posts tagged with 'family'

first vacation of the (not-quite) summer

Harvey and Zion dipping their toes in the Atlantic

greeting the big ocean

We had a tough week last week, so it was wonderful to be able to get away to the outer Cape, courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa Bernstein and their new house in Truro.

They bought it in early spring, and as summer neared they'd been working ever-harder at bringing it up to their standards and getting it ready to rent out come the high season in July and August. They invited us up for a trial run. It's a great place—plenty large but still cozy, with three separate clusters of bedrooms to make space for multiple families, and a wonderful series of decks and patios on all sides.

Zion and Lijah eating appetizers at the deck table

snacks with a view

Of course, as much as we loved spending time in and around the house the real draw was the beach. The closest one was on the bay side, about a four-minute walk away. We all headed down there pretty soon after arrival, and spent a delightful couple hours running on the beach, playing in the sand, and very occasionally dipping into the water (it's still kind of wintery, even in the bay). The sand there is too coarse for building up, so instead I dug holes. I got pretty deep!

Zion buried up to his waist in sand, Lijah looking on

he could get himself out

Grandma and Grandpa have a new puppy, as seen earlier, and we had fun playing with him and watching him romp and run (and lie in the shade of anyone sitting still). Rascal came along, and spent more time in the water than anyone else—and most of the rest of the time lying comfortably in the sand.

Rascal on the beach

he still loves a beach

He did give into the puppy's entreaties to play with him for maybe 45 seconds over the course of the afternoon, but that was it.

The air was turning chilly as we ate our hamburgers and hotdogs on the deck so we went inside for desert, but we couldn't resist heading out through the big sliding doors one more time in the fading light. The boys played chase with the dogs up and down the sandy dirt roads around the house before we all settled down to watch the sunset.

the sunset as seen from the house

day is done

We're not so good at sleeping when we're not in our house—and I guess not so much even when we are!—but we made it through the night and were restored to full energy with a pancake breakfast courtesy of chef Grandpa (with no baking powder in the house he just beat the egg whites extra hard). Breakfast was over by 7:30, but nobody had any trouble finding something to do as the morning inched on.

Zion and Harvey reading on the couch


Of course, we can read at home! So even though the boys would have been happy to sit around until the mini-golf place opened at 10:00 I galvanized (forced) them into taking off early for a look at Atlantic Ocean over on the other side of the Cape. We stopped first at Marconi beach, where the stairs down to the water were closed. But we could still see and hear the power of the waves down below the bluff, and the boys were energized by seeing them as we explored the site of the first trans-oceanic wireless transmission.

Harvey and Zion running down a path through the dunes

energetic explorers

Once we exhausted the possibilities there we headed a mile down the road to a town beach, where we experienced the waves directly (that's the picture at the top of this post). Harvey, Zion, and I were beside ourselves with excitement. But because of our golf date we couldn't stay more than a couple minutes, so we managed to drag ourselves away—not before making plans to come back soon! When we got to the golf place we found that, despite the published material, they actually opened at 11:00; never mind, the National Seashore visitor center was just down the street, and easily good for 45 minutes of entertainment. We visited the history museum, learned about shells, used the bathrooms, and generally enjoyed being tourists among other tourists. A pair of Asian tourists taking pictures with a selfie stick paused to watch me tell the boys to pose for a photo, and they fully approved of how the young Americans responded.

the boys showing off their silly poses in front of a salt pond

yes they're silly

Then we went and played golf. I took a turn to wrangle the kids so Leah could devote her attention to the game, and I got them through 18 holes in record time (I was worried we'd hold up other groups, but I shouldn't have—we even managed to play some of the holes twice through!). They all had fun, even though Harvey was a little frustrated with his level of play and Lijah only hit the ball maybe three times. The appeal for him is apparently carrying it and the club around as he climbed on rocks and waded in the streams; well worth the $8 we paid for him to "play".

We went home for lunch—so nice to have a fully appointed house as a convenient home base!—before the bigger boys and I got into swimsuits for a second attempt at the real ocean. Never mind the hazy overcast moving in as the wind picked up: we were going to do this! And so we did.

