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interim report

Sometimes having three kids is hard, and together with everything else I want to accomplish makes it impossible to get any writing done. But then there are moments like this evening when, after all three boys played nicely for a little while, Lijah joined me in the kitchen and stood on his high chair playing in the sink while I did the dishes and his big brothets lost themselves in an imaginative game. And then we all watched ten minutes of Frozen before bed. So sometimes delightful and rewarding while still not offering any time to write.

this moment

Lijah in his pjs sitting on the floor surrounded by Girl Scout cookies

playing with cookies

A moment from the week.

a day in my life

5am the alarm goes off, and by alarm I mean baby flailing next to me indicating that he wants to nurse. This is the forth time he's nursed since he went to sleep at 7pm, but it doesn't count as "night nursing" if I wake up afterwards, right? I nurse him back to sleep and pick up the bible from my bedside table that I have been attempting to commit to read. I try to make my eyes focus on the words of a small paragraph in a way that will make these words scan into my brain. Reading, I guess that's called. It's made difficult by the fact that my eyes keep closing. After a half hour I've sort of woken up and sort of read a parable. I pray that I may not be like the rocky soil that's distracted by wants and worries. Also, that the baby stays sleeping when I get up.

Get up quietly so as not to wake both children in my bed. MAKE COFFEE. I thank God for the sweet life-giving nectar, and sit in front of the computer as I drink it. I try to remember what I'm supposed to check on the computer - the weather, the hours for the place Zion wants to go when he finishes his sticker chart, print coupons for said establishment. As I do that I pump out what breastmilk is left. It's for a friends' baby, which is the only way I can do ministry these days (before 6am... silently).

Dan hears the baby waking up and changes his diaper. So I should try to do something nice for him later. Like actually make dinner.

I put the milk in the fridge, take the baby, nurse him, change him into clothes. Our next chore is to walk the dog around the block. It is a nice morning, not too hot not too cold, and I try to be in the moment and enjoy walking. This is sort of possible, except that Elijah needs me to maintain a constant hum of the Mexican Hat Dance. And sometimes dance around a bit.

When I come back Zion is awake, and soon so is Harvey. Dan is busy cooking them bacon and eggs, so I put the baby in his high-chair with food while I run around the house collecting the trash and recycling. Elijah is happy for enough minutes that I'm able to put everything out on the curb. I come back inside and lift my arms in triuph. "I PUT OUT THE TRASH!" I bellow at my family. They look at me perplexed. I say that I am celebrating small wins, and they would too if their life was impossible. The baby is already yelling and I take him out of his seat.

Dan leaves for work and says that after we feed the chickens Harvey needs help lifting the strawberry net. So I leave the breakfast dishes where they are and go outside to make farm crap happen.

jostling for position over the chicken food bin

Elijah wants to help scoop the chicken food, but he is getting in the way, so Zion pushes him down. I order Zion into a ten-second time-out, and he doesn't fight me to sit down, so I guess he's making progress.

We all work on feeding the chickens together. I have to open the door, keep the hens from getting out, and then shut it once the kids have poured food into the feeder. This is supposed to be all Harvey's responsibility, but getting to the feeder takes moving a bunch of sharp heavy fencing, which is to say it that takes an adult. Which is fine, Elijah likes seeing the chickens too.

nothing stands in these farmers way except a complete lack of physical strength

We stand and watch the chickens for a few minutes. Harvey asks if he can take a picture, and soon he declares, "Wow! I got the best picture ever!"

call the photo award committee

Next H and Z pick berries. They need me to move the netting off the strawberries and put it back on again. Meanwhile, Elijah plays in the sandbox.

strawberry picking

I decide this would be another good time for a cup of coffee. I run in quickly and bring out a mug. This time it's decaf.

survive. survive!

Elijah freaks out all of a sudden, so maybe he's sleepy. I take him inside to try for a nap, but the attempt is aborted when Zion comes in screaming that he needs a bandaid. He got several splinters from playing with a fiberglass tool that he's not supposed to touch. Washing and bandaiding his hands takes ten minutes. While I work, Elijah takes everything off the bathroom shelf and chews on some math manipulatives. I don't THINK they're choking hazards. I have no idea why they're in the bathroom.

