Saturday, December 31, 2011

10 points!

This morning I ventured out in the light icy rain and participated in the 1st race for the new sub5 track club series. Little did I know that back home, minutes after I left, the power went out (and all over midcoast Maine). Tim was congratulating himself profusely on our purchase and installation of a whole house generator, especially since he was able to wash and dry all the yucky clothes produced last night when Charlie had one of his splitting migraine headaches. A recent CAT scan ruled out any serious causes, but it is agonizing to watch your child be in such pain, getting barfed on isn't so lovely either.

But I pulled off my sweatshirt at the last minute and running in a longsleeved tshirt and tights in the 31F weather was inspiration enough to finish the 3.1 miles rather quickly. I don't know my exact time as the results aren't yet available on-line (I forgot to start my watch until 40 seconds into the race), (edited to add: 22:46) but I placed 1st in my age group for a $25 gift certificate and 10 points in this year's series. The 2011 series results were posted in the newsletter, "The Women’s 40-49 group has Margaret Jones winning, with 48 points. She managed to stay ahead of the next two at 46 points each. Newcomer Katherine Collins was able to break the 46 point tie with Mary Parsons by virtue of a better finish in her 6th Series race. This was yet another exciting finish grouping!"

My New Year's resolution is to train harder and run faster. I know it isn't the most noble resolution, perhaps this evening we will all pick a virtue to improve upon this year, but the better I run the less stressed I am in daily life and the longer (hopefully) I will be around to raise my children and help with grandchildren. And that must encompass at least one of the virtues.    

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

if you don't like the weather...

wait 30 minutes. 

Yesterday I ran up to Bangor for a bunch of sleds to enjoy the  6-8 inches of snow up on the farm since I don't have room or the inclination to pack them in the van for our week's vacation. Our van is large, but I already have to squeeze in 6 children, 2 cats, 2 mice, food for above mentioned animals, clothes for 7 people, snowshoes, snowboots, snowpants, 1 pair of skis, and at least 2 toys per child. Apparently the best sled purchased was a Whammo brand one with 2 sets of handles ($20 retail at Walmart), but Julia Ellen really enjoyed flying down the hill on her back on a $5 huge green plastic disk. Over the course of the day Will carved out a 1/4 mile long run extending from the corner of the front porch to the tree line. I went down face first a few times while letting the kids try out my skis and it really was fun and fast, but the long trudge back up the hill was a chore. Yes, the children have already asked for the construction of a tow rope, they must think we live at the Camden Snow Bowl or something. 

This morning, after a night of rain, there wasn't a flake of snow left anywhere. I ran in a tshirt and shorts, but by afternoon the temp had dropped so much that I was back in a coat and gloves. We might get another chance this trip for sledding as it is supposed to snow Friday and Saturday, just in time for my next race, the Epic 5K Finale, the first sub5 race of the new season. As I came in 2nd this year, I figured a good strategy would be to be in some of the smaller races with a better chance of placing well. 

So far this winter, the weather has been similar to Virginia in a cold year, but we haven't even gotten to the "real" winter yet, as the neighbors tell me. After a semi-jokingly said recently on a 10F day, "This is as cold as it gets, right?" They said, "Oh honey, you haven't seen anything yet."    

Friday, December 23, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

After running yesterday in a tshirt and shorts, we awoke this morning to at least 2 inches of snow and at 9 am it is still falling fast. Armed with a slightly inaccurate weather forecast, "will snow on Thursday night with a TOTAL accumulation of 1-2 inches," I ran all 8 of my errands yesterday and don't have to venture out at all today. We are spending the day watching Charlie Brown's Christmas special, baking cookies, and playing in the snow.

 the view out the back door
  the view out the front door

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

last day?

This is certainly our last day homeschooling in 2011 since we are taking Friday off to make cookies and pick out countertops and a faucet for our mini-kitchen redo. The appliances all went bad very soon after we bought the place (the dishwasher has to have a towel stuffed underneath as well as the upper rack listing dangerously) so we decided to get new countertops while we were at it. 

But this might be Will's very last day homeschooling, since he starts Catholic school on January 3rd. Perhaps he will hate it, maybe he will flunk out, but I don't want him to and I seriously doubt either of those things will occur. He is a consciencious worker for the most part and I think he will enjoy being with other boys. The things that worry me are slight. Will he be responsible enough to remember to bring home all his books and write down his assignments? Will he be able to study for tests well? Will he remember which locker is his? 

I have also been prepping him in another way by having him repeat (my favorite method of teaching catechism questions), "Girls are gross," "Girls have cooties," Girls are yucky." He has been pretty sheltered from the opposite sex other than at church and, of course, his 3 sisters. I don't want him to become obsessed in thinking about girls, I want his social interaction to be limited to making friends with other boys and being polite to grownups. But this is one of those things that I can't control, after all, he is 13 and that is what many boys that age start thinking about. But I can still think going away to school will be a positive thing and I will continue to have him repeat after me, "Girls are gross, yucky, AND have lots of cooties."    

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

hot soup to warm cold toes

Tim and Will are very good at starting fires in the wood stove, me not so great. I guess I better figure out the right placement of kindling and amount of crumpled paper before Will starts at Catholic school in January or we will be heating with expensive oil as opposed to not quite as expensive wood this winter. Two cords are on their way to the house this week after my nagging at my husband for weeks about getting some before the snow comes. A fire is so cozy and really warms up the house quickly and if I ever get around to putting the kettle on top, makes for some lovely hot cocoa. 

What I have been doing is attempting to make soup that warms the bones and toes. Last week I used up 5 or 6 onions I grew this summer and made the worst french onion soup ever known to exist. Too many bouillon cubes made the broth overpowering so I pitched the whole batch in the trash. Big mistake. The soup leaked out of the trash bag all over the garage floor and truck bed leading to Tim having to scrub both out and becoming very angry. He did later scrub off the "NO LIQUIDS" notice on my kitchen trash can lid that he had marked there in a fit of pique. But yesterday I tried again with canned beef broth and the result was better, but still not close to La Madeleine's signature soup. Today's cooking experiment will be beef and barley, served with a loaf of homemade bread. There is nothing like a thick bowl of hot soup to ward off the cold so in the weeks to come, the family should expect to smell lentil and sausage, chicken noodle, and beef stew simmering on the stove.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


This morning I woke up and looked at the thermostat outside the kitchen window: 10 F. By the time we were driving back from Mass it was up to a whopping 18 degrees. I've never been in weather this cold in my life, my ribbed tights didn't do a thing against the cold wind as we left the Basilica this morning. Of course we were late because I didn't anticipate how long it would take to get 5 children bundled up in coats, hats, and mittens, especially trying to find matching items in the two large baskets I have in the front closet. (Tim takes Will early to serve Mass) 

We haven't had any snow since Thanksgiving so I've been running almost every day, but I've got to figure out how to keep my tummy warm while running- the fleece jackets bounce up and the thin t-shirt material doesn't protect my skin. I really don't relish the idea of going for a run today, but with the first race in the upcoming Sub5 series on New Years Eve, I have to be prepared both physically and mentally for the possibly the coldest race I've ever run.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"All I want for Christmas..."

Reminder to myself and other moms with many children: keep a stash of $1 bills handy in case your 7 year old loses yet another tooth at 9pm. I had to get change for a $10 from Mary, who keeps all her babysitting money up high enough and hidden enough so no one will take any. I put the rest away because after a trip to the dentist yesterday (talk about a fun-filled afternoon!), 3 children were mentioning wiggly teeth. 