Harvey and Zion looking small wading in front of big waves

the Atlantic at its finest

We went to a beach in Truro this time, to save on travel time and avoid traffic, and the waves were even better there. Almost overwhelming, in fact! We did a lot of squealing. The cold was kind of overwhelming too, though the fun and delight carried us through for a while. There's something wonderful about splashing in the waves while the scant few other beach-goers huddle in winter coats with hoods drawn tight around their faces. It was very windy. Zion was the first to run out of internal warmth, and even two towels around him couldn't do much to bring his core temperature back up!

the boys sheltering in towels in the lee of a branch

some slight protection

But it was worth it, we all felt. As we got in the car and turned the heat up full blast, Zion announced: "that was the best ever!" It sure was.

As I write these words on Monday evening it's crazy to think that was all just yesterday and the day before. After all that excitement—and there's lots I didn't write about, like playing ball, putting together a hammock chair, playing eight games of Uno, more reading (Harvey and I each finished two books)—and a full day with friends here at home today, it feels like about a week's worth of activities in the last two days. We're all tired. We left Truro after dinner Sunday so the boys could sleep in the car. They did, but none quicker than Lijah: he was out within a minute of getting into his seat, before we could even buckle him up.

Lijah sleeping in his car seat with the doors open

like a light

And he slept the whole way home, and then all the way through the night (well, with one easy tuck-in around midnight). That's what a great vacation will do to you!


more moments

Besides Lijah hanging out in the wheelbarrow, this week saw a few more moments worthy of note. Harvey's been very aware of his teeth.

Harvey grimacing to show his bloody tooth and new gap

you should see the other guy

He had two that were a little bit loose, and when he fell on a rock he knocked one out and loosened the other a whole lot more. He's praying every night that it doesn't fall out when he's asleep.

On Tuesday we celebrated cousin Nisia's birthday. The boys have a great time whenever they see her... about once a year. We took a picture of all the Archibalds together to commemorate this year's meeting, and demonstrate that we're all equally awkward in posed photographs.

ten Archibalds collected in front of our corn garden

family reunion

Camp continues apace.

camp friends sitting on the hammock weaving baskets

happy basket-makers

It's all great fun but a lot of work, and we're not at our best all the time. We're working on getting what rest we can, where ever we can find it.

I held the camera out facing me to show Zion lying in my lap

worn out boy

Yay for summer.


many thanks

We're enjoying lots of chances to eat Thanksgiving dinners this year: after two over the weekend, with friends and at Leah's parents, we made our own this evening. We invited a few friends over to share it with us, but a winter storm—all the scarier for being the first of the season—kept them away. That was alright, though, because we had a fine meal with just the five of us: tablecloth and centerpiece and all! And because it was just us, we were free to power through the meal from start to finish in not much more than ten minutes!

No, that's not quite fair. The boys, especially Harvey, did an atypically great job of waiting until everyone was served to start eating, and that was after we all shared something we were thankful for. And Leah only rushed off because Elijah, who got into the spirit of things by keeping himself awake for the feast, needed to go to sleep immediately after finishing his mashed potatoes. And Harvey and I lingered for a reasonable time over our seconds and desert.

And any rushing wasn't due to a lack of interest in the meal: on the contrary, excitement was high! We've been studying the Pilgrims, so Harvey was enough in touch with the original feast to ask for corn and apples to be part of our meal—five minutes before we sat down to eat. Happily canned corn is quick enough to heat up, though hardly authentic. I'll see what I can do about making some samp for next year. And Zion got into the celebratory spirit by calling for toast after toast, which in practice meant clinking glasses a lot. Cheers!