Nap attempt #2 fails when Harvey and Zion see the neighborhood boys riding their bikes to the busstop. We all go out and ride bikes with them, sleepy Elijah included, and then we keep riding after the bus comes. Elijah gets a second wind from playing outside, and I realize that I am starving. At a moment when they all look safeI run inside and shove a hot dog in my mouth.

the boys make a course of obstacles with skate boards

At quarter past 9 Elijah decides he's actually tired and starts climbing up the stairs to go inside. I am tired of worrying about the boys safety during nap attempts, so I offer Harvey and Zion the ipad, which they gratefully accept.

Elijah is asleep, praise Jesus. I change into my workout clothes to do a new 30 minute video. Unfortunately, the video doesn't work and I spend some minutes online troubleshooting a return. Then I do some push-ups and take the ipad away from the kids. Harvey wants to do his workout. I put in the kids workout DVD and it turns out that NOTHING is working in my computer. Crap. I offer to lead him through push-ups but he asks for a snack. I hang up workout clothes in disgust, cut fruit.

I figure I should get some homeschooling in during nap time, so I make myself a smoothie for courage and read to H&Z until Elijah wakes up, which is only another two minutes. I ask Harvey to sounds out some words. Then I hold Elijah on my lap and nurse him, while I finish reading the book. He is okay until he wants to eat my smoothie too. I feed him spoonfuls of smoothie while reading while trying not to get food on the book. Harvey says he wants smoothie too. I get up to make them more smoothie, which they don't like as much when it isn't in MY cup. While they eat or push smoothie around in their cups I set off to do the dishes. Elijah plays on the back porch. I wash two dishes before Zion comes to me screaming that he needs a new bandaid. When I come back into the kitchen with the bandaid I see Zion kicking Elijah. I tell him he needs to sit on the couch for a time out. He runs around after me yelling for five minutes before he complies. So, maybe not learning so much. New bandaid finally applied. Meanwhile, it looks like the baby has hurt the lime tree on the back porch. Also, what happened to his pants?

honestly, where did they go?

Everyone calms down and Zion does the two cleaning tasks that are necessary to finish filling his sticker chart. None of my cleaning tasks are done, but we head out anyway for his chosen reward destination. And he chooses... ChuckECheese.

(After I strap the kids in the car I go back into the house for a cup of coffee. This is the closest thing to a ProTip that I know of.)

gamer faces

We spend $30 on a token/lunch package and Harvey has a great time with a pirate video game while Zion has fun riding the merry go round and asking me to win him tokens. He decides he wants to win a tootsie roll pop, which costs ten tickets. He has six tickets so far, and when I ask him how many more he needs he goes to his fingers. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10." he says. "Basically, that's all my fingers."

The boys eat pizza and I try to make the salad bar worth its price by eating my weight in salted nuts. This only results in making me sick, however, and after two hours I'm really ready to go home. Zion turns his tickets in for a tootsie roll and a plastic spider. Harvey has trouble picking a prize and it makes him cry. Everyone is tired.

On the ride home the boys are each eating a slice of pizza. I have this surreal conversation with my middle son:
Zion: "Where can I spit this?"
Me: "What do you need to spit? You're eating pizza and drinking lemonade?"
Zion: "It's yucky."
Me: "I don't know. Spit it into your hand and put it into your cup holder."
Zion: "Nooooo! My spider's in there!"
Me: "Well I don't know, we don't have a designated spitting area in this car.

When I get home I have my 3rd cup of decaf coffee.

I put Elijah to bed (again) (finally) and as Harvey and Zion play TinTin I take care of some lingering issues. I change the laundry, I finish washing the breakfast dishes, I plunge the toilet. I walk around wondering what I should make for dinner. If I can prep it during nap time the afternoon will be managable, gosh darn it. I decide on cooked cabage slaw (cabage, grated beets, and sliced onions cooked in butter), steamed kale, and chicken parmesan caserole from leftover chicken. And rice, with the idea that everything could go in a tortilla with sour cream. Harvey comes in to ask what I'm making, and to ensure that I'm cooking the vegetables SEPERATE from the cheesy chicken. I put everything on the table, even though it's only 3pm.

dinner. Waiting to get cold for maximum yuckiness

The baby is still sleeping, so I figure we should do some homeschooling. I read a science book about wolves with the kids. They ask a lot of questions about plants and which way is north. Elijah wakes up just as I finish the story and we go outside to resume the game of obstacle course.

this time with neighbors

Dan comes home from work while we're playing outside and immediately goes off to do some farm chores. After that he watches the children while I walk Rascal. When I get back we eat dinner. Spoiler alert: the kids don't like anything except the rice. We spend most of dinner talking about whether it's rude to offer a constant commentary on your food preferences. I vow only to make them single meats and seperated steamed vegetables from now on. Because, honestly.

