talking turkey

Meal planning this week continues to be complicated—or maybe simplified?—by all the Thanksgiving leftovers. There's way more than usual: we cooked a whole turkey for the five of us, and we also got lots more turkey from the food swap with Leah's family. Then the same with all the other stuff. Good thing we all love turkey! After the initial Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday we had turkey and everything sandwiches for lunch on Friday and another Thanksgiving dinner for supper, and pretty much the same on Saturday (though our sandwiches were much simpler, since we brought them on our picnic). Saturday I did have to make new mashed potatoes. On Sunday evening Leah made us a beautiful turkey pot pie, but even that didn't use up all the turkey (its leftovers provided Monday's lunch). Supper Monday I switched things up a bit with spaghetti and meatballs, but today the turkey was back again, seared in the skillet with cajun seasoning to go in burritos. But even that wasn't the last of it! Not that I'm complaining, mind you! As I say, we love it. I think tomorrow I'll try turkey salad sandwiches.

our reading this week

Honestly, one of the hardest things about the pandemic for us—now that we've got our bubble school situation going—is not being able to go to the library. We used to go every week, often twice a week. And now we haven't been once in over eight months. Yes, we could do curbside pickup if we wanted to, but it's just not the same. We're browsers; we don't go in knowing what we want to check out. So finding books online is hard. Also we're not good at planning ahead!

So we miss having a constant stream of new-to-us books in the house. And sometimes we miss having specific books. Like when we leaned from friends that there is a fifth Dory Fantasmagory book available. Ever since Harvey was a little reader we've loved Dory, and it was tough to know there was a book about her out there remaining unread! Happily, last week our friends took pity on us and got the book out, again, from their own library to lend to us. So now all three readers among the Archibald boys (I include myself in that number) have finished Tiny Tough, and I'm in the middle of reading it to Elijah. Good times.

party in person

Bubble school has been great, but only this week was the best part of bubbling up revealed: we can go to each other's birthday parties! We did that today. It was a shared party for the sisters who make up two sevenths of our school-age kids; their birthdays are just a week apart and since homeschoolers are kind, loving, and non-jealous as a group they're happy to have one party between the two of them. Not that they missed out on any party fun: we were there for five and a half hours of nonstop delight!

the kids waiting to batter a pinata hanging on a line

they still remember how to party!

There were no organized activities for all that time: the kids just like playing together that much. Even more so since usually when we're together we keep dragging them away from their games to do schoolwork! Today was all social time, and they really appreciated it. We grownups did our share of talking, but we also got in on the active fun a little bit, with some jump rope and some tug-of-war (surprisingly, the 3rd-through-6th graders beat the team of the six-year-olds and me in the tugging... those big kids are strong!). And there was food—tons and tons of food. It occurs to me that I hadn't done anything you might call "social eating" for a real long time now; today I ate many chips. On top of Thanksgiving, it left me feeling a little bit heavy this evening. I'll have to make sure to do some more jump rope!

We're so grateful to have this group; it would be looking like a long winter without them. Here's to everybody staying healthy and lots more fun to come!


what a pain!

I've been getting to think some about pain lately. Just before Thanksgiving I had a dental procedure that left me hurting for a little bit (I may write more about it in a year or two when I recover) and then on Tuesday this week I did something to my back that really laid me low for the next day and a half. Leah is suffering her own difficulties, and is looking ahead to surgery in a week, plus—from an unrelated problem—eating is really painful for her lately. So we're kind of a wreck!

My recent back problems started when I was playing hide-and-seek with the boys and my mom on the rocks above Fawn Lake. I found a great spot, a cleft in the rock where I could crouch down out of sight, and naturally it won me the game. But when I got up I felt a twinge in my lower back, right above my right hip. Then just moments later I slipped on some leaves and fell some way down the rock, but that's normal: I fall all the time! Mysterious twinges are much more alarming.

The pain got worse rather than better over the evening, and by the time I went to bed I was really in a bad way. The fact that it took me three minutes to figure out how I was going to get myself down onto the bed, and that whenever I moved the wrong way the intensity of pain took my breath away, made me wonder if I had done something to my spine. Would I need to go to the hospital?! I also really wished I had filled that prescription for 800mg Motrin tablets that the dentist gave me. As it was, I had to make do with regular generic ibuprofen at 200mg every couple hours all night (I was awake every couple hours to take one because of course every time I moved I would wake up!). Not a pleasant night.