My clan is not the most attractive bunch right now with one child needing to go in for braces with slightly buck teeth, two who refused to smile, one who has no hair on the top of her head due to yet another recent self-imposed haircut, and one who looks like he was in a bar brawl because he has no front teeth. I did the best I could with the Christmas card photo, so if you get one, don't laugh too loudly, I'm still hopeful that one year they will all be cooperative as well as cute.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas shopping in "the big city"

One of the best things about living in Maine is the lack of crowds or traffic. 5 cars in line at a light constitutes rush hour (one of the downsides is a lack of shopping options). To avoid the twice-a-year crowd the weekends before Christmas, I dressed and brushed my teeth in the dark on Saturday morning before heading out to Walmart and Lowes just to avoid long lines at the cash register. Luckily I hit Wallyworld first because as I was picking up our Christmas cards the power went out in the building. After the backup generator kicked on a few overhead lights the sound system beeped, "Attention all customers: please come to the front of the store to check out." I overheard the employees being directed (as I stood in a line 4 people deep, exactly what I attempted to avoid) to make sure the building was cleared and lock the doors. If I had slept in for another 30 minutes I would have been like the other poor souls in the parking lot and had to wait another 2 days to pick up my order. But all is well since as of this morning all my boxes are taped up, the cards addressed, and all the stocking stuffers are hidden in my closet. With the lack of a multitude of shops to select gifts, I bought some items on-line and became creative in my efforts to purchase gifts that are lasting and inspire creativity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

S is for saw and Shakespeare

Timmy is in Kindergarten and, despite 5 years of being read to aloud, going through Seton's preschool books last year, and hearing his many older siblings sing the ABC song and practice their phonics, he started the year not exhibiting any letter recognition. Part of this is that he is male and in our home that means he is going to learn later than the average and part of this is that he has so many older siblings so Mommy's time to focus on preK concepts is non existent.

But when he wasn't understanding his letters this fall I resorted to an item Charlie and I made several years ago: the letter book. Some moms make fabulous ABC books for their kids, scrapbook-worthy with pictures of items all decorated and framed and placed on the page "just so." Not this mom (remember I don't have any extra time). Charlie and I had gone through a stack of magazines and old phonics workbooks (these are the best for those hard letters like Q and X) and cut out pictures of  items, stuck them in blank book  (I used some large drawing paper that I folded in half and stapled), wrote the capital and lower case letter neatly at the top and labeled each item. 

Every morning, our first schoolwork is to review the letters we have covered this year by having him say aloud the name of each item on the page and try to remember the sound and name of that letter. After 3 weeks he can now recall 8 letters and is adding a new one every 3-4 days. Timmy doesn't care that our book is not anything Martha Stewart would touch with a ten-foot pole, but so far it is doing the job of helping our 5th child start on the road to reading.    

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

at least we can turn up the heat

Yesterday started out warm, but wet, but as the day wore on and I took/picked up each child from their public school classes it got progressively foggier and colder. We didn't light the woodstove, but I kept the house at a relatively toasty 63F. I thought I was being frugal until I read this account this morning of a headmaster at a school in England who, for the sake of curbing imaginary man-made global warming, turned off the heat for a day. 

Pupils shivered in coats, hats and scarves as temperatures fell to just 1°C (34°F).

"Nobody could work properly and kids could not even grip a pen through their gloves." The mum of a 12-year-old at Ansford Academy in Castle Cary, Somerset, said: "She was shaking when she came home. I was absolutely furious."
But Mr Benzie, 52, defended the "successful" experiment last Friday — locally the coldest day of the winter so far — and vowed to stage regular "eco-days" at the 640-pupil school.
He said: "We cut the heat to see if we can lower our carbon footprint. We let pupils wear as many jumpers as they liked.
My favorite line, which is just what I imagine some Occupy XYZ protesters would come up with:

"The idea was actually thought up by a small number of pupils from our student eco-group."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

fulfilling a promise

Follow the directions carefully or it will not work.


I told Will a few weeks ago that I would let him post his video on my blog. He has been doing a lot of stop-gap animation with stuffed animals, using a great deal of computer space and camera batteries. After forgetting about it, I hit upon the ultimate incentive for my 13 year old: a promise that once he finished his book report on The Yearling and his essay on Maine’s natural resources, I would publish his first video. So… enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

delay, delay, delay

It is early December and I'm trying not to be frantic about preparing for Christmas. Our Advent calenders with chocolates are being opened every evening and Tim took over our little Advent nativity calender schedule so every child gets an equal number of turns lighting the Advent wreath candle, putting up the shepherd or animal figure, and blowing out the candle after prayers. We don't decorate the house until Guadete Sunday and I plan to harvest some greens and winterberry branches to fill the window boxes tomorrow. However, I wanted to take the children's picture for our Christmas card/letter. Yes, I'm one of those people that radio hosts make fun of, including a cheerful note that tells folks where we now live and highlights some of the bright spots of the year with our Christmas card. 

Today was the day I was going to make all the kids put on a red shirt, jeans, and a Santa hat, but several things conspired against me. Will worked at the local grocery store all day collecting food for the local food bank and didn't even get home until 3:30pm, which means dusk up here in Maine. Julia Ellen went outside and played with the neighbor's children, but refused to wear her mittens so she ended up screaming and had to be carried home and put her hands against my exposed belly to warm them up (the things we moms do for our babies). Then after she asked for a blanket, she promptly fell asleep in a chair ( I refuse to wake her up and hear her wailing, plus that doesn't make for good photos). Maggie asked for the camera to take a picture of said sleeping child and found that the batteries are dead because of Will's making stop-gap motion videos and I discovered that we don't have any replacement batteries here, even though I bought a huge package of them last week (I know exactly where they are in the farmhouse kitchen, along with my stand mixer which I need for making Christmas cookies). 

So... now in addition to my other chores/errands, I now need to pick up some batteries and reschedule photo taking day, find a place to buy a Christmas tree in our new town (one thing that is cheap here in Maine), and look for some cookie recipes that don't involve a great deal of beating.

Monday, November 28, 2011

so, that's why they call it classic literature

On our recent trip up to the farm I made a decision not to check out any books at the Bangor Public Library or to even walk through the door. The director's decision to invite the Occupy protestors to camp out in the park next to the children's entrance makes me furious. I don't want the kids to be exposed to the lies written on their signs or the violence and disease that these unwashed and uncivilized lay-abouts seem to produce (apparently that is isn't all they produce). 

Instead, I had to rely on the 3 bookcases full of books up in Tim's study to choose from. Mostly they are military, which I don't care for, and Catholic books, which I have already read and make me feel guilty for not being holier, but on a lower shelf is a leather-bound collection of classic books. Except for Pride and Prejudice I was turned off of the classics by a brief stint in Honors English in 8th grade because the class was reading one of the most boring books known to man; Silas Marner. But on Wednesday morning in the midst of a snowstorm and desperate for something to read, I pulled out Jane Eyre and found it riveting and then started in on The Complete Sherlock Holmes. 

Well, I think I can boycott the Bangor library far longer than the occupiers will stand a Maine winter living in a tent, so come spring likely I will be more educated and entertained and be able to venture back into the stacks and catch up on a 6 month backlog of new books. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

holiday prep = snow?

