Wednesday, June 29, 2011

a tale of 2 races

A few weeks ago the kids and I got super-early and headed to Bangor for the Garelick Milk Run, a one mile downhill race. I convinced Will a few days beforehand to watch the little kids during the race, “It’s only for about 6 minutes,” while Mary, Maggie, Charlie, and I ran. I only found out after we arrived that the race was not in a loop, but ended downtown, making me change my promise to, “I’ll run, turn around and run back to the start and collect y ‘all.” I also soothed a nervous Tim on the phone the evening before, “I will finish and go back to run next to Charlie,” but apparently that promise wasn’t necessary to keep.

I decided to run the family race as opposed to the competitive one that started 20 minutes later (I guess this was so little kids wouldn’t be trampled in the fast start) and with no men, I quickly took 2nd place and almost beat the 20-something girl in front. Finishing with a time of 6:19, I grabbed a bottle of water and headed back up to find Charlie. But he surprised me by flying through the chute in 7:30, followed by Maggie at 8:00, and Mary at 8:30. After getting them all situated with chocolate milk, I sprinted back to the start and drove them down in time for the door prize giveaway and awards ceremony. While we didn’t collect one of the Styrofoam coolers of dairy products, I did receive 1st place in my age group, a $25 gift certificate to the local sports store.  

This past Saturday a huge thunderstorm woke me up at 4:30am and woke a very scared Timmy up at 5:00am. He climbed in bed with me while I debated whether the Tour de Lac 10 miler in Bucksport I had signed up for weeks before was going to be cancelled. I changed my mind several times about going, but by 7am the rain abated as I pulled into the town pool parking lot wearing several layers for warmth. The kids had been left at home in the care of their older siblings with strict instructions to change the baby’s nappie as well as to please not burn down the house. I have been paying Willand Mary to babysit for the past 9-10 months while I have gone running, but this was the longest I had left them alone, so I promised Tim I would call home as soon as the race was over. I strapped on my IPod shuffle, cranked it up and punched my stopwatch as soon as the signal was given. After only training on hills for about 4 weeks, I was a little nervous, but quickly settled in a 7:30/mile pace, dropping down to 7 minute miles on the more downhill sections. I finished strong at 1hr, 15 min and was told that I was the 3rd female, so I quickly changed into dry and warm clothes (by now it was misting and very chilly) and called the kids. They were fine, promised to immediately change Julia Ellen’s nappie, and checked in with Tim to reassure him of the children’s safety. After the awards ceremony, in which I received a jar of raspberry jam for finishing 1st in my age group, I made it home to put the dirty breakfast dishes in the dishwasher and fix myself some toast smeared with my newly gotten gains.

Will was jealous of his little brother’s racing success that he convinced me to let him run in the 4th of July 2 mile race in Bangor while I watch the little ones, so I will be in the strange position of cheering on my children, rather than them standing on the sidelines shouting, “Go Mommy!”    

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

soon to be a Navy retiree wife

It is now official that Tim will be retiring from the Navy in just a few weeks and starting a new job here in Maine. The family went house-hunting for a new winter home, the farm will continue to be our “summer place,” though it will certainly be easier to take long weekends and holidays here, but as the job is a couple of hours away, we need to consult a realtor. After the kids and I went back to re-look at several houses, we put an offer on one, but were unsuccessful (the owners don’t seem to grasp the reality of the current economic conditions, to be polite about it).

So back we go with another set of listings and the bribe of Friendly’s for dinner to keep all the children on their best behavior. I insisted on Wednesday because with $1.99 kid’s meals that day, I can walk in with 6 hungry kiddos and walk out without too much of a dent in my wallet. None of the houses compare to the one we are sitting in, built with our family’s needs and wants as the top priority, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a nice home with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths on at least an acre. We aren’t asking for that size lot in Manhattan, Maine has plenty of room plus millions of acres with not a soul in residence. After all we have been through the past few years career-wise, it has been such a pleasant surprise to have the job and the retirement with all the thousands of logistical pieces fit together like a beautifully made jig-saw puzzle. Here is to finding a “winter home” that fits our needs and has plenty of room for the kids to play in the predictable Maine snow this winter.        