Harvey had been asking since the morning if we could try out the new fishing rods they got over the weekend (new is a relative term; they came from my parents' basement). I felt like we needed an antidote to our time at the child's casino, so even though it was evening and everyone was testy we headed for a quick swim at Walden Pond.

everyone don't drown please

Dan tried to teach Harvey and Zion to cast out (or whatever it's called) while I kept Elijah breathing air. Both Dan and I were tired from the day and from the rudeness at dinner, so we were not the most giving parents. Still, nature is giving in its own way and I have to imagine being outside and learning new things covers over some relational sins.

let it go!

We stayed until the park ranger threatened to ticket our cars (7pm) and the kids were pretty tired on the way home (espeically Elijah who flailed into his PJs like it was a sport). Still, no one fell asleep in the car so we did a full bedtime upon arriving home. I tried to nurse Elijah down but he refused to sleep so I took him downstairs to make muffins with me. He beat me with a measuring spoon while I put ingredients into the food processor, and then played on the floor with a cup until he cried that he was really ready for sleeping. Another nursing put-down, this time with Zion too lying on top of me waiting for his cuddle. I successfully got one then the other down to bed, then I took the muffins out of the oven. Cleaned the kitchen.

"They smell good," Dan said.
"They don't taste at all good," I said, "but I'm eating them."

While Dan tried to troubleshoot my computer I picked up the toys and clothes from all over the downstairs. Put away the muffins. Vaacumed the front rooms, even though it was late, because I wouldn't have time to do it in the morning and Elijah's developmental specialist comes to the house at 7am.

Got into bed at 10pm. Kind of bummed I didn't get to work out.

I don't know what I expected to learn from an exercise of writing down every single thing I did in a day. Maybe I had hoped to illumine the beauty of tiny passing moments. Maybe I did that too, but reading over my account I am more aware of how I am really really tired.

Tomorrow starts another day. One which will go un-documented, perhaps, but certainly not un-worked.


this moment

Leah and the boys playing in the pond, backlit by the sunset

evening at Walden

A moment from the week.

the PMC kids ride experience

lots of bikes in the parking lot after the ride

where'd we park again?

Harvey and Zion rode in their first charity ride on Saturday, to support the fund-raising efforts of the Pan Mass Challenge and Dana-Farber. We were late sign-ups, but once they were registered (on Thursday afternoon) the boys were pretty excited about it all, and we spent a few long conversations on what they might expect and what cancer is. Three other families on our small street also had kids riding, and the energy level was high at 8:00 Friday night as they ran practice races with each other.

Then Saturday Harvey woke up feeling sick, and before long had thrown up, oh, five or six times (when he's sick he goes all in!). Luckily he was up at 5:00, so he had plenty of time to work around to feeling better by the time we had to leave at 8:30. Of course, he hadn't eaten anything, but that didn't stop him from mounting up for the ride to the assembly spot, about a mile away. Of course we biked up; I was particularly proud of how I set Leah up to carry Zion's bike.

Leah riding the blue bike carrying Lijah and Zion; Zion's bike strapped on the back

bikes carrying bikes

We got there good and early to make sure we'd have time to pick up the boys' numbers and shirts, which meant we had plenty of time to wait around for the start. Zion, signed up to ride the tricycle obstacle course, was raring to go.

zion waiting on his bike

ready and waiting

So was Lijah; Harvey, for his part, was happy for a little down time to get some more rest in.

Harvey, wearing his helmet, lying on the ground by Leah and Lijah

saving his energy

There was lots going on as hundreds of young riders assembled, but mostly we just sat around in our parking space corral with the rest of Team 14; we had a cracker each to give us energy for the ride (Harvey had a bite of a cracker). Finally, the preliminaries drew to a close and the team headed to the starting line for our final instructions—with Harvey, Lijah, and I bringing up the rear.

Harvey and the rest of team 14 waiting in front of the balloon arch starting line

ready, set...