A few days before Halloween, Maine experienced a freak snowstorm, dumping at least a foot on our driveway. Luckily it melted away in a few days. This morning I awoke to snow covering the lawn and more falling sideways. It has snowed all day, a dry snow combined with frigid winds, making even a trip out to dump kitchen scraps in the compost bin a long tough slog (and I ran 8.5 miles yesterday). 

I didn't anticipate this weather and hurriedly packed for a long week at the farm, letting the kids pack the hats and gloves. A mistake on everyone's part for sure, since there aren't enough of anything for more than 3 kids to go outside, and no snowboots or snowpants for anyone. But we are safe and snug inside with the gas fireplace going, Maggie reading Matilda aloud to the boys, everyone progressing on their book reports, and Thanksgiving dinner thoroughly prepped. Hopefully, Tim will make it up here unscathed and we will give thanks for each other, our faith in God, and the foresight of purchasing a automatic generator a few weeks back.   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

last race of the series

The past few weeks I have really pushed myself to improve my speed, a free turkey was on the line as well as a chance to break a 3-way tie in the Sub 5 track club series standings. I was so sure that I would win my age bracket that I made room in my fridge for the prize bird.

However, despite a 21:18 time (7:07/mile pace) I came in 4th in the middle age women category. No free turkey, but Mary did win a pound of Tim Horton coffee. So after a late lunch the kids and I stopped on the way home and picked up our Thanksgiving bird ($9 after coupon).

I have to admit that whoever wins the series deserves the prize (I came in 2nd), there were some tough races (the Labor Day 5 miler with the steep hill up to Steven King's house comes to mind) and some easy ones (the Garelick Milk Run 1 miler - all downhill) and I know that I can do even better next year having some idea about the courses. Perhaps I will never run another race above 10 miles, but I want to keep running until I'm too crippled to do it, the lure of racing and competing is strong.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

my life is a giant jigsaw puzzle

NFP is not an exact science, and when I was 4 days late recently, my mind raced between picking out baby names (Henry James or Elizabeth Ann, if you care to know) and utter panic (a year without running, where would I put a baby in this house?). Since everything I do, from the moment I awake to the instant my head hits the pillow has to be fit in like a giant 500 piece puzzle, I didn't relish the idea of having to fit more pieces into my daily life.

Tuesdays are my worst days: Mary at the elementary school at 8:50 for art and gym, Charlie at the primary for gym at 10:00, pick Mary up at 10:10, pick Charlie at 10:35, Maggie at the primary for gym at 11:15, pick up at 11:55, drop off 3 children at piano at 2:00, drop off Will and pick up 2 children at piano at 3:15, pick up remaining children at 4:00, fit into all of this school for 5 children ("Will, this is how you do this algebra problem, I want to see the rest completed before I get back."), laundry, breakfast, lunch and dinner, tidy the house, etc. etc. etc. There are always errands to run, doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments, groceries to buy, and a phone call, "Can you do this?" thrown in for good measure. At any moment I feel like the whole puzzle is in danger of being tipped off the table by one or more of the children. Yesterday Julia Ellen got hold of a pair of children's scissors and not only cut her own bangs days after I trimmed them so carefully, but cut up the first page of a library book, and cut off the kitten's whiskers. 

I just don't think I can add one more thing to my day, my life, my world. So, when, of Parents magazine emailed me asking me to be in contention for their new homeschool blogger position, with the obligation, under contract, to produce 3-5 posts a week about homeschooling, I was pleased about the recognition, but knew in my heart that I could not accept. When I say I will do something then I try my best to honor that promise, whether that obligation be daily prayer, marriage, children, art lessons, or employment. I didn't think I had a table large enough right now to work on a 1000 piece puzzle, no matter how much I wanted to. 

However, I realized on Friday morning that if God asked me to take on the 750 piece puzzle we could make it work. I can say no to some things, but not to another precious life.  There are only so many hours in each of our days and we must pick and choose how we will fill them. In 2011, I have chosen to teach my children at home, supplement with public school classes, and be a homemaker. In 10 years that situation will likely be different, but I do hope and pray that one day I will see the completed puzzle of my life, including 6 (or more?) beautiful children and a happy husband.    

edited to add: it was a short-lived false alarm, but I found that 36 hours are plenty of time to be horrified, be resigned, and be prepared, before being disappointed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

serving penance

I could never be a hypochondriac or suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (when parents make up illnesses in their children for attention). Both are simply too much work when you have more than a couple of kids. Yesterday we had an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist to check out a heart murmur that the nurse-practitioner heard a few weeks ago when we took Timmy in for a checkup. Tim said it would be nothing to worry about and this turned out to be the case, but I felt that we had to go just to be sure. After sitting in a 10' x 10' room with 4 children for well over an hour, I was ready to admit myself to the hospital just for a little peace and quiet. We exhausted all our books that we brought, blew up a "balloon" made out of a laytex glove, and Julia Ellen played "open and close" with every drawer in the room. By the second hour, the little boys were climbing all over the examining table, the chairs, and me. 

Finally the doctor did a quicky ultrasound which showed Timmy's heart pumping away, while the toddler repeated, "Want the lights on," over and over and over. Finally we drove home in the dark and rain with the same 2 year old screaming from boredom and exhaustion. I am so grateful that there is nothing seriously physically wrong with any of our children, since more than one doctor's appointment a year for each is beyond my capability, mentally and physically. My heart goes out to those parents who do have to repeatedly suffer through long waits in the doctor's office with not such happy conclusions and their children are in my prayers.       

Thursday, November 10, 2011

early birthday present

The other day I was out running my 9 mile loop, a little later in the day than usual and was almost to the turn for home when a car pulled over ahead of me and a man got out of the car. He was holding a blaze orange hat and offered it to me, "You look like a deer to any hunter out there." Turns out he works for Fish and Wildlife and didn't want me to be shot on the way home. "Do I look cute?" I asked after I put it on and adjusted the fit. "Yeah," after a slight hesitation. I figure either he was afraid of a sexual harassment charge or was honestly thinking that few people look good after running 8 miles. 

On my birthday Tim brought home a basket of flowers, the children made me a card and gave me a pin that I swear I gave to Mary from my mother's jewelery box, and my dad called to wish me a Happy Birthday (I thought it was an hour earlier because I haven't changed my computer's time yet). No, I didn't receive a trip to Hawaii, but a lovely pair of cross country skis so I can continue to exercise despite the cold and long winter arriving soon. The important thing is that Tim thinks I look cute in my new baseball hat and he didn't hesitate to tell me so.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

smushed pew syndrome

This past Sunday we did not attend the TLM in Lewiston, but instead went to the NO Mass in Bangor. While Tim was heading up to pick up Will from his campout at Acadia, I took the remaining 5 children to the 10:30 service. I forgot that they had changed the time and arrived 20 minutes early and snagged one of the back pews. While the children behave better when sitting up front, I choose to sit in back so I can be sure to receive Communion from the priest and am able to "switch sides" to make that happen. But in the last 5 minutes before Mass began we first made room for an older lady on one side and then a couple squeezed in on the other side while I wasn't paying attention. Then Charlie announced he had to go potty and in the period of his absence the first woman scooted over to make room for 2 more people. So, what started out as spacious accommodations, turned into our large party of 6 being smushed into a space that could really only accommodate 3. As I was getting my tights snagged by the toddler's velcro shoes and listening to children complaining about being elbowed by their siblings, I uncharitably told them to elbow their adult neighbor instead. 

