Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Through Running

Every spring my man tries out running, for about two weeks.
This year it stuck.  Early each morning as the sun is clearing the tops of the trees we slip out the door for an early run.  Every morning he gives me the running update:  day 67, day 71, day 79 and counting.

When we started this routine it was cold and dark at 5 a.m.  We layered on hats and pants, pulled our fingers into our sleeves and watched for slick spots where the night's dew may have frozen on the pavement.  

We run only 2-5 miles, depending on the day.  Its a quiet, often fast run with little time before our respective days must begin in earnest.  Rob wears his high tech ear phones, wireless.  He dons his sleek iPod holder (he's always had a thing for fanny packs!) I'm in my running uniform:  black tank, blue shorts circa high school track.

The mornings grew warmer and brighter, until the end of June when we rose at 5:00 to daylight bright and hot, and mornings so muggy it was hard to tell if we were sweating or if the moist air was just condensing on our skin. Back home we stretch on the porch, sweat wet back prints marking our place when we stand.  

These mornings the garden snails cover the road with slick trails of slime. They congregate in hundreds, and crunch under our feet when we are careless.  The mama in me toe steps around them, but the gardener in me cheers a bit at the sight of so many massacred by passing cars.  

Rob runs each day without fail (against the better judgement of many seasoned runners). He rolls sore muscles, stretches daily, and drinks more water than he's ever drunk. He is excited about salads for dinner.  He is adding miles, feeling good, looking fine, and did I mention he is fast?!  I haven't had a speed workout like these since high school (could be the shorts). 

Still high summer, but already the shift in sunlight is noticeable.  With prickly skin and deer flies hovering we watch the sunrise over the tops of neighbor's barns. Breathless and light on our toes we alert deer in the fields, and avoid escaped cattle in the road.  We wave to the farmers as they start their days, the only people we ever see on these early runs.  

This morning the air was cool, and dry.  It was a welcome change from the sticky humidity we've been wading through for the past few days.  Today's was the kind of air that leaves you feeling feverish while you run, sweat cooling fast on prickly hot skin.  Giving me goosebumps even as I sweat. 

This weekend Rob raced his first 5K since high school.  He rocked it.  Before the race he was so nervous he said he'd never do it again.  Afterward he was already planning for the next one.  I think he's hooked.  And it's pretty sweet.  

Thanks for running with me Babe.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Running through Summer

I'm deep in the throws of marathon training, past the halfway point and not looking back.  
That means lots of running, the bulk off which happens at 5:00 a.m. before the kids are up.  
That means by the time bedtime rolls around (theirs) I'm ready for sleep myself, or close to it.  That means I haven't felt the desire or capacity to sit down at a computer and craft some intelligent, possibly witty, or endearing, (could I maybe hope for even inspiring?) thoughts on our family happenings and the challenges and wonders of my life these summer days.  Its been nearly a month since my last post, but everyone in my house is in bed already (I won't mention how embarrassingly/wonderfully early it is) and I'm not long behind, so a very quick note on our days.

It finally got hot here and we've launched into summer proper with camping, family reunions, beach days, lake days, pond days, and too hot to do anything but close up the house and read on the couch days.  Ice cream has become a staple here, including my sister's amazing Sheep's Milk Gelato from Toddy Pond Farm (I don't know how to make a link on this mobile device so you'll have to look it up--it's worth your time).

Wylie has been researching our family history and putting together a family tree.  He's approaching it as he does all projects: with the voracity (voraciousness?) of a hungry bear cub devouring a meal; all gangly and never still, but focusing all attention to the task of the moment. Before this it was Ham Radio and I sense that we're fast moving onto music publication and song rights.  We're not bored much.  Exhausted comes to mind.  I often wonder how much pressure I should put on him to complete these endeavors.  But often his goals are so high that completion is highly unlikely if not damn near impossible (ie. mapping a family tree that will demonstrate that we all--you, me, all of us, have some similar ancestor from nomadic times) so it seems best just to encourage his hard work until a new passion emerges.  It's the process right?  