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maine is certainly wild

While I have never seen a moose, the emblematic animal of Maine, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen every day here. In just two weeks I have been woken up to the gobbling of a tom turkey, strutting and fanning his tail feathers in the middle of the driveway, let the kids out of the car to chase a woodchuck, and almost stepped on giant earthworms in a copious embrace while on an early morning stroll around the fields.

Julia Ellen apparently has an inclination toward entomology; she finds a shiny green beetle wandering in the dirt, a moth flitting among the tops of the grass stems, and a lowly ant carrying a crumb equally fascinating. While doing an outdoor chore I have found the best way to keep the toddler out of trouble is to point out a small bug to her, leaving her to crouch down staring intently at its actions. 

Our first excursion to a local pond resulted in captured (and released) frogs, minnows, long black leeches, and a tiny red salamander. Even while running on back country roads I have stopped to turn a red eared slider turtle back towards the safety of the grass and jumped over a grass snake no thicker than a pencil. I didn’t touch the alligator snapping turtle possibly laying eggs in the gravel bank on the other end of our road, but watched for a while before resuming my run home.  Last summer the coyote den at the bottom of a field was abandoned, leaving us to believe that now there were humans in residence so close by, they had retreated to the safety of the deep woods, but we found out the other night that another family has moved in and is raising pups, evidenced by the sight of fresh dirt. I don’t mind most of the other animals that we share our land with, but coyotes give me terrible premonitions of them attacking the children.

The kids aren’t scared of all the critters out there, with the possible exception of coyotes and the blackflies that like to take bites out of their necks. Julia Ellen’s cooing over a fat black and yellow spotted salamander (or is it a newt?) makes me smile and grateful for the opportunity to show all the children the wonders of the world in which we live. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

more freedom for me

Every summer my daily life gets a little easier. For the past 13 summers I have had an infant to nurse or a baby who has to be protected against falling down the stairs, drowning in a pond, or running out into traffic. I have had to haul around one of those huge infant car seats or lug around a 20 pound baby who is too active to stay in one place, but too mobile to play without constant supervision and assistance. This summer however, every one is a year older, including Julia Ellen. She doesn't require a highchair or baby food, she listens to directions most of the time, and even when we forgot our life jackets on the latest trip to the pond she only had to be hauled out from the deep once. Here is a little montage of her past few weeks....    

Thursday, June 02, 2011

welts, sore back, and a trip to the dentist

After 16 hours driving the truck following Tim at the wheel of the van (after last year's jack-knifing incident, I was too chicken to pull the trailer), we hit the gravel of our Maine driveway. No traffic, no accidents, very few potty breaks all contributed to our speedy arrival. However, the house is not quite as finished as I thought, the schoolroom floor is not installed and there seems to be several weeks worth of work left before we can move in. So, instead of hoofing furniture across the pavement from the garage apartment, we have spent the past few days mowing, tilling, and planting.

In just 24 hours Tim rototilled my garden and I discovered the lovely Maine phenomenon of blackflies. Yes, I've heard the warnings and the songs, seen the bumper stickers, but it is very disconcerting to see your children covered in bloody welts behind their ears and on the back of their necks. I got hit many times as well, realizing once their season ends in a week or so, it will be just in time for the deer flies and mosquitoes to hatch.

But I have pushed onward and put in tomato and cucumber seedlings and planted corn, onions, pumpkin, lettuce, peas, beans, and various flowers. The kids raked cartloads of grass clippings to mulch the garden. While I was hammering in stakes for the tomato cages, I swung poorly and hit my mouth, busting my lip and chipping one of my teeth. A quick visit to the local dentist made my tooth as good as new and Tim took over stake pounding duties (note: next time buy the shorter stakes). We have all been collapsing into bed by 9pm with no one, save myself, emerging from their room before 8am. Julia Ellen is getting so much fresh air and exercise (especially attempting to swipe away the blackflies) that the previous 2 hour nightly effort to get her to go to sleep has disappeared. 

At this rate I will have our garden put in by Saturday, the children's school finished by next Wednesday, and be volunteering to help the builder lay floor by Thursday. Perhaps not. I'll be glad to take a break from my current frantic pace and relax long enough to enjoy our summer in Maine.