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.