He and Juniper, along with their two good friends Belle and Ezra, make movies of their own creation every chance they get.  Last week they learned that one of their films won first place in the Maine Student Film Awards, pre-teen division!  We are obviously psyched, and proud.  This weekend will be the public film release, being show as part of the International Film Festival in Waterville, Maine.  

Juniper and Kale spend almost all of their time side by side in the throws of some fantasy game, and are ridiculously cute about it.  Juniper is strong and leads well, and is as savvy as a politition when it comes to getting her way in a game.  She can sweet talk her idea into Kale's head without him realizing it's not his own.  Kale has taken to talking like a teenager, announcing at the dinner table this evening, "I am so done with this soup", and using the word "like"  as often as a 12 year old girl.  

We've been running from one weekend activity to the next, Acadia National Park, NH, summer camp, Grandparent visits, craft fairs, cousins, BBQ's, pool parties etc.  Summer is like a race the way we try to cram it all in before the weather shifts.  But, it's also like a long early morning run.  There's space between the steps to let ourselves sink into the rhythm of it all.  To let our minds wander, to listen to bird calls, and admire the morning haze before the sun burns it off for the day.  We may be hot, sweaty, and exhausted, but hey, this is fun!  And in the end we get to jump in the lake.  

A few camping snaps curtesy of Rob's iPhone:

Good night y'all.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


We celebrated the solstice with two very different parties on a day that felt just how Summer Solstice should feel.  The first was wild and raucous, with a band, swimming pool, trampoline, zip line, and badminton.  The second was a quiet bonfire with kids riding bikes through the grass and poking the fire with sticks.
The two combined were the perfect lead in for what summer is for us:  a time to cram in as much outdoor fun, games, and adventure as we can in 2 1/2 months; and a chance to kick back with friends and let go of schedules while the children play in the mud well past bedtime.   

The bees arrived a few weeks ago and are busy with their sisters (and a few brothers) in the bee yard.  I purchased two new nucs, to replace the one I  lost to swarm late last fall, and the other that I combined with my weaker hive.  That "double" hive survived the winter, and now there are three hives full of bees.  When the wind is right the smell of honey is magical.  

Kale has his own little garden bed this year and dutifully harvests what he can, along with gathering the eggs, several times daily.

    Kale's kale.

    One of the parties we attended was an Juhannus Party, a Finnish celebration of the Solstice.  According to our Finnish friend the direct translation is "midsummer celebration" which is a strange name for the first day of summer.  But then again, she reminded us, "summer in Finland is very short!"
It feels that way here some times too.  In acknowledgement of the short season we brave cold water in May, squeezing in as much swimming as we can, until that last warm afternoon in October.  But this spring didn't offer us any opportunities for pretend early summer.  Now that its officially here we're living it up.  State Park swimming one day, crab gathering on the seashore the next, followed by pond swimming off the end of the john boat, and camping this weekend.  It feels a bit overwhelming, and entirely necessary.  June in Maine is good.

   This boy is happy to be out of school!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Simple Summer (or anytime) Projects

We've been working on a few small projects so far this summer--aside from the many garden and yard projects always underway.  They have all been quick and easy, not revolutionary, but still worth sharing for others to try.  

A few fun, inexpensive, ideas for rainy days...

Crepe Paper Flower:  
Back in April I bought supplies to make crepe paper flowers.  We didn't get to them until the real flowers outside were blooming, but they are still nice in our office window.  These were simple to make and a little paper goes a long way.  A quick internet or Pinterest search will show many ways to do them.   I'm dreaming up a whole "garden" full for next winter.  Maybe we can try this idea from Elsie Marley.  
I'd pretty much like to try all of her ideas.  

Home-Made Stationary:
The Montessori school in our town prints the children's artwork into cards.  We keep receiving Thank You's and invitations on "official" stationary made by our friends.  Super cool, and way easy (we've done this before, but then forgot how simple and fun it was).  So, using our copier I shrunk a few of each of the kid's masterpieces (and random drawings scavenged from the recycling bin) and copied them onto card-stock.   We've gifted a few sets and are using others for ourselves.