What were these people thinking? Why would you deliberately box in a family with lots of little children that need room to breathe and access to the aisle? All this relates to Father Z's blog post about obnoxious ushers and the comments by perfect parents with children who never utter a peep inside the sanctuary for fear of being beaten. I'll refrain from commenting there, but I wanted to share with the childless adults who attend Mass: you reap what you sow, if you smush my 2 and 5 year old children who just want a little room so they can color their Catholic coloring books you deserve the glares and elbows that will inevitably come your way. Yes, I will pray for you, but it will be likely, "Dear Lord, please induce this person to sit somewhere else next Sunday."    

Monday, November 07, 2011

chased by cows

Every night, several times a night, Julia Ellen wakes up screaming. I hold her tight for several minutes, pour her a cup of water, and hold her again on her bed before she sleepily puts her head back on her pillow for another 3 hour "nap." I asked her if she had bad dreams and she said, "Yes." "What was so scary?" No response. "Were there scary animals?" "Yes." My mind raced with the possibilities and wondered aloud if she was frightened by rampaging heifers. The mind thinks strange thoughts in the middle of the night, especially after being awakened out of my own nightmare of sorts by piercing screams. 

Today is the first day of the younger children taking supplemental classes in gym and art at the local public school so that was the topic of my nocturnal musing. The daily logistics of getting 5 children educated sufficiently, as well as cleaning the house enough so it won't be condemned,  preparing adequate food so no one will go hungry, and squeezing in my daily run is difficult enough, but now it might be impossible. In this nightmare that Julia Ellen mercifully cut short, not only did I not get a chance to run, but between dropping off and picking up children for these extra classes, we didn't get a single assignment completed, nor practice one piece on the piano, nor read a single book. 

Not that this scenario is likely to play out today with only one child taking one class, but it reminded me to focus on the importance of the basics of our curriculum and not be focused on marauding cows, however frightening they may appear to be.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

farmer Kat

Tim took a few days off so we could come up to the farm this week and I have been very busy. First I worked on clearing the brush alongside the driveway (and it is a long driveway) so we can see the stone "wall" separating our land from the hay field on the other side of a narrow strip of woods. After wrestling with the crummy loppers for several hours and getting a huge blister on my palm, I'm almost finished with that task. Then, with Julia Ellen's help, I staked out where some fruit trees will be planted in April and fertilized, limed, and covered each spot with a big pile of wood chips. 

Thursday and Friday were spend making umpteen trips to the dump to collect more wood chips to cover another of my four long garden beds. I was able to cover most of one in October with horse bedding/manure before the dump got rid of all their piles available to residents (they now just have shredded wood chips from brush). It took 2 days because I had to pitch into the truck bed and then remove at the garden one scoop at a time. I did become more efficient at removing the chips when I lined the truck bed with cardboard boxes (yes, I scavenged these from the recycle container at the dump) and pulled them out onto the garden, but it was still slow going for most of the day. I think I shoveled and spread 7 pickup truck loads in the cold and my arms really can feel it. I know that my plants will appreciate all my hard work next year by the addition of all this organic matter. And since I'm not hauling another 14 loads to cover the two remaining beds, I will be able to scientifically compare the effect in next year's vegetable production.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

shadow a student

Yesterday Will went to his first day of school and loved it. He went to all the 7th grade classes with a nice, polite boy we met at the open house. Why 7th grade? Tim and I decided, with Will's input, that transitioning from being taught at home to a highly competitive environment in the middle of 8th grade, with 9th grade looming would be too hard on all of us. Will has never studied for a test without me, never taken notes in class, and never had to listen to and contribute to a lecture.  On the other hand, he has focusing on his work with a myriad of distractions around him down to a science. He would be a very young 8th grader and a slightly older than average 7th grader and this allows him to take Algebra 1 next year and be able to advance to Calculus by 12th grade. As he has always been interested in engineering, I would like him to have the prerequisites on his transcript. 

Apparently he had the most fun in gym class playing dodge ball, was the only child in science who understood the process involved in wastewater treatment, and contributed the fact in geography class that he had lived in Italy. I am sure that we will continue to teach him Seton's religion at home, as the classes at school are a watered down version of what he currently studies and much more touchy-feely than I am comfortable with. Of course we will be very involved parents, I can't imagine being any other type as Will's and his sibling's education has been the main focus of my life for the past 9 years.

Monday, October 31, 2011

open house

After shoveling out the driveway on Sunday morning following the earliest snowstorm anyone locally can recall, our family headed out to attend an open house at the local Catholic middle/high school. We sat through the presentation when students and alumni stood up and extolled the virtues and praised the education available there. We met the middle school faculty and the cross country/track coach who was a proud coach of Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first women's winner in the Olympic marathon. Then, by some freak coincidence, Will won the raffle for $1000 off next year's tuition (we never win anything, except races). 

This is the first school where I felt that my child would receive an education equal to or better than the one using Seton at home. So, it looks like a new chapter in our lives is beginning, sending our first-born off to school. Most parents experience this when their child is 5 or 6, putting them on the big yellow bus and waving goodbye. I asked Will if I could take his photo on the front porch for my album tomorrow as he is going to spend the day shadowing another boy to see what the school is really like as a student. I have a feeling that he is going to come home enthusiastic about his day and want to start immediately. If his homeschool career ends at the close of this year, I know that I and his father have provided him a good foundation for learning and success in our 8+ years of learning at home.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

rethinking this whole "living in Maine" thing

Wednesday I ran 11 miles and wore a tee shirt and shorts, but yesterday I had to wear a long sleeved shirt and tights. Then last night the girls and I went to the mall and Walmart to find Maggie a birthday gift. She had her heart set on a horse to go with Jessie from ToyStory, but as I reminded her, we live in Maine with only a few options for toy shopping. That doesn't bother me, but I realized while we were driving home that it was SNOWING. 

Yeah, I know that winter in Maine means snow and cold, I mean I've already stocked up on sleds, snowshoes, and a pair of spikes that slip over my running shoes, but I don't think it hit me until last night. Snow on the ground in October means that it is cold and it will stay cold for months and months and months. When Mainers talk about the summer as really short, I guess they aren't kidding.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

wedding anniversary

I can't believe that 15 years ago this morning I pulled a fluffy white dress (size 4!) over my head and walked down the aisle at St. John's Church in Portsmouth, Virginia to marry Tim. What a wild and crazy decade and a half we have had: 9 moves, 4 states, 1 foreign country, 8 pregnancies, 6 children, promotions, retirement, and all the ups and downs of normal life. 

As a child I never thought I would marry someone so kind and good as Tim, and I pray that we will have many more years together, but if I never see another moving crew or set of khakis to press I will be grateful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

carnival of homeschooling

Dewey's Treehouse is hosting this week's carnival, the 304th edition with lots of interesting posts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just call me Noah...

'cause I swear I'm living in an ark. Last summer we had no animals, but since then we have adopted a turtle (but then we released Skipperdee when we realized he wasn't happy), a Beta fish named Bubba Blue, 2 mice named Peanut and Butter, and 2 kittens named Star and Night (though I realized a few days after they came home that Benedict and Scholastica would have been far better names). This past week the pet population was thinned dramatically. 