I'm always thankful for my family, but it's nice to stop and notice it officially over Thanksgiving dinner. Grumpy or cheerful—and we had some of each today—I love being with them, and am grateful for how much time I get to spend hanging out. Each of them is wonderful, and none more than Leah who did all the cleaning up after our feast! She's also much more eloquent than I on the subject of giving thanks; here's what she had to say on Facebook earlier:

Because the snow kept our dinner guests away tonight, I am particularly thankful for my family of five who makes every meal feel like a party. I am thankful for Harvey who said, "My favorite part of thanksgiving is corn because the settlers had corn!" and for Dan who immediately rushed some canned corn onto the stove at my whispered request. I am thankful for Zion who owns his pilgrim name so much that he now refuses to be called "ZiZi." I am thankful for Elijah who rubbed a full serving of mashed potatoes all over his face, and then freaked out that there was mashed potato on his face. I am thankful that every year they are a little bit more themselves and a little bit more my own. So happy thanksgiving, Archibalds, I'd settle with you guys any day.

One more Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow... let the thankfulness continue!


Eight years

Today is our anniversary. Dan and I have been married eight years now.

look how young we look!

We celebrated this morning in true Archibald fashion. I walked into Dan's office and said, "I think it's our anniversary."
"Is it?" he asked, checking the date on his computer. "Oh, I guess it is. Sorry, I didn't do anything for it."
"I didn't either," I said. "I thought I might make you a card last night but then I fell asleep with a headache."
"Well, happy anniversary!"
"It's an easy anniversary — just the way I like it!"

Feel free to accuse me of being unromantic.

Da and I have gone out for our anniversary two times that I can ever remember. On our first anniversary we went to the MFA in Boston. We grumbled over the prices in the cafe and got woefully lost on our way home, and all the while I was fretting over getting to my grad-school class on time. A few years later we went to Water Country for our anniversary. We grumbled over the prices of EVERYTHING and I spent half the time shivering in a towel because (unbeknownst to me) I was pregnant. After that we didn't go out anymore.

Over time I've discovered that the less I try to make things "special," the less I stress out over occasions and the more special our day-to-day life feels to me.

Which is to say I can note the passing of our anniversary with fond awareness that neither of us has to DO anything more than we're already doing. Which today means going to work, fixing the vacuum, plunging the sink, and making dinner (for Dan) and doing laundry, watching the kids, making deodorant, picking up toys and vacuuming (hopefully) (for me).

When we were doing the pre-marriage counseling that proceeded our wedding, the priest asked each of us why we wanted to get married. Dan answered first. "I dunno," he said, "to have someone to do stuff with?"

The longer we've been married, the more I think this must be the most beautiful answer in all the history of pre-Canna. Because our daily life feels so special to me, and all we do is do regular stuff together. When I clean the kitchen after Dan makes dinner, when Dan brings in 9 lbs of tomatoes for me to freeze, when we play with our kids in shifts and stifle our giggles at Zion's mega tantrums, all these times when we just "do stuff" I feel like we are sharing something magical, something beautiful, something that is both special and ordinary and spectacular.

The truth is, if I think about it, that everything in my life is lovely and enjoyable precisely because of Dan's involvement in it. He is encouraging and inspiring. He bears half the load for the things that are hard. He makes us smile when things are boring and he makes us laugh when things get tense. He is 100% wonderful, and I have no idea how I landed him as a husband.

So happy anniversary Dan. I don't need any present today but you. I mean, and I also really need the vacuum fixed.


bonus travel

Grandma Judy with her sisters

three grandmas

We took a short trip to Ithaca this past weekend for a Greig family reunion, which gathered all the children and grandchildren of Grandma Judy and her sisters: the three daughters of Betty and Douglas Greig.

Zion and Mama on the riverside

drawn to water

It was a long trip on Friday, but the boys were great in the car. We only made one significant stop, in Greene, NY, where we visited two of our favorite things: a library and a riverbank.

When we finally got there we made ourselves at home with the Ithaca Archibalds and did our best to adapt ourselves to their wild college schedule. Staying up past 10:00 wasn't too hard for the boys thanks to the long nap they both took in the car.

Harvey, Zion, and Nisia on the footbridge looking down at the river

ooh, more water

The next day we headed out to the reunion, which was at a state park. The centerpiece of the park was a creek, which was naturally fascinating to the boys and cousin Nisia—and even more than usual because this creek had cars driving through it at frequent intervals.

a car driving through the creek at the ford

a car in the water!