Peg Board Room Divider:
Wylie has been asking for his own room, which can't happen without some complicated room finagling.  But, we thought up a plan to give him a bit more private space in his shared room.  Kale and I set it up one afternoon while the two big kids were away.

We used one 4x6 sheet of peg board ($26 at our local lumber yard), some painter's tape, and left over paint.  I attached the board with twine so we didn't have to put screws into the bunk-bed.  Now the front half of the room is Kale's, and Wylie has privacy in the back section.  The holes conveniently let us see just enough to know if someone is moving around back there, which is settling if you are walking into a quiet room and are not sure if you're alone (or you are a nosy parent wondering what's going on back there).  Of course I couldn't resist the chalk board paint for at least a little bit of it.

(Confession:  I wrote the message myself.  The original message read:  Party 8:00, or when my mom leaves.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Real and Green!

I originally titled this post Green! and was going to write about the shift in season we've just had here with swaths of green wrapping around us in near claustrophobic closeness.  About the absolute contrast of June and January in Maine.  But I'll let the pictures share that story through a recent walk through the woods to the neighbors field.

I'll tell another story.  I spent the day with a friend yesterday, the mom of two young children and we shared a lot about the hardships of parenting, societal views of mothers, homeschooling, money--it was not light conversation.  At some point she mentioned the need for more "real" stories of mothering.  The ones where its all laid out there.  Where no one walks away judging themselves against another's perceived perfect life.  

I don't consider this space, on my blog, the place for lamenting the bad stuff.  I choose to document the times I want to focus on and remember.  I believe our lives are very much made of the stories we tell ourselves, and I want mine to be a good one.  I don't want to dwell on the faults, or publicize my weakness.  I believe the "I'm a worse mom than you" Facebook posts can be just as damaging as their perfect counterparts. Even so, a bit of reality is necessary.  No one's life is perfect, and one lovely walk in the woods is just that-- it doesn't tell of the 9 other hours in the day.  

So today, a bit of the hard stuff (only the pictures are pretty)...

We just finished a stint of two weeks without a working leech field.  Two weeks of peeing outside, washing dishes in the shower outside, two weeks where we had very few flushes allotted to us (lest the tank fill and back up into our house), did only one load of laundry, and spit into bowls while brushing our teeth.  
Then they installed a 15 foot tall! vent in our yard, filled the sand back in, and said, "It might work for another 7 years, or you might need a whole new system.  Let's wait and see".  

Its been two weeks since then, and I'm sure we won't know if its really working for another year or two. What's definitely not working now, is the washing machine.  Take a minute to image what it might be like to open a front loader with 8 inches of water that won't drain.  Right.  Now imagine that water is soaked with a week's worth of dirty running clothes, 10-year-old boy underwear, and a sleeping bag that was peed on the night before.  Yup.  Imagine hauling said smelly, nasty, sopping,  laundry across the bathroom and dumping it in the bathtub to drain for the night.  Yup.  It took three towels to wipe up the mess.  Two days for the smell to dissipate, 1 day for the repair guy to come, not sure when the part will arrive.  

I forgot that my 4-year-old asked me to wipe his bum, and left him sitting on the toilet crying for 15 minutes while I weeded the garden.  

My big boy had rocks thrown at him at recess--and I'm pretty sure he deserved it.  

The lawn mower won't run.  

Most days I yell at my kids.  Many days I swear in front of them (almost never at them).
I haven't thrown a book in three years, but I have wanted to many, many more times since then. 

My 4-year-old sings rap songs about "Call of Duty"  (though no one here has ever played the game), and educates his friends about AK's, snipers, and missile launchers.  


The renters in our cabin are complaining of ants.  Lots of ants. 

And their pipes are leaking.  Still.