Poor Bubba, who survived 1 week-long move from Virginia to Maine in a Tupperware container, succumbed to over cleaning the tank. We have never dealt with a water softener and apparently soft water doesn't rinse out soap or bleach very well. With trace amounts of bleach left in the cleaned tank, the poor fish didn't have a chance. Then the 5 big kids and I went up to the farm for swimming lessons and returned on Saturday night to complete chaos. Apparently the kittens overturned the mice tank, released the mice and killed Peanut. Tim found Julia Ellen in the top bunk holding her lifeless body. He frantically searched for her sister, only to find that the baby had hidden Butter under the sheets so the kittens couldn't get her too. 

We are back up to our home's pet carrying capacity with a new red Bubba and a new white girl mouse named Cream (get it? Butter Cream) A new, secure habitat for the traumatized mice and a policy of keeping the girl's door shut will hopefully protect them from the rapidly growing kittens. We have discussed this summer growing chickens for the freezer and with butchering at approximately 8 weeks of age, I think I can make room on the ark for a short-term feathered flock.    

Friday, October 21, 2011

am I doing a good job?

Last night, due to the remnants of a cold and a heightened state of anxiety I worried about my children's academic accomplishments. We are seriously contemplating sending Will to a local Catholic school in January and I have signed Mary up to take several classes each week at our town's public elementary school. She doesn't have any opportunity to meet other little girls and since she has strong work ethic she finishes all her schoolwork everyday by 11am. But the question of if any of the children could easily transition into a school environment worries me.

To put it in perspective I made a short list of each child's strengths and weaknesses and realized that with a little more time and effort most of these deficiencies could be overcome. Maggie and Mary need to work on the times tables, Mary needs to study her spelling more, Charlie's reading skills would likely improve if I go back to the first grade readers and have him read them aloud again, and with everyone's assistance Timmy will soon gain letter recognition. 

One of the hardest things I have found about homeschooling is that my time is so fractured by trying to teach 5 children, keep the toddler fed and entertained, keep the house tidy, cook the meals, keep up with the dishes and laundry, run the errands, be a good wife, and still have some time for myself. Apparently I'm not doing a very good job. My children are not always obedient, constantly fighting, not helpful around the house, and most days I'm not a good example of a Catholic mother. Would sending them all out to school fix some of these issues? Would it make them worse?

Well, I can't sit and dwell on my challenges and deficiencies. Mary needs to practice the piano, Maggie needs to work on catechism questions, Charlie needs to do a book report, Will needs to start his math and I'm the one who has to prod them all to get cracking.         

Monday, October 17, 2011

this one they should have called "Mud in Your Eye"

Last winter I ran in a cross country 3 race series with that title, but since the ground was frozen, there wasn't any mud, just frozen grass. This past Saturday I took the 3 big kids up to the farm in the pouring rain (Tim stayed home with the little ones so they could go to a birthday party) for a race to benefit the local Catholic school and swimming lessons. I also had a page-long list of items to bring back such as a dictionary, atlas, cookbooks, and all the pumpkins we could wedge in between the children and bags of groceries. Bangor now has the only military commissary in the state and knowing that staples such as gravy, pumpkin, and toilet paper are almost 1/2 the price of the local store, I stocked up while I had the opportunity.

We ran into trouble when we finally pulled up the driveway and unloaded our gear to find that Maggie had left her backpack behind. No shorts, no bathing suit, and I found out the next morning, no running shoes. Luckily Mary shared underwear, I contributed a tshirt for a nightgown, and we scrounged in the closet and somehow came up with a slightly too small pair of shorts and a slightly too big bathing suit. I didn't get any sleep after drinking coffee at Friendlys to stay awake on the drive and not getting there in time to adjust the spotlight on the barn so it blazed away all night, shining right in my eyes. But we managed to get up, get some breakfast (we had no bread or milk in the house so I made fresh bread), and get up to the field where the race was located. 

After raining all night, the air was windy and cold and the fields were wet, I went up to my ankle in a puddle within 5 minutes of arriving. Perhaps Maggie was the smartest of us all, for when we got out of the car she was wearing Crocs. At first I wasn't going to let her run the kid's fun mile, thinking that she has left them in the mudroom on the farm, but after figuring out that she left these too at the other house, I signed her up a few minutes before the race began. The priest led the children in prayer and after he said Go! they were off like a shot. 7-8 minutes later the fastest kids started returning, mud streaming down their feet and legs and sprayed all up the backs of their shirts, Maggie right up there in 4th place. I guess the open holes in her shoes allowed the water to just flow out rather than make her feet heavy. Mary and Will tied for about 10th place. 

I heard, "Ready, Set, Go!" myself about 40 minutes later and slid my way over the slick grass and churned up mud to a 5K time of 25:23, my slowest time at that distance, but fast enough to take 2nd place among women. We didn't stick around for the awards, hopefully they will mail mine, because I had to get my crew home for hot showers and fresh clothes before swimming lessons, lunch, and errands. I think for next year the school should promote the event as a mud run, perhaps they would get a much bigger turnout in the process.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

pancakes anyone?

The other day Mary and Julia Ellen accompanied me to the local grocery store to stock the pantry and fridge in our new home. As we were standing in front of the syrup selections Mary and I discussed the price difference between maple syrup and the commercial brands of "syrup." We decided to conduct a taste test comparison and see if boiled tree sap tastes 3 times better than the fake stuff, since it costs over 3 times as much. After reading a book last week about where our food comes from, which dedicates a chapter to the effort in making maple syrup I was eager to pour the real thing on my pancakes. I figured I shouldn't live in Maine, one of the top maples syrup producing states and NOT use it, but at $30 a quart, I've stuck with Log Cabin, which only contains about 2% syrup. So, last night I made pancakes for supper. Each child cut their 12" round in half and, after pouring from each bottle on top, they tasted the difference between "real" and "fake." Everyone agreed that the maple syrup side was much tastier. With 6 kids who love to drench their pancakes and waffles with sweet syrup, I might have to mix the two to stretch it, but we will still be supporting a local industry and eating better tasting pancakes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the hills are on fire

Now that we packed up the truck with furniture, curtains, clothing for 7, 2 mice, 2 kittens, food, and all the little things that must travel with us such as 5 boxes of schoolbooks, we are now residing at our "winter" home. One of the selling points of this house was the beautiful view of the western mountains. The leaves are at their peak and this morning combined with the pink of the sky at sunrise it was a beautiful sight. (the view from the 2nd floor was more impressive, but I didn't want to take out the screen to be able to take a picture) 

I am partly sad at leaving the farm, but a little excited about living in a new place and finding hidden treasures such as pretty hiking trails and new friends. On the down side I have to find a piano teacher, which is proving harder than I anticipated, as well as get into a good routine for getting school done as well as household chores. Every time I turn around, listening to the radio, overhearing chitchat at the apple orchard, and talking with the neighbors I am reminded that winter is 'acoming and with it snow and frigid temperatures. "Enjoy the warm weather and pretty views of leaves now, because white and brown are the only color we will see for the next 6 months," they tell me. So for now, I'm looking out my window at the fiery hills every chance I get.    

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Wilder Life

I love all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. My copies of the original series, the faded yellow paperbacks and my hardbound copies of the first 2, inscribed from my grandparents as a Christmas gift in 1976 are precious mementos I have packed and unpacked in over 12 military moves. My favorite book is the most depressing, The Long Winter, because it amazes me how anyone in that small town survived 9 months of blizzards and biting cold with very little to eat. Apparently not one settler went mad, though Charles Ingalls did raise his fist against the wind and yell that it would not defeat them. 