There was also a swimming area, but it was closed due to recent heavy rains. We did check it out, though, and made several trips to the restrooms located in the changing area. Harvey told me, "it's a bathroom but it looks like a castle."

the changing rooms at the state park, built imposingly of stone

castle bathroom

Of course, there was also lots of good food there. Grandma Judy organized and saw to it that there'd be lots of cold cuts, but everyone who came brought something delicious. I did my best to try some of everything.

some of the food at the reunion

a fraction of the spread

The day also saw a brief celebration of a couple birthdays: Uncle Tom and my cousin Doug each got to pretend to blow out the candles on a fair-sized carrot cake (we all brought food; nobody brought matches).

Uncle Tom holding cousin Nisia

birthday boy and almost birthday girl

The party might well have been over then, but nobody could resist the allure of the open field and playground adjacent to the wooded picnic area.

a view of the playground accross the parking lot

paradise in the distance

The young kids enjoyed the impressive play structure while athletic young adults (aged 12 to 50) played some ultimate frisbee, observed by those with more sense and dignity.

Zion snuggling in Mama's arms

running out of steam

The very young were pretty worn out by this point, but anyone who wanted to leave had a tough argument to make when there was still so much fun going on.

Harvey and Grandpa Dave on the swingset

still going strong

Of course, all good things must come to an end and eventually we headed home—for another oh-so-late night, this one enhanced by a game of Scrabble and sports on the big-screen TV.

Sunday we enjoyed a terrific morning at the Ithaca Vineyard church—any service that concludes with a pot-luck brunch is fine by me! But after a few more precious minutes playing with Nisia in the kids church room we had to hit the road and bring our tired boys home to a place where they'd be able to sleep. Of course, they got a head start in the car—in Zion's case within five minutes of our leaving and continuing for the next four hours or so.

low visibility on the Castleton-on-Hudson bridge

with the wipers at full speed

The drive was a little more eventful than we might have hoped thanks to a fierce thunderstorm just past Albany. The downpour was so bad that we actually pulled over for a couple minutes, until we got bored of standing still and ventured back out into the maelstrom.

The boys were a little more discontented going home than they were on the way out, but were mollified somewhat when we stopped at a rest stop on the Turnpike; when Leah and I, also pretty worn out, suggested that McDonalds fries might be a possibility Zion perked right up with an, "and chicken?!". So we did that. He liked it.

Zion smiling

better now

Of course that wasn't the end of the whining, but we did make it home eventually. It was still light so the boys jumped right on their bikes and took a few laps around the street before even going inside. Travel is great, but it sure is nice to be home.


back in concert

At an earlier point in my dad's life he was a professional rock musician. When I say "earlier" I mean "earlier than me." In the days when he was ripping up his voice covering The Who's Tommy, I was nothing more than a twinkle in my mother's eye.

I grew up seeing my dad as a rock star. He'd breeze through the kitchen belting out a 60s classic, and I'd pity other children whose parents weren't full of songs.

But even though he had nightly gigs singing lullabies to a packed house of moppets, my father had left his professional aspirations behind. He settled down to a stable career. He built a business and made a lot of money. It's brought him many long days of frustration or boredom too. Who knows whether the life of a professional musician would have been any better? He only got to live out one option.

In recent years my father has taken up singing again as a hobby. Through voice lessons and a lot of hard work he's regained the range that he lost over the parenting years. He's also made some contacts in the local music scene. One thing lead to another, and last Saturday he made his rock re-debut at Johnny D's.

he's back

As gigs go this was no small-town high-school idol; the concert was listed as the "must-see" item in Saturday's Boston Globe. And even though there were other acts filling out the bill, it was clear from the atmosphere inside the club that my father was the headliner. His family and friends alone took up almost half the seats in the venue. Some folks traveled from as far as New York and North Carolina just to see the show.

You see, we all always knew he was a rock star.