But then by the morning I was already a little bit better: good enough to sit in my chair to do a meeting for work. And while I couldn't ride the bike park the kids built in the street that afternoon I felt good enough to wish that I could. And by Thursday I was back to full capacity, albeit with some lingering twinges (good thing: I would have hated to miss that party!). As I said to Leah, there's nothing like intense debilitating pain to make you appreciate regular aches and pains!

Leah was very kind and caring. Because she's a wonderful loving person of course, but also because she's anticipating a couple weeks of needing care herself coming up! And I'm happy to do it... as long as my own health holds up. If not, it's up to the kids! How do you think they'd do as caretakers?


moments from the week

the boys walking towards the Christmas-lighted Lexington commercial stretch

seasonal shopping

Moments from the past week.

kids drinking hot chocolate and eating biscuits at our table

school snack: chocolate and bisciuts

Zion and Blue standing on a rock jutting into Fawn Lake

Fawn Lake is open again

Zion riding his bike up a 2x4 ramp


Harvey and Zion on a rocky hilltop by Horn Pond

climbing in Woburn

kids sitting in a gazebo with piles of candy

birthday party candy swap

scraps of paper all over the floor

seven kids made three to four snowflakes each



In a former age Sundays saw us spending lots of the day at church. No longer, of course. Still, yesterday we managed a fair impression of that long-ago schedule, only over Zoom. The day got going at 8:30, when I started the Kids Church meeting in order to prep with our guest reader for the day. The actual prep took about 30 seconds, and then we enjoyed 20 minutes of lovely meandering conversation—you know, like you do at church. Elijah joined in. Kids are meant to join the meeting at 9:15 but the first one actually arrived a little after 9:00, so I talked to her for a few minutes. By 9:15 things were going strong. When Kids Church ended at 10:00 Zion and his friends hung around in meeting waiting for the adults to leave so they could talk and play together. It reminded me so much of the same group of kids mooching around the classroom space like they always used to do. So I left them the meeting, joined "big church" on my phone, and headed outside.

While I certainly do miss seeing people in person, I must say it was lovely to be able to "attend" church while walking the dogs in the sparkling snowy woods. And I was back in time to end what had become a Minecraft adventure in the former Kids Church Zoom and join the end-of-church social time—like coffee hour but only five minutes long and without coffee. Still, it was nice to see people! At 1:00 there was another church meeting, which ran until 2:30: unlike actual church, which is run in webinar format, this time you could see all the people. And there were breakout rooms and things. Then Harvey finished Sunday off with Youth Group from 7:30 to 8:30. Really finished: everyone else was in bed long before that was done (I did get up to say goodnight to him and turn out the lights). A full day of Zoom is exhausting! It was super nice to have so much church, just like old times. But I'm glad we can look forward to an in-person day today!

bring on the snow!

All of us were excited last week to see the possibility of snow in the forecast for the weekend. It's winter! We love snow! On Friday the predictions had changed to mostly rain, but we still did our snow lesson in bubble school—and more importantly, made snowflakes! Those snowflakes have power, you know. And despite a rainy start to the day Saturday, the snow did manage to take over by late afternoon; a wet snow, but wintery enough that the boys were able to get out to build a snow fort. A small one, to be sure, but it counts!

Harvey and Zion lying down in a little snow fort

proportional to the amount of snow on the ground

That picture is from Sunday morning, by which point, following more rain overnight, everything had frozen completely solid.

While the bigger boys were constructing, Elijah was trying out his new skis, a hand-me-down from his school friends. He was actually the first one out on Saturday, so interested was he in getting them on his feet in actual snow. He took a couple loops around the yard then, and then a couple more Sunday morning. The terrain in the yard wasn't really as interesting as he wanted, but I at least though it was a fine place to start.