Many thousands of other have been similarly touched by the Little House books and so there are spin-off books, cookbooks (I still have my copy that my mother and I used to make a Little House dinner when I was in 5th grade), crafts and touristy trinkets, and museums at all the homesites where the Ingalls family lived. Wendy McClure is a writer about my age who has recently published a book, The Wilder Life, about her obsession with all things Laura. She churned her own butter, twisted a hay stick in South Dakota, contemplated filling her pocket with pebbles on the shores of Lake Pepin, spent the night in a covered wagon, and marveled at the tiny houses that the Ingalls family of 6 lived in. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit these places in her book since I have little desire and no reason to drag my family across America to see these sites myself. 

However, I do have one gripe with Ms. McClure and her recollections. Her liberal political mindset permeates her book to the extent that it is uncomfortable to read portions. She lambastes homeschoolers, libertarians, and all things Christian in every chapter. Her determination extends to rewriting the Ingalls family's story to imply that Ma and Pa were only churchgoers for the social aspects of living in deserted, lonely places on the prairie. She forgets that Ma insisted on the Sabbath being a day of rest throughout the whole series. She forgets the reference in Little Town on the Prairie when Mary won a competition at college for knowing more Bible verses than any other student. She forgets the relief Ma showed when DeSmet finally gained a church of its own. No, it wasn't just a social outlet and deep down Ms. McClure knows this, after all she could tell the guide at the DeSmet museum how many acres were included in a homestead claim and the name of Laura's corncob doll. 

There are many, many Laura books out there and this one gives something new, an overview of how meaningful the Little House series is to so many people around the world, if you can just mentally skip the author's bias against the very values and beliefs the Ingalls family held dear.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

slow blogging

It isn't for a lack of something to say, but my laptop is dying a slow death by shutting down between 5 and 60 minutes after I turn it on. It immediately crashes if I go onto so I'm waiting to research new laptop models until I have access to Tim's computer at the other house. I'm leaning toward an Apple, but don't know if I'm capable of figuring out how to use one. They do seem to be more sturdy than my dying 3 year old HP, I accidentally washed my IPod and it still works fine.  

our town had a fabulous dump

or, I should call it by its proper title: transfer station. Instead of curb-side pickup of trash and recyclables that is common in suburbia, most small towns, at least the ones in Maine, have a unobtrusive location to bring all the household trash, plastic milk jugs, cardboard, paper, and yard waste. Some small cities, such as uber-liberal Belfast, charge $5-10 for a sticker and then $2.50 per bag, but our conservative town only charges $1 for a sticker for your car and no fee for dropping off garbage. The best part of our dump was the piles of shredded leaves and tree branches, horse manure and bedding, and other organic matter free for the taking. It was all neatly organized and I could fill up the back of my truck with my handy-dandy scoop I bought specifically for this purpose, but apparently now I can't. Early on Saturday morning I left the children all snug in their beds and headed over to the dump and found nothing- all the piles were wiped clean. When I went back later with my garbage in the back I asked the attendant and he said the town decided to not offer this service any longer. With only 1/4 of my garden prepped for winter with a coat of horse bedding/manure, I will have to find another free source of "fertilizer" this week. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

3 things a runner needs

I have been in a lot of races this year, 16 to be exact. They have ranged from a 1 miler to a half marathon. Almost all of those races were put on by track clubs, some for profit, but most for some local charity. The race I participated in on Saturday was not put on by a running club or even a runner because they did not give the participants those 3 things that are essential to any good race: bathrooms, good course layout, and plenty of water at the finish.

Granted, most of the participants in this event were walkers, but even slowpokes need to go potty before setting off for 40 minutes through unfamiliar neighborhoods. Luckily I shyly asked at the nail salon up the road if I could use their facilities and the nice lady working there acquiesced. The course went around a park's gravel paths 1.5 times and then up onto the road. With few markings, several runners got off course and on the return trip we had to go around the last walkers on a steep hill, avoiding dogs on leashes and strollers. At the end of the race there was confusion as well as to where the finish line was, leading me to almost be decapitated by a utility guide wire.

At the finish line there was only enough bottled water for a dozen or so people, not nearly enough for the 200 people participating and with no bathroom or gas station nearby, no way to obtain more easily. Despite all these issues, I finished 3rd overall, only being beat by a 13 year old state track star and a high school football player who was determined that he wasn't going to be by any girl, especially by one as old as his mom. Time: 22:13, new adult PR.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

another 2 members of the family

The other day the kids finished up school early so we took a trip up to the Bangor Humane Society to look at the kitty cats up for adoption. There have been several articles in the paper and on the radio about the huge number of cats dropped off at the shelter this summer and how they are running adoption fee specials to relieve the crowding. Ever since our cat, Fat Freddie, died several years ago (at the age of 17), we wanted to get another kitty, but couldn't due to being in rental housing. Now that we don't have the 14 hour semi-annual drive to deal with as well, I put off this excursion until things had settled down a bit. 

The children talked me into adopting two very active 8 week old kittens- not what I had anticipated and neither eligible for the discounted fee. But Night and Star are home now and we are clipping nails, teaching litter box skills, snuggling with warm furry bodies, playing, and encouraging Julia Ellen to be gentle and not squeeze or chase the kitties. I think it is important for kids to have pets and the girls are being very responsible about feeding, cleaning up and refilling spilled water bowls, and making sure the kittens receive more than ample amounts of attention.    

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

car schooling is for weightlifters in training

or at least for those who have fewer than 5 children doing school. We are in a transition between our farm, where we spend summers, and our new winter house, spending 3-4 days a week at each place. The 2 hour drive is certainly not as dreadful as our previous annual 14 hour trek back to Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina duty stations, but doing it every week is tiring. The logistical planning involved in schlepping 6 kids, their school gear, clothes, and whatever items we need at one house but are located at the other is wearing me out. Something is always forgotten (this week it was Will and Mary's piano stuff) and Julia Ellen is not the best traveler. As soon as the garden is put to bed and we find a piano teacher we will only be going up to the farm on Fridays and Saturdays for swimming and riding lessons. 

Our school books fill up 3 huge tote bags, leaving me with sore arms in hauling them up from the basement schoolroom in one house, out to the car, out of the car, and down to the basement schoolroom in the other house. But we are getting school completed each day and still have time left over for the inevitable boatload of errands that come with moving to a new place.   

Monday, September 19, 2011

traveling back in time to 1962

Maine is a very large geographic diocese, the entire state is under the direction of one bishop. Currently the bishop has a moderate bent, but in the past apparently there have been some real doozies. There isn't much orthodoxy, though there are pockets and this translates into few vocations to the priesthood and religious life and only one priest willing to say the Traditional Latin Mass. We are blessed to be able to now attend one of his two Masses offered each Sunday, despite the ordeal of awakening all the children at 6am to attend. The Basilica in Lewiston is by no means packed with traditionalists, the church can hold at least 900 people, but there is a fair crowd and many families with lots of little ones. Will started serving yesterday after an early morning practice to acquaint him with the slightly different rubrics. Every parish we have attended does things a little differently based on the priest's preferences. I'm looking forward to being able to worship Our Lord in the Mass of the Ages, but not so enamoured of having to get there before 7:30am to get into Confession.      