So how did he do? What can I say? He killed it.

tearing it up

His voice sounded spectacular, as clear as I remember it from when I was just more than a little twinkle. His musicianship with the band was spot-on. He worked the crowd like a pro. I felt really priviledged to be watching the whole thing.

babies enjoying the rock show

I had this thought when I saw my dad up on stage doing something he really worked hard for, making himself vulnerable. I realized that one of the big challenges of my adult life is coming to see my parents (and children) as whole people. I say this at the risk of sounding something like a sociopath, but sometimes I have a hard time ascribing to my parents the same range of emotion that I might feel personally. Or the diversity of motivation. As I work myself up trying to figure out whatever it is that they WANT FROM ME (parents and children alike), I tend to forget they themselves have complex minds and conflicting passions. Now that I am an adult and a parent and a person often faced with either-or choices, I see what it is that my father gave up to support a family. I feel both grateful for it and sad. I don't know, I guess this is the thing that I work so hard to teach my children called "empathy."

And now the video. This is the final song my dad played in his set, and it took a family effort to get it onto the internet. My brother shot the video with his fancy new camera, and Dan and I each almost broke our computers transcoding it. As my brother Jake wrote in an email about the video: "there's a nasty (or psychedelic) flicker in the video from the stage lights" so we apologize for that and hope you find it more psychedelic than nasty. We also credit Jake with the photographs above, about which he says, "Johnny D's presented some particular lighting challenges. Not only was it dark, which I expected, but there was a strong magenta light focused directly on dad's arm. I did what I could to give dad a human-looking skin tone." I share these quotes with you not only to credit him with his photography work, but also because they made me laugh out loud, and I really want to brag about how awesome my family is.

This is a song my dad wrote about how much it sucks to work at a day job. He sure has fun singing it, though.

UPDATE: two Archibalds have told me that they can't hear the lyrics in the song. Congenital deafness, out of my family in Jesus' name! But for their benefit and yours too, here are the lyrics:

Every morning I'm awakened
to the squawking on the station
of the radio alarm,
Oh Boy another day.
As she rolls in her sleep
although I never hear a peep
I swear I hear her say:
Why can't you ever stay for a while?
You act as if your life is on trial!

You're only given so much time
so use it up carefully.
You wouldn't guzzle down fine wine
so don't treat yourself so cheap
'cause at the bottom of the glass is your dreams.

I get into my car
and though I think I'm driving far
I'm just driving and driving
and not getting anywhere.
Then coming up from behind
although I never heard a sign
I hear a siren blare.
Well don't you take your foot of the gas!
There are always more cars you gotta pass.

You're only given so much time
so use it up carefully.
You wouldn't guzzle down fine wine
so don't treat yourself so cheap
'cuz at the bottom of the glass is your dreams.

The telephone is ringing
and the manager is screaming
that the factory production is always running behind.
The salesman's sweating
because the paycheck that he's getting
is depending on the closing of the deal on the line.
Well they'll do another study
how they're gonna make more money
with a corporate restructure
watch those stocks go on up!
Bu I'm struck by a question posed by the reflection
in my coffee cup:
How much longer can you keep up this pace?
There aren't any winners in this rat race!

You're only given so much time
so use it up carefully.
You wouldn't guzzle down fine wine
so don't treat yourself so cheap
'cuz at the bottom of the glass is your dreams.


uncles and cousins

Harvey and his cousin Nisia


We've been doing very well with the food so far this Thanksgiving—three or four meals of delicious Thanksgiving food a day for the last three days (we started early) and more yet to come. Family too: Harvey was very excited to see Uncle Jake yesterday (and everyone else too, of course), and today he was looking forward to playing with his cousin Nisia.



She lives even further away than Uncle Jake and is considerably younger, so he's only seen her once since she's been mobile enough to do any playing. She obviously made a big impression: "Oh... Nisia!" he says whenever he hears her name. "That's my friend!" From all appearances the visit was everything he hoped for. They played outside in the leaves and he showed off his chickens, and then they played inside and he shared his trains very nicely (although he did feel the need to mention aloud his understanding that she was not to take any of them home). The rest of us enjoyed hanging out with Uncle Tom and Grandma. All in all a very pleasant Thanksgiving weekend in-between-day.