Elijah on his new cross-country skis in the yard

he wishes he had a hill

Then Monday we did sledding at school, and he got his hill; but by that point the snow was more ice than anything else and he felt that his control was a little lacking. So he joined the rest of us on the sleds and snow skates, and we all had a great time. A beautiful start to winter, and all thanks to those snowflakes!

Lijah holding up a paper snowflake, kids around him working on them

yay snow!


tree time

We usually get our Christmas trees later than most folks, more towards the middle of December. That's officially because, following the traditions of our British fore-bearers, we keep it up through twelfth night in January; my general lack of focus and organization probably contributes too. But this year I had Leah's upcoming surgery to concentrate my mind, so I was sure to schedule a tree-shopping trip for a day when all five of us were able to be up and about to pick it out. That day was yesterday!

Zion, masked, looking through the face hole in the plywood

even the trees are masked in 2020

As you can see, it was pretty dark by the time we got to Chip In. That's not because of lack of focus, though: 4:30 was the only time we were all free at the same time! Fortunately, the dark didn't inhibit our ability to pick the best tree much, because there were only a handful to choose from. Some people might object to the small selection, but not us—as I've said before (somewhere in this blog, which I'm not going to track down to link), having only a couple of possible choices really saves us some time and mental work. And we always end up with a perfect tree anyways.

We decorated the tree this afternoon, while listening to selection from our extensive collection of Christmas music (14 hours and 51 minutes in the "Christmas" playlist!). I did the lights, fake cranberries, and ribbons; the boys handled the ornaments—and without breaking a single one! Harvey is tall enough now to reach all but the highest branches, though I was still required to put on the star. I wonder if I still will be next year?

It came out beautiful, as always, and we spent some time basking in its glow after supper. And it's a good thing we like it: it'll be here for the next month!


the first December celebration

We celebrated the first night of Hanukah this evening, and it was as delightful as it could be under the circumstances! Leah's parents are determined to make the holiday just as thrilling as it would be if we were observing it with them at their house, so they packaged up bags of presents to cover all eight nights. Leah drove over their to drop off the gifts for them and pick all that up, and Harvey and Zion came along so they could take a walk with Grandma and Grandpa. Then when they got home we did the candle-lighting and present-opening over Zoom. It was great, except for our singing of the blessing... it's always a little shaky as everyone waits for everyone else, and you can imagine how much worse that was with the Zoom delay. But we got through it! And all three boys were delighted with their presents—talking hamster doll, ball maze, and metal detector respectively (it seems like there should be some way to combine those three and try to take over the world...).

Leah did most of the prep on our family's end—for the rest of us December 10th was a little early in the month to be ready for anything! But she was on top of it. Zion did have time to make a beautiful card, and Harvey outdid himself with the creation of a beautiful little model guitar for Grandpa. I helped him some, but the idea and the drive to make it happen was all his. It came out great; I hope it inspires him to try some more miniature woodworking!

There's lots more Hanukah to come—we've got the link for seven more evenings of Zoom meetings. And then when it's done there's only a week until Christmas. Yikes! All the celebrating sure is stressful!


Mama's surgery day

It's been a long day. Leah's surgery got moved to first thing this morning, so we set an alarm for 5:00 to be able to leave by 5:30. (we didn't really need to go quite so soon, but you know, with surgery as with air travel you don't want to be late!). Of course we didn't need the alarm: both of us were awake at 4:00 and couldn't go back to sleep. Leah did something useful and went for a walk with the dogs. I just watched Youtube videos. But then a little bit later I usefully drove her to the hospital, so that's something. My mom came by to watch the kids, but only Harvey was awake to see her at all before she left. So our morning didn't need to be very different from usual... but at the same time, it did.

Originally we were going to be doing our last school day of the calendar year, but that was cancelled when a one of the families came in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Just as well, since we weren't really full of working energy. So instead we just hung around at home and played on screens, interspersed with walks with the dogs and a bike ride (I also did some work, but that's not so different from playing on screens). The relaxed atmosphere and lack of routine was great, except that apparently the kids only have two modes. When they relax, they relax all the way; so no dishes at all got done. I was going to say no cleaning at all, but that's not fair: when he got back from the bike ride Harvey did some solid cleaning work on his own initiative. But the kitchen is kind of a wreck.