Then we were off. We were in the "steady" ability group—the middle of three levels for the 5-mile ride—but the leaders headed out quick while the Archibalds took a minute to warm up. A sidewalk portion let us regain contact (a little too much contact when folks in front of us had trouble negotiating a turn!).

the group riding along the sidewalk

on the sidewalk

We were delighted to see, passing the Martins' house, a cheering section with personalized signs for Harvey; I only wish I had my camera ready either of the two times we went by. The half-way point aid station also sadly went unphotographed: I was too busy watching Harvey and Lijah enjoy their snack of goldfish (well-earned in one case, at least) to remember to get out the camera. Pictures were easier when we were all rolling smoothly along.

the group riding on the street

a little more room

The course was fairly hilly, but Harvey took it like a champ. One of the few kids on a single-speed, he had to dismount for a couple of the steepest climbs, but both times he ran his bike up very smartly. He started to suffer a little towards the end—I told him he could stop any time if he needed to throw up, after he warned me it was a possibility—but he pushed on strong to the end. Lijah, on the other hand, was totally worn out by the effort.

Lijah sleeping in the Copilot seat

the end of a long, hard ride

The scene back at the start-finish line was even crazier than before the ride. All the kids abandoned their bikes (as pictured above) to enjoy free hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, ice cream, and cotton candy; plus a bounce house, glitter tattoos, a water slide, and of course the obstacle course, where Zion had confidently completed three laps (Leah has those pictures). After half a hot dog and half an ice cream, Harvey started to recover his energy—much faster after Megan joined us and she and Zion dragged him off to the bouncy house. He even managed to get back on his bike for his turn at the obstacle course.

Harvey riding over a wooden ramp on the tennis court

smallest hill of the day

I felt a little bad for our littlest boy, the only Archibald who couldn't manage to participate on his own bike; but then he found a bucket of sand that occupied him for half an hour, so I didn't worry as much.

Lijah digging in a five-gallon bucket of sand

tiny sandbox

It was a grand day all around, and even before we got home Harvey was talking about next year and starting to lay his plans. Then we went inside and all three boys slept for two hours.

Thanks so much to all of you who saw Leah's Facebook post and supported Harvey and Zion with donations. If you missed your chance no worries; we made our goal, and you'll have another chance next year, when we might even put up a fundraising page a full week in advance of the ride!


party preparations

We're up late this evening getting ready to host our first ever destination birthday party: to celebrate Harvey turning six we'll be picking strawberries, looking at animals, and sharing a picnic lunch at Parlee Farm. Sure we need to pack up lots of food and utensils, but on the other hand we're not worrying about cleaning up the house, so I think it's a win. The cake, though, took some time, and it's not even done yet: four chocolate layers in the fridge and ganache and strawberry puree reduction are ready for final assembly tomorrow.

It's a good thing the party is in the morning, because I think I'm going to need to be in bed by mid afternoon.

this moment

Harvey and Ollie behind the strawberry birthday cake

happy 6, Harvey!

A moment from the week this morning.

Harvey's strawberry party

Harvey at work in the strawberry field

birthday boy at work

On Friday we celebrated Harvey's birthday with friends. After having some trouble scheduling we expected a small crowd and decided to treat a few friends to strawberry picking—but as it turned out fully 14 kids, including ours, were able to make it out to help Harvey with the harvest.

Harvey and Ollie carrying a tray of strawberries they picked

good friends

Theoretically, at least: the party was at 10:00, and the fields closed for picking at 10:30. And some people were late. But I picked extra berries to share, and there was plenty of time to feed the animals.

a black sheep eating out of Zion's hand

he has them eating out of his hand

A worse problem, though, was that the farm staff freaked out at the idea of us sharing a picnic at the farm (on one of the two dozen picnic tables they have out front), so we had to come up with a plan B for the explicitly birthday part of the gathering. Luckily we had smart phones and a double stroller.

the double stroller full of party supplies

have stroller, will travel

Eventually—though not without a significant amount of confusion—the party moved to the playground of the local elementary school: a hot, dusty spot, but with plenty for the kid to do. Add a couple tables, and it was all we needed for a proper celebration!

some of the kids sitting around a table on the playground

food and company

After they ate lunch (and cake!) the kids headed back to the playground.

Harvey and friends on a plaground spider web

two of them must be flies...

While the big kids ran around the slower ones did some more relaxed playing with their mamas.

mamas and littler ones playing in the sandbox, big kids in the background

almost shady

Elijah had a great time playing music on a metal globe.