We waited 15 minutes in the 85 degree sun, without shade, for ice cream.  Kale's came on a blue cone, with blue candy on top.  Two days later his poop is still blue.

I wasn't sure if I should feed the pigs crappy left over pizza from the corner store, because it might not be good for them.  Then I realized I'd just served it to my kids.

The kids were nervous about a garter snake in the driveway.  "Don't be scared,"  I told them, those won't hurt you.  You can even catch it."
When Juniper leaned in for a closer look it reared up and struck at her.

It was a lovely walk.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

HomeSchool Thursdays: Chalk Board Paint and Bacon Grease

When you homeschool you don't have to follow traditional school times, school days, or seasons.  New schedules aren't just for September.  We can get excited about new school materials anytime!   Right now we're having fun creating a new schedule for summer months, and re-organizing--which is always my favorite part of starting anything new.  I know I'm not the only one who goes a little crazy for new chubby pencils, and nice pens.

Right now its all about the chalkboard paint...

I've been wanting to paint everything chalkboard this week, but so far have kept myself to these clip boards (a pinterest idea) and a larger board for other use.  We found some chalk board markers in town that write beautifully, though they don't erase very well (ughh).  We're setting up some new "plan for the day" charts, thinking about how we'll do math for the summer (workbooks? online? games only?) and what kind of structure we want for our days/weeks.  Our chore charts that previously lived on the fridge needed some re-order as well. Chalk board paint to the rescue.  I'm not loving the new chore cart yet --and I'm already tired of the neon, but its a beginning.   

Another new routine we're working on is Wednesday night kid dinners.  Last week Juniper made zucchini lasagna that was fantastic (I didn't get any pictures) and this evening Wylie baked us homemade Mac and Cheese, followed by carrot cake with rhubarb sauce.  All delicious.  
The kids always help bake cookies and pancakes.  They grate cheese and chop veggies, but its new for me to include them in the "how to" of cooking dinner.  I've always enjoyed and agreed with books and blogs that show young children cooking with their parents.  It seems so sweet and homey.  But, honestly the pre-dinner stretch has often been a hectic, tired time of day when I am happy to focus on something other than my kids while they hang with Rob, play by themselves, or watch a video.  They were always nearby, watching me cook, but often not invited to help. (Sad? Perhaps, but real).  Now that they are all older a shift has occurred.  Its easier to have them help with cooking.  My patience is not as frazzled by the end of the day (most days), bedtime is later so there's not such a rush to eat by a certain time, and really they're just older and quite helpful.  
My only rule for Kid Dinner night is there has to be vegetables, it has to be gluten free, and they need to choose the menu with enough time for us to get the ingredients.  Kale is planning mini pizzas for his night.  
With Juni and Wylie's nights I worked side by side with them, either pointing out the recipe, or explaining each step as we went along.  I showed them how to chop veggies to size for cooking, how to melt the cheese, how to best mix the cake etc.  They often fix their own breakfast and snacks, and its my hope that in a few months they'll be able to go into the kitchen and make a meal for the family by themselves.  
Seems likely.  In fact, I'm sure Wylie already could--I'm just not sure I'd want to eat it.  But tonight's was fantastic.  We all had seconds.  Salad too.  

    Lunch on Memorial day--too much outdoor work for anything else.

Wylie did his favorite kind of cooking Sunday:  Outdoors, over a big flame.  This treat was dandelion fritters fried in bacon grease.  They were pretty tasty.  But as he commented, "Mom, I think we could cook anything in this stuff and it would taste good!"  Just about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May Morsels

First, an introduction:  This scary guy (my new header) is the troll who lives beneath the bridge in the "Three Billy Goats Gruff", drawn by Kale.  He now lives on our upstairs hall light switch.  Awesome.  

