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.