Saturday, September 17, 2011

super neurotic, frantic mom... for good reason

On Friday morning the kids and I, along with my father and his wife hit the road in the easterly direction to visit Acadia National Park. We didn't stop at the visitor center and since my father navigated we somehow took a very non-traditional route that circumnavigated Mt. Desert Island without going through the park tollbooth. We stopped at several locations including a lighthouse overlooking a sound and saw impressive stone cliffs, crashing waves, and dolphins (I think, or small whales). Another stop led us on a 2 mile hike giving glimpses of shoreline and culminating in a broad expanse of rocks at the water's edge. I had been walking with Julia Ellen and Timmy and when I came up to the other grownups. Charlie and Maggie were nowhere to be seen. 

I have read many accounts over the years in books and the newspaper of people being pulled out to sea by large rogue waves along Maine's coast. The library on Monhegan Island is dedicated to two children who were swept away in 1926 . Last summer 3 people were drowned and several others from Belfast were rescued after they were swept away after going too far out on the rocks at Acadia. They had been entranced by the huge waves produced by the remnants of a hurricane. The locals who were watching from farther back warned and yelled at the tourists who were killed to come away from the waves, but they didn't understand the danger. 

Well, I understand it perfectly and was terrified for my children's safety. The children were found around the bend on the point and I decided we should head back to the car. A picnic lunch with a breathtaking view and a  later attempt to admire the wild spray hitting the rocks led to me declare that we were going home if the children would not obey and stay near me, away from danger. 

The very next morning the Bangor Daily News featured an article describing the tragedy of a man swept out to sea off of Monhegan Island on Friday. He had been standing too close to the sea and a wave lifted him right off the rocks in front of his friends. 

His body has not yet been found.     

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2 pies, oh my!

This past Saturday the kids and I rose with the sun at 6am, put on our running gear, and hit the road to participate in the Pie In The Sky 5K and 1 mile fun run in Orono, Maine.  Home to the main campus of the University of Maine, the town was hosting a festival, of which the race was a small part. There was a pancake breakfast in the firehouse (no, we didn't partake right before racing), crafts, a bike safety course, and all sorts of other things, but we spent half the day running and playing on the playground. Mary beat her brothers and sister and Charlie trailed behind, which surprised me. The situation was ideal in that the oldest watched their small siblings on the fenced in playground while I raced and waited for the race results. 

The title's reference to pie didn't dawn on me until I saw that instead of useless ribbons or trophies, the top prize for each age bracket were homemade pies. For finishing 1st in my age group (and 3rd female overall) I received a pumpkin pie and for having the most family members participate (5) we won a delicious chocolate chip pie. Both the pies were consumed in rapid order, one for dessert on Saturday night and the pumpkin we ate for breakfast on our first official day of school for the 2011-2012 school year. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

10 years later

I have never seen the video of the planes hitting the World Trade towers. I have never seen them fall. But I can picture exactly where I was 10 years and 1 day ago as if it happened yesterday. We had picked up Tim at the military airport in Norfolk a few days before and were preparing for a family vacation to Maine before he started his new position on a amphibious assault ship, the USS Wasp. He came in the door and said, "Turn on the radio!" and we sat transfixed in the kitchen listening to the announcer (Tom Brokaw, I think) state breathlessly how the first tower had fallen, the plane hitting the second tower, and then its collapse as well. I remember wondering aloud if someone (who, I don't know) needed him to help identify bodies, but he assured me that there were plenty of people in the NY area that were capable.

With the command not needing him yet (they insisted he take his leave), we drove up the East Coast, seeing American flags and encouraging signs along every road. What impressed me the most were the individuals in Maine. It seemed as if every yard along Route 1 sported dozens of tiny flags spaced evenly along the road. The concept that "our nation will prevail" was palpable to everyone. I recall not being frightened, but full of righteous anger. 

Today, we seemed to be a weaker people, one that meekly accepts being treated like terrorists ourselves at airports rather than offend Muslims. We have downplayed the threat to our country at any moment. I pray for those those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, pray that the souls of their dearly departed are in the hands of God, and that we will never forget or let their sacrifice be in vain.   

Friday, September 09, 2011

we didn't get arrested

My father and his wife are visiting for the week and the kids are having a marvelous time. There is always someone willing to put together a jigsaw puzzle, play another round of Clue Mystery or Stone Soup or Parcheesi (with made up rules), read a story, or go for a walk. Unfortunately it has been raining most of the week so they haven't done many of the typical Maine touristy things. They did take Will for the afternoon on Tuesday to the Maine Maritime Museum and today the plan is to go to Acadia National Park, somewhere I have never managed to go. Yesterday we decided to take a shorter excursion up to the top of Mt Waldo, a hike that isn't too strenuous for even Julia Ellen's 2 year old legs.

When we pulled up at the rocky road that led to the base I was surprised to find a new gate across the access point with a huge sign: NO TRESPASSING VIOLATORS ARE SUBJECT TO ARREST AND PROSECUTION. Since we didn't have an alternative outing I decided to risk said arrest and the possibility of an irate farmer pointing a shotgun at us and we started up the road on foot. After a quarter mile a large dog barked at us from behind a fence and we didn't see another soul until we were resting close to the top. We had passed the now empty blueberry field and scrambled up the patches of slick granite stone that are visible from our farm as huge white patches. The children discovered patches of wild blueberries nestled among the rocky outcroppings and filled their hands with sweet berries. "I collected these for you," Timmy and Charlie said over and over to each of the adults before filling their own tummies with fruit. 

As we sat there enjoying our snack and the view I saw a lone figure coming up the road. Assuming it was the farmer wanting to chase us off, we got to our feet and climbed the rest of the mountain so that we could enjoy the panoramic view from the top before we were forced to descend. After a lot of huffing and puffing from the steepness of the ascent and having to drag the children away from the berry bushes, we found the view worth the effort. The Penobscot River leading out to the bay was off to the southeast, Swan Lake was sparkling in the southwest quadrant, Bangor's and Brewer's multi-story buildings (the only city for 50 miles) were visible to the northeast. For the first time all week the weather was clear and we could see mountains 40 miles away, including one large one that I will have to look up in the Maine Gazetteer once I buy another copy to replace my ratty one that had pages missing. Our group descended the mountain with a cup full of fresh blueberries to put on our morning cereal, a very muddy Timmy and Geraldine who fell on a slick patch, and aching legs and backs that were only relieved by a bottle of Rolling Rock and a good night sleep. So, for all my fears of imprisonment and shotguns, we had a very lovely day trip.

Who was the man coming up to "get us"? An elderly hiker with his shirt tucked up so his huge belly was exposed to the sun. Nothing to fear but a little too much flab for public decency.     

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

harvest time

Some days my children are real blessings and some days I would like to send them far, far away. Right before we left for Virginia to pack out I stopped by the local wild blueberry grower and bought a 15 pound box of berries to freeze for winter. I also have been shredding carrots for carrot cake, putting up green beans and broccoli in the freezer, and cooking up paste tomatoes to freeze as well. A trip to Sears to buy a chest freezer has been in the works, but in the meantime I put all this produce in the freezers in the house and apartment. Well, you likely can figure out what happened this past week.

Will was attempting to be frugal by seeing that there was nothing in the apartment fridge and turned down the dial inside, ruining all the food inside the freezer: 3 huge ziplock bags of blueberries, 3 bags of shredded carrots, and a couple of bags of green veggies. He was very apologetic, but I made him bag it all up and bring it down so I could take it to the dump. All that time I spent planting, weeding, mulching, harvesting, washing, and blanching were wasted. You can't buy blueberries now, the season only lasts a few short weeks in August. Luckily we still have plenty of green beans and broccoli left in the garden, some carrots still in the ground and some of each in the house freezer. We still have lots of pumpkin to eventually roast and freeze so a big free-standing freezer is not a waste, but I'm very disappointed that we won't be eating homemade blueberry muffins all winter like I planned. There is always next year and I think Will learned his lesson, but I'm sure this won't be the last time one of the children acts like a thoughtless child.     