Still and all, I'm proud that between a lengthy work phone call, the Hanukah candle-lighting Zoom, and walking the dogs, I was able to make a real dinner: meatloaf, baked potatoes, and green beans. People are going to be bringing over food this weekend, so I just needed to establish that I could actually handle things myself if need be. I totally can! We'll even get the kitchen cleaned up tomorrow morning; we have to, or else there won't be room to make any more food! But first I need some sleep.

Leah's story is of course more interesting, but it'll have to wait a little while. I can say that the surgery went well, and that the doctors are pleased, but she's in a fair amount of pain now and on some pretty good meds. Since recent state Covid restrictions cancelled her planned two days of hospital vacation, she's recuperating at her parents' house. Good call, staying out of the chaos here. Most importantly, it ensures that no dogs will jump onto her stomach. We hope to see her home in a couple of days, which should give us enough time to get things back in order!


moments from the week

the boys decorating the Christmas tree


Moments from the past week.

Elijah holding a friend's snow skate

he skis AND snow skates!

Lijah looking at a partially frozen pond

almost sliding time

Harvey sitting on the edge of a halfpipe, Lijah sliding down head-first

we can still enjoy the skate park in winter

the boys playing dreidel on the kitchen table

holiday gambling

Zion lying down on a rocky outcropping

tired at the top


lying down with dogs

I kind of thought that with Leah gone I'd have a little more room in the bed at night. But somehow that hasn't been the case at all—in fact, I think last night I had even less! And it's not the kids' fault: they all stayed in their own beds, as they almost always do nowadays, until Lijah came in a little before first light. No, the problem is the dogs. I think they have spots that they like in the bed, so even without Leah there they're still trying to claim space right in the middle. And even worse, I think they appreciate pressing up against somebody as they sleep, so while they started in the middle by morning I was clinging to a thin sliver of bed, unable to move or roll over lest I tumble off. It wasn't the most restful night.

Add to that the problem of sticking with my usual bedtime—or missing it, rather, because of needing time to be quiet after a long day with the boys—and waking up on Leah and the dogs' schedule. That's at four AM if you're keeping score at home. At least they don't make me walk them at that hour (Leah does, usually). I just let them out for a bit, and then they calm down until six or so and I try to go back to sleep. Unless of course Lijah joins me in the bed... It's a miracle I'm conscious at all!

Mama's home!

Leah came home from her convalescence at her parents' house this afternoon. We were all very glad to see her—the dogs most visibly. We kept them outside until she got herself established on the couch. I appreciated her the most at bedtime, when Elijah was yelling and throwing things and I didn't have to be the one to deal with him (or to be a bad parent by ignoring him and probably leaving the house, like I would have done had it happened the night before). And that wasn't the first time this evening that I tapped out, either! At the end of supper I wandered off, not because the kids were doing anything particularly bad, but just because they're so dang loud! I do love them, and often I enjoy being with them, but it's nice to get a break every little while. So welcome home, Mama! And single parents: props to you.

moments from the week

Elijah sitting in a snow cave

lots of snow!

Moments from the past week.

Zion putting his boot too deep in a stream

oops, too deep!

Lijah and Henry playing Laser Tag

laser tag!

Zion and Grandma on a hill near the airport

plane spotting

the boys out in front of the house in the blizzardy snow

biggest December snowstorm in 10 years, we're told

Leah and Harvey lighting Hanukah candles with Grandma and Grandpa over Zoom

Hanukah Zoom

Harvey and Lijah resting on the toboggan on top of a sled hill

of course we went sledding

the dogs going up a snowy hill on a sunny day

my favorite weather


solstice fire

Even when everything else is overwhelming it's nice to observe the turning points in the year, and none more so than the solstice. And even though we didn't manage to make wreaths this year, if there's one thing I can always handle, it's a fire.

our solstice fire under the 1st quarter moon

starting the longest night

Actually, it took a little more thought than usual, since it's hard to light a fire when the ground is covered with a foot of snow. But I was prepared! The day before the storm I built a cover for our fire pit, and then the day after I shoveled it off so melting snow wouldn't drip in. That meant that this afternoon when the sun touched the horizon we had a dry bed to start what we grandly called our solstice bonfire (just slightly bigger than the fires we would use to cook on). It went up beautifully with just one match; that's a good omen for the year to come, I think.