Lijah playing with a playground music feature


We finished up by watching Harvey open his presents. They were all hits: he read the Tintin book first (on the way home), then he built the lego set, then he dug a hole (and buried a treasure) with his new shovel—all while wearing his new hat.

Harvey opening presents, friends looking on

enthusiastic audience

Happy Birthday Harvey!


weather insurance

One nice thing about gardening is that it makes it easier to be ok with a range of weather phenomena. Sure, the hard rain Sunday morning ruined our church picnic, but it was just the thing to keep the peas going after a few hot, dry days. And when that dry weather slows down the growing plants, at least we can enjoy an afternoon at the beach (after a half-hour of watering...).

a macro photo of a newly-sprouted bean plant

baby bean

Within the farming sphere, a diversity of crops is it's own sort of comfort for the weather's diversity. We love those snap peas, and they don't love the hot weather we've had this spring—but on the other hand the tomatoes and peppers are going great, and we might have a chance at watermelons! And hopefully I'll have enough greens in later this summer so if things turn cold and wet, to the detriment of the tomatoes, there'll be an upside there somewhere. Besides just the joy of relaxing inside on a rainy day, of course!


school's out, but there's no escaping home-schooling!

Whenever I hear about anyone else's homeschooling I get the sense that I really need to up my game. Other people sound so focused and organized and intentional! That isn't me. But we do like doing school when we have a moment, and now that "real school" is done for the summer I have lots more time to hang with the boys, and we took advantage of it this morning. We started off with some soccer in the yard, while it was still cool out, then we came in to talk about what happens when you cut a half in half—something that was a topic of discussion yesterday at a moment when we didn't have any writing materials to hand. The blackboard is just the thing!

Harvey writing a fraction on the blackboard

writing fractions

We also learned the order of the days of the week, which seemed necessary after our study yesterday; as I wrote this morning on the facebook, "Only at Archibald homeschool: learning the etymological origins of the names for the days of the week before the order the days go in". But I think he's got both now.

Then we went to the beach for four hours.

Friends of ours who have been homeschooling for a few years just started a blog, which maybe will be just the thin end of a bigger project to come. If you're interested in reading more about open-ended learning at home, do check out Family Learning Adventure—they're motivated now, so you'll hear a lot more about it than you will from the lazy educators at this site here!


this moment

Zion, wrapped in a towel, sitting by an impressive sand castle

admiring another's work

A moment from the week.

pond days

Harvey and Zion swimming with friends

in the deeper water

Thursday and Friday we spent some serious time at the pond.

The air was hot but the water still has that spring chill so we spent some time out of the water as well—grown-ups and littler kids especially.

Zion and Lijah and the hole we dug; Zion spitting out sand

sand out of the hole and into the mouth

Lijah loved digging a hole with me and Zion, especially once we hit water.

the view from above of Lijah in the water-filled hole

his own little pool

Thursday we were there with the Stevenses and another homeschooling family, and the kids all found plenty to do together.

the boys watch friends at work on a sand castle

friendly crowd

(Since it was a homeschooling group they also did their best to start a fire on the beach with a magnifying glass and a pile of leaves; miraculously, no one objected.)

We went later on Friday and spent the evening, sharing a picnic supper with friends. It was chillier yet as the day moved on, but Harvey still spent all the time he could in the water.

Harvey in the water

evening swim

Yesterday was cold and rainy, and today is shaping up no warmer, so we're not thinking of swimming right now—but I'm sure we'll be back before too long. At one point on Thursday I overheard a couple of moms talking about the weather and how this was the best day they could find to schedule their beach trip... which sounded strange to me. Because us, we don't "schedule" time at the pond, it just happens. And hooray for that!


day camp 2015

Our family day camp started yesterday. We had 21 kids—26 if you count the babies and toddlers who came along—and it was a little overwhelming.

many backpacks lined up along the edge of the porch

lots of stuff for lots of kids

Despite a little blood, a few tears, and a lot of asking about when we were going to eat next, I think everyone had a fine enough time. I expect most of them will be back again, so we'd better start planning for what we're going to have them do next!

There were lots of similarities between this year and last year. The main difference, besides having about three times more campers, was in Harvey and Zion's energy level afterwards. Instead of taking a mid-afternoon nap the boys powered through three more hours of playing with the next-door neighbors, and then we finished the day by biking up to the library after supper and hanging out there until 8:00.

Harvey and Agricola in the kids room at the library

board gaming at the library

I guess those boys are growing up!


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