Harvey and Nisia getting showered with leaves

try to catch one!


today I am thankful for:

The boy who fills each day with wonder

harvey at butterfly farm


The little snuggle-bug who keeps me warm

zion at butterfly farm


The man who makes everything possible

thankful for dan

always workin for mama

Thank you family for being my family.

(Including you, Rascal and chickens!)


Easter report 2011

There have been a whole lot of exclamation points at the end of blog post titles around here lately: three in a row, and four of the last six. It's indicative of the level of excitement we enjoyed for most of our vacation. We'll start to recover in a couple days.

As we do so, though, we're taking the time to catch you up on all our delightful holiday diversions. Especially Harvey, who is always very diverting. I recognize that this might be less interesting for a certain portion of the readership—my apologies to those who tune in for my serious and well-thought out posts on education, politics, and international agriculture—but it's hard to resist the cries from other readers for yet more Harvey pics. Here he is eating bacon.

Harvey eating bacon

pretty tasty

So. After a morning spent wandering pleasantly outside, we suited up and headed for church. In order to maximize our opportunity to dress up (and sing traditional Easter hymns) we went to our ancestral Episcopal church, where, despite the newly installed "soft space"—which is great—Harvey had a hard time sitting through the service. Good thing there was a playground outside and an Easter egg hunt afterwards.

Harvey bending to pick up an egg

hidden in plain view

This was actually the first of two egg hunts on the day. As you can see from the photo it was pretty non-technical; the only difficulty for Harvey was moving fast enough to pick up an egg before another child snatched it out from under him. He was in the preschool age bracket so his competition was limited to the under-6 set, but he was still the littlest one out there—and some of those girls were pretty quick!

Thence home and a failure of a nap of which no more shall be said, and back in the car to Grandma and Grandpa's house. They laid out another Easter egg hunt—something that they never did for Harvey's dad when he lived with them!—and provided a native guide to help track down some of the trickier eggs.

Harvey and Grandpa looking for eggs

I think there's one over there!

They also laid out a terrific brunch spread—which included the bacon pictured above—that we very much enjoyed. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually we had to take our very over-tired bundle of joy home. Those chocolate eggs really pack a punch!

Harvey sprawled in the bed

the aftermath

Even that wasn't quite the end of the excitement, though, because Harvey didn't sleep more than a half-hour or so, and he woke up very sour indeed. Happily, I was able to console him with a date with a 7-year-old neighbor girl, with whom he spent a very enjoyable hour or so jumping on her trampoline and playing in her sandbox.

After all that, he may be excused for being a little under the weather today; and so might we be for keeping up with him all that time. Hooray for Easter.

[Edit: I can't believe I forgot to mention that Harvey also painted an Easter egg. Not only was it his first egg painting experience, I believe it was his first time wielding a paintbrush at all! He did great, besides dumping out the dish of water (it turns out that he misunderstood what I meant when I said it was "for the paint") and breaking one egg. He's a natural.]


thanksgiving report

Our Thanksgiving this year saw the largest congregation of Archibalds—eleven!—to be assembled in some time, and all of us got considerably larger over the course of the afternoon. Well, almost all: baby Nisia didn't get to enjoy the feast but second-hand, but I suppose since at four months she's growing the fastest of any of us it all comes out even. The Lexington Archibalds provided the table and the vast majority of the food: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, roasted root vegetables, spinach, and salad. Oh, and three pies. We Bedford Archibalds chipped in rolls and cranberry sauces, while the Pembroke Archibalds brought an amazing chocolate toffy trifle. It went wonderfully well with pecan pie. And we're always happy to see the Ithaca Archibalds!

This was only the first of three Thanksgiving feasts for us: we'll be enjoying the treats of the season tomorrow and Saturday as well. But we didn't let that keep us from bringing home a nice collection of leftovers to help fill in the cracks!