Some friends came by to share our light in the darkness, and it was fine. The adults (and Harvey) talked, and the littler kids played in the snow (after toasting marshmallows, of course).

Elijah and Harvey toasting marshmallows over the fire

bonfires are for marshmallows

Happy solstice, everyone!


my snow play

I was telling someone the other day how much I love shoveling out the path to the chicken house, especially in real cold weather. Do I like shoveling in general? they wanted to know. No, actually. I kind of resent having to do the driveway. You might expect that the difference is due to how much I love agriculture, but that's only part of it. Really, it's because I love snow. And shoveling to the chickens—or shoveling off the deck, or around the fire pit—feels to me like playing in the snow: creating a winter wonderland in the backyard around all the things that bring me joy. Shoveling out the car seems like trying to deny the existence of the snow so I can get back to regular life or having to run errands and things.

For the kids there's no such distinction. They can play and play in the piles in the front of the yard. I'm too dignified for that these days, but when nobody was looking I totally spent half an hour yesterday evening making snow stairs off the deck. And what are my paths around the yard but a way to play in the snow?! Sadly, today was a beautiful mild day. Delightful for walking in the woods, sure, but already my paths don't look so necessary. Oh well, I trust there will be more snow before too long!

Christmas is coming

our christmas tree on christmas eve

presents accounted for

Well, we made it! I had some doubts—including as late as six this evening—but it looks like Christmas 2020 will happen after all. It's been a tough end to a tough year: I'm kind of falling apart trying to take care of the dogs and the boys and keep Leah from doing all the work she usually does. Plus I'm generally exhausted anyways. So the Christmas push was a little low-energy.

But there are presents under the tree and stockings on the couch and the boys are all tucked snug in their beds, asleep despite their quivering excitement before bedtime and ready to wake up as early as ever tomorrow morning. The most exciting thing is going to Grandma's house. Never mind presents, that's what they've been looking forward to for a couple months at least. It'll be a great day tomorrow. And now we rest. Merry Christmas!

moments from the week

gingerbread house decoration at the kitchen table


Moments from the past week.

Elijah showing off his first missing top tooth

growing up!

looking out the front windshield at traffic and sleet

errands the weekend before Christmas are a mistake

Harvey and Zion playing cards

cozy cards

the Concord River half iced-over

the Concord River is gray

the deck shoveled off and lit for the solstice

solstice deck

water flowing under a snowy footbridge

water amidst the snow

Harvey ironing as he works on a quilt


a flooded out path, with no snow to be seen

on Christmas day the snow became water


Christmas report

We had a delightful relaxing Christmas on Friday. Excitement was high beforehand, as one would hope, two out of three boys were up well before the sun. The other, smallest boy was angry when he finally emerged (at a little after six) that no one had woken him up; but of course we'd all waited for him! The stocking presents were first, then we had breakfast and walked the dogs before we moved on to the ones under the tree. Which were mostly for the boys. They each got some legos, some Pokemon card products that included codes for online play (essential of course these days), and new pocket knives and water bottles. Harvey's knife is the real thing, as befits a child of the advanced age of 11; Lijah's is much smaller, appropriate for someone inclined to wave it around going "shing shing!". It does have scissors, which is useful.

As wonderful as that all was, what the boys were really looking forward to was going to Grandma and Grandpa's! I think they would have gone without presents before giving up their Christmas day with my parents—and especially the traditional Christmas brunch of bagels, smoked salmon, and doughnuts. Also lots of chocolate. The only tradition we missed out on was the carols: even though we sort of quarantined for two weeks before Christmas (we still had to go to stores, boo) singing together still seemed a bit too risky. We did wear masks too when we weren't eating, which, while admittedly a small proportion of the total time, felt like better than nothing.