May Morsels:  
In the past few days it feels like someone waved the magic wand of spring over our little piece of the world.
Beech, lilac, birch and other early leaves unfolded overnight, the pear and cherry trees exploded with blossoms and the perennials are doubling in size each day.  We put up the screen doors and have been throwing them open each morning to greet the morning warmth.  
This is the time of year when our house is cold.  We have a well insulated, radiant heated (by our woodstove, with propane back up) exposed concrete slab in our home.  All winter we are toasty to over heated.  But in the spring and early fall, when its too warm to warrant lighting a wood fire, the slab temperature drops quickly. Early mornings we find it is often a few degrees colder inside than out.  It's a blanket breakfast kind of season.  But by mid afternoon, with all the windows thrown wide open, its lovely. We're not complaining (much).  

This is the season when the indoors shifts to out.  When the end of the day brings toys and blocks scattered on the porch and lawn, when art supplies are hauled about in baskets, and the mess inside builds until a rainy day insists we clean up a bit.  

                           (this one's for Clove)

Our chicks moved outside two weeks ago.  As of last weekend they are off their light completely, and nearly all feathered out.  Soon we'll begin the interesting process of introducing them to the old ladies.  It never goes smoothly.  Our system needs a bit of work.  I'd like to set up some summer housing for the ladies that can be in the electronet fencing we got last year (the one they fly out of every time I put them in it).  Then the new chicks can have the coop to themselves long enough to feel like its theirs, while the old ladies live in the orchard for the summer.  Then they can all bunk together when the weather turns.  Someday I'll get it all worked out.  Until then we'll muddling through chick introductions, chasing chicks back into the coop each night (where they don't want to be because of those old meanies).  Maybe this time will be different.

A couple of weekends ago Rob repaired the front of the fence.  Some of the posts had floated up, and the chickens were beginning to sneak underneath it.  The new set up is sturdy, and spiffy as all get out.  I'm working on two rows of raspberries along side (with a path for mowing in between).  

The garden is still mostly mud, with more green in the paths than in the beds.  But its getting there.  The garlic is up, the peas are up, lettuce is coming along.  We had our first salad from the cold frame last night, along with fresh picked asparagus and chive pizza.  Yum.  This is the first year I didn't start any seedlings indoors. I put a bit in the cold frame, stuck the early stuff in the ground (peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, radish) and bought the rest of the plants from our good friend Polly over at Village Farm.  Their seedlings are beautiful, and it feels a bit like magic to suddenly have big robust plants in a bed that was empty minutes before.  Insta-garden.  I think I like it, but I'm not quite sure.  There's something about coaxing all those tiny plants along, nursing them through those early stages, then celebrating when they're big enough to leave the kitchen.  Of course, Polly's seedlings are twice the size mine ever are, and far more beautiful.  And, I didn't have to rearrange our kitchen for two months.  Compromise.  A girl could get used to it. 

Our tadpoles hatched, and they are not salamanders!  Hooray.

Its become an annual tradition for the kids to get me a fruit tree for our growing orchard each Mother's Day. This year it was a cherry, decorated with sayings about why they love me.  Pretty great.  For my special day I requested that we work outside in the yard all together.  I started the day with a long, sunny run with friends, then showered outside in our newly re-installed outdoor shower.  We all worked on finishing the cedar surround for the shower, planted the tree, mulched gardens, stacked wood, and finished the day with a BBQ at my sister's with her family and Mimi.  
It was the best kind of Mother's Day. Uncomplicated with lots of outdoor family time, and good company at the end of the day.   

    Outdoor tubbing--after water is hooked up, before shower stall.

I love, love, love the new shower.  Good thing too, because the next day we had our septic pumped and leech field dug up. We've been showering ( and peeing, and rinsing laundry, and doing dishes) out in the yard for more than a week now.  They'll come put it all back together and fill it in after its all dried out--which would be quicker if the sun would come out for more than an hour at a time.
Fortunately, its not too bad thanks to this new set up.  Maybe we just need a sink out there too.  Hmm.

                      New shower

The buzzing ladies made it through the winter and are enjoying the pear blossoms.  Two new nucs (small colonies with an established queen) will be making there way to the bee yard very soon.  Tomorrow's project will be to get the hives in order for their arrival.