Thursday, September 01, 2011

the school bus soon returns

Not for our family, but it does instill a funny little "better get a move on" feeling when I sit on the front porch with my morning iced latte and hear the distinct "beep, beep, beep" as it turns around at the end of our road. We won't be starting school for another week or so since my father and his wife are coming up to Maine on Saturday for a week's visit. Whether we will be visiting Acadia National Park with them is still up in the air, but my official homeschooling notification letter is printed, signed, and sealed in the envelopes ready to go in the next few days.

Our books are organized by grade on the bookshelf even though our schoolroom is not yet finished (we have commandeered the music room for our school supplies) and the children's binders are all ready with tabs for each subject's lesson plans and tests for the first quarter. I have also been stocking up on pencils, pens, index cards, paper, notebooks, and markers during the back to school sales, sometimes scoring items such as 24 packs of crayons for free.  

So, come September 12th, we will be sitting down at the large table for our first day of the 2011/2012 school year. I'm hoping that it will be a peaceful, fulfilling, and educational fall, winter, and spring and that it won't yet again drag too far into next summer.      

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Carnival of Homeschooling- Logistics of a Homeschooling Family

As the mother of 6 children, my life is complicated already. Just getting all the children up, dressed, teeth brushed, and fed before noon is a major accomplishment. Add homeschooling 5 of the children to the mix, ferrying them all to various extracurricular activities, and fitting enough time to keep the house tidy and at least one cooked meal on the table each day keeps me moving at a frantic pace.  

We have never put our children in "away school" so this will be our 9th year sitting at the table learning phonics, arithmetic, spelling, science, history, English, and religion. If our family continues to homeschool all the children, we could conceivably still be sitting at the table each day reading and working out math problems for the next 15 years since Julia Ellen won't even be starting Kindergarten for another 3 years.    

Logistical management is what every homeschooling mom spends much of her time doing: planning days so learning occurs in whatever form that takes, while also fitting in housework, cooking, shopping, bill paying, doctor's appointments, errands, volunteer work, exercise, children's activities, and squeezing in a tiny bit of alone time to renew her spirits. Some families also sign up for extras for the kids such as music, sports, arts, and/or scouts outside the home. Making the schedule "work" is sometimes a difficult task, but sometimes it all clicks, such as me signing all the kids up for this fall's swimming classes on Saturday afternoon. Let us learn how others homeschoolers cope with "trying to fit it all in."

Summer is a great time to try out all those extra classes and projects. Neo at The Tiger Chronicle shares her son's summer vacation in Summer: Part 1 and Summer: Part 2.  

Denise presents More Than One Way to Solve It posted at Let's Play Math!.

Kim shares some great ideas to learn art, poetry, and science outside in A Child's Garden: How We Conduct Nature Study posted at A Child's Garden

Read Aloud Dad shares one of my favorite children's authors, Robert McCloskey, with his kids in Burt Dow, Deep Water Man. The setting for many of Mr. McCloskey's books is just across the Penobscot Bay from us and my kids love getting out the Maine Gazetteer (page 14 and 15) and tracking the rainstorm in Time of Wonder as it goes across from the Camden Hills to Little Deer Isle. 

M.O.B. Mothers of Boys shares some ideas to get those creative juices flowing in Storytelling Games for Boys

Annette at A Net in Time share her upcoming year's routine for her son at Organization of my school year
Amy at Hope is The Word has already started her school year and shares a typical day in School Day Snapshot.  

Linda and Arby of The Homeschool Apologist share the difference in their homeschooling methods and styles since they started teaching their kids years ago in He Said/She Said #2: How Has Your Teaching Changed?.  

Christina at Home Spun Juggling shares some great advice in What I've Learned This Summer.
Alejandra at A Guide to Raising Great Kids shares some tips on making sure our kids are having fun and learning to be good hosts in The Perfect Play-Day

Linda Dobson presents Just One of the Many Reasons to Choose Homeschooling for Your Family posted at PARENT AT THE HELM.

Gidget shares a resource to help kids learn those multiplication tables in Favorite Math Resource - EVER! posted at Homeschooling Unscripted.

Mrs. Gaddy gives us some tips on Using Life Experiences to Teach practical living skills to our kids at momSchool

Jamie at Homeschool Online Blog reminds us that we homeschooling moms need to care of ourselves and exercise to maintain a positive attitude and stay healthy in Too Busy for Exercise?

Miss Nirvana shares an easy and recognizable craft in Eric Carle Style Art posted at Nirvana Homeschooling (we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar just last night to the little ones).

Kelli presents September as Chicken Month (!) in Monthly Unit Study posted at 3 Boys and a Dog Deals.
Victoria reviews Lesson Planning via Bento posted at Teaching Mommy

Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers shares A Typical Homeschool Day at her house.  

Pamela at Blah, Blah, Blog writes about her method of trying to logically fit in all her children's activities in I Guess It's Fall.  

Merit K gives us some ideas about higher level classes in Back to School with AP | Your Mission, should you choose to accept it posted at Mission Possible!.

Janice at Why Homeschool shares some of the challenges of having a homeschooler apply to college in Homeschool to College- Part 2.

I had some logistical challenges hosting the carnival this week with my computer performing the "black screen of death" early in the week and a planned 2 day trip with the big girls to go down to our new home (with no internet access) to clean and receive delivery of our new washer and dryer. Luckily the Auburn, Maine library is WiFi capable. But these are just the sort of little time-consuming glitches that we homeschoolers have to deal with every day.

Thank you for coming to the Carnival of Homeschooling and hope to see you next week at The Common Room. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

death and destruction

Well, the little baby mice didn't make it, but that was expected. Mice need mouse mommy milk, not cow milk and they need the warm nest of mommy mouse fur to stay warm and thrive. The children were sad, but the excitement of Hurricane Irene gave them something else to focus on. The winds were pretty strong and the bands of rain explained how this type of storm moves better than any book could. Of course we pulled out a book about hurricanes as well as of course reading Time of Wonder aloud, since the story features a hurricane hitting Maine.

This morning I went out at dawn to haul downed branches out of the road and fields, but mostly the damage was confined to my garden. The once tall corn stalks are now bent over to a 45 degree angle. I don't know if we will be able to harvest much past the two dinners of wonderful white sweet corn we had this past week. The sunflowers took a beating as well as the squash (no big loss since none of us like it much), and the tomatoes got knocked down. 

The girls and I are heading out this morning for the 2 hour trip down south to clean and organize the other house. Tim starts work Thursday and needs ice cream in the fridge, a coffee pot on the counter, and towels in the bathrooms. My job is to provide all those things, receive the delivery of the washer and dryer from Sears, and clean the place of all the crumbs and slime that the previous owners so rudely left for me to deal with. It amazes me that if you rent a house it has to be pristine at move-out, but when you pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a place, the house looks grungy and gross. Since the western part of the state got hit harder by rain and wind than we did, I'm not sure what we shall encounter on the drive down, but I'm sure we will be able to handle whatever comes our way.