer describing her regimin for an upcoming fitness competition. The best way to display well-developed muscles is to cut all the fat around them, so now that it's getting close to competition time she has to work out harder without eating hardly anything.

"People ask me why I haven't made pro yet," she said, "and I just say it's really hard. You have to be PERFECT. Like, you can tell I work out, but the judges are looking for a certain size of shoulder cap."

OMG, I thought, there's a perfect size of shoulder cap? Why has nobody told me this before? Here are people who've transformed judging the female body into an exact science, and I've been doing it amateur all my life? Where can I download a copy of the spreadsheet?

The trainer stopped to say hi to me as she crossed to the other side of the gym. "How are the babies?" she asked, "I see you running out on Hartwell Road."

"Yeah, I'm out there a lot," I said, and then added guiltily, "When I'm not here lifting weights."

"Your legs look great!" she called as she walked away.

Wow. My legs, huh? Coming from someone who scrutinizes bodies for a living, that feels like a loaded statement. Of course my legs look fine if I'm running 20 miles a week. Aesthetically speaking I'm more concerned about everything ABOVE them.

What is the point of making fitness goals? Are they anything more than vanity? Sometimes I find myself thinking odd things as I look at myself in the mirror doing crunches. "The God of thinness will never be pacified," I tell myself during lower body lifts (which, admittedly, I hate.) The other day I was doing a particularly hard-core twisting exercise with a medicine ball, and just as I was thinking how badass I looked the thought crossed my mind, "You won't be able to do this forever. This body will eventually decay and die."

Which, while true, is not really a motivating mid-workout sentiment.

Running, unlike weight training, is rewarding to me in itself. But I also have running goals, or rather I think about having goals. I say: Maybe this fall I can run 20 miles in one shot. Maybe next spring I can do a marathon.

The problem with those goals is what do you do once you meet them? Will running 20 miles really make me feel so much better than running 15? Will the finish line of a marathon feel like an accomplishment? Or will it be just another place I nurse a baby?

There are distances beyond a marathon, if we get into this game of making up goals. 50K and then 50 miles. Will running THEM change me into a person I magically like better? The day after I conquer a new distance, will I be fundamentally changed? Probably not. Probably I will wake up and still need to decide between a shake and an egg for breakfast, and whether I'm "doing sugar" today, and the choices will be terrifying.

What does the body building trainer do when she finally earns her professional status? Does she take a day off? Eat some food that isn't chicken breast? No, she'll need to compete with all the other professional body builders to win endorsement deals for green-tea supplements. She never gets to an ending point, a place where she can say: There. Now I can rest.

The ending point for all of us, though it's lame to admit it, is age. Or injury. Or terminal disgust at our own failure.

I wonder if something different is possible, if I could make enthusiastic fitness goals with an air of detached humility. It's not so much a cultural trope, non-attachment, not in the spirit of the Nike swooshes I wear on my singlets. It's doesn't sound right to say, "I'm planning an ultramarathon next summer, God willing and the crick don't rise." But it sounds a teensy bit less vain.


fall welcome party

in the middle of the dark party, a tree lit up with Christmas lights

fairy lights

A full day of cleaning inside and out, many invitations and promotions, and planning and practicing from some awesome musicians...

32 hot dogs, 4 pizzas, a pot of chili, a pot of mac and cheese, and lots more besides...

Ira playing from the stage as guests eat and mingle on the lawn

early performance

Babies who like to be on stage and Mamas who are willing for a song or two...

Leah and her dad performing their song


A grill for the hot dogs—and for a bigger fire for warmth after supper...

in the dark, guests gather around the fire in the kettle grill

fire non-pit

A stage and illumination for great performances...

Luke, illumated by Christmas lights, plays guitar and harmonica

on the stage

And a warmer place inside for little ones!

smaller kids playing with the castle inside in the warm

warmer inside

Thanks to everyone who came out to make our fall welcome party so much fun! And don't worry if you missed it: we'll do it again next year.

a long-exposure shot of the stage and our house behind it

party central

We just need a little rest first!

Zion sleeping cuddled up on the couch

tired out


this moment

Harvey and Megan playing music on the stage on our lawn

young musicians

A moment from the week (this afternoon).