In her longest stretch out of bed since her surgery Leah came along in the morning and stayed until all the presents were open. Then I drove her home and gave the dogs another walk in the rain through the flooded woods before heading back to vegetate for another several hours. There were lego sets to build and Pokemon decks to try out, and we all tried our hardest to work up some kind of an appetite for dinner. And pie! It was so relaxing I even had energy to help clean up the 10,000 little lego bits on the floor when it was time to go. Certainly, there were lots of things this year that didn't live up to their promise... but Christmas, at least, did all right.


water everywhere

On Christmas day when I took Leah home I also walked the dogs. It wasn't pouring at that point—just steady drizzle—so I wasn't too uncomfortable. And I didn't have any thought that water would be a problem in any other way. In fact, interested in seeing where a foot of snowmelt plus near-constant rain for over 12 hours was going, I headed for the path along Elm Brook. Which was fine—delightful!—until in the last 100 yards we ran into the obstacle seen in the last image of this post. Refusing to walk all the way back the way I'd come, I found a fallen log across a drainage ditch a little ways back that bore my weight, barely, to let me escape from the trap I'd walked into (Blue jumped the ditch cleanly; Scout had a misstep and fell in, but it didn't matter too much because he was already soaking). It was the most water in Elm Brook in years! And it wasn't the only place where we found high water this week.

the waters of Fairhaven Bay washing over the base of the boathouse

good thing it no longer houses any boats

On Sunday, I took the dogs for a long walk around Fairhaven Hill. I went the opposite way than we usually go and I came down towards the river on the second half of the walk, and when I reached the boathouse—looking forward to seeing it with enough water to be usable, at last—I found that the river's rise had overshot and the whole dock was underwater. Oh well. The low path by the river was also impassible, and further along the woods looked entirely different with the water coming up dozens of yards higher and bringing the river to places that, just a couple weeks ago, felt entirely removed from it. Then in today's walk the October Farm Riverfront was even more dramatically different: a big chunk of the main path along the river was entirely under water. So was even more of the opposite shore, to the point that the boys were having trouble believing that it could ever have been as close as those trees coming up out of what looked like an endless sheet of water. If we were getting bored of visiting the same places over and over again, all this water certainly makes them interesting again!


moon walk

We took most of December off from bubble school for our pre-Christmas quarantine. Totally worth it, but boy did we miss those folks! School doesn't start up again until the new year, but we couldn't wait that long to hang out again, if only for a little bit. So yesterday our friends invited us to join them for a fire, dinner, and a walk under the full moon. Never mind the cold, we were excited to go an happy to bundle up. Not that the kids needed all those layers once they got going with their friends—they were soon out of their hats and coats, despite the entreaties of their shivering parents. We played and talked until the moon was well up, then headed out for a moonlight hike. We had headlamps for the short portion along the road, but then once we went into the woods we shut them off and relied on the light of the moon—and, even with the snow all melted, it was plenty.

The original plan was to walk for an hour, all the way to a field on the banks of Nashoba Brook, but one family couldn't stay out that late so we only walked for half an hour, out around a cemetery and back. With so many happy friends it didn't feel spooky at all, only beautiful (though the gravestones with a few dim red Christmas lights on them were a little bit creepy). Before the walk we had listened to the wonderful book Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen; there was a little disappointment that we didn't see or hear any owls ourselves, but then again the book makes it very clear that, "when you go owling, you have to be quiet." We were not quiet: it was too much fun being with friends! It was a great night.

marking the day when time has no meaning

New Years feels kind of strange this year; Thanksgiving and Christmas were both so low-key, and we very well may have let New Years Eve pass by entirely unremarked. Sure, we're glad to see the back of 2020, but as Leah remarked this morning when we were talking about resolutions, "why bother trying to do anything different these days?" Tomorrow will be much like today, I imagine. But one of our friends asked yesterday if we wanted to do something like a hike, and another friend said they weren't around until the evening and suggested a fire. So in the event, we had a pretty good party! I made pizza, friends brought cookies and hot cider, and for a couple hours we sat around the fire (at an appropriate distance, of course) and chatted about New Years hopes and movies and water heaters. Some of the time the kids played laser tag. It actually compared pretty favorably to some other New Years observations I've taken part in: there's no mess inside the house to deal with, and I didn't drink so my upset stomach is due only to overconsumption of pizza and cookies plus s'mores, eggnog, and maybe a bit too much cider. So now I'm ready for a new year. Here's hoping it's a better one!