Saturday, December 29, 2012

so much for baking cookies

For the past 3 days I have been too feverish, tired, and dizzy to venture far from my bed. Tim took over all the parenting duties, allowing me to get enough rest. I managed to recover enough today to do a little quilting and make turkey pot pie. I haven't run in 4 days and have a 5K race on Monday, luckily my goal this year was to run in all the Sub5 series races, not necessarily win any. 

Perhaps tomorrow I can get some more of my Christmas cookie list checked off, but considering I've already made Chocolate Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, Lace Cookies, and Almond Macaroons so far this month, maybe I should just not push it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

making do with ugly fabric

In an attempt to purge some of my unattractive stash acquisitions, I recently decided to make a few charity kid's quilts. Over the years I have made some very pretty and patriotic quilts for soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital, donated fabric before moving to the local Linus Project box, and given away many quilts. Not every finished project needs to be the most gorgeous thing ever made, and I figure not everyone is quite as picky about aesthetics as I am. So over the past few days I have made two tops and will practice some machine quilting on them to improve my skills.

 After a little more practice I'll start quilting this blue and cream top I made for the school auction. 

I have a few months to get it completed, but I also have a brown bag challenge to make for one of my fellow guild members (1 half yard, 3 fat quarters given by the recipient and I can add one fabric choice). I haven't got the skills to make a cool bag, but I'm sure I can make something that will display my newly acquired machine quilting skills.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

carnival of homeschooling # 365

Welcome to the last homeschool carnival of 2012! The season of Christmas is a time of kindness, love, joy, and being grateful. One of the gifts that makes us the most grateful is homeschooling, because it helps increase kindness, love, and joy. Our family wishes yours peace and much success in the coming year. 

This is our first Christmas on our farm in Maine and for the first time we went out into the woods and chopped down a tree instead of buying one from a lot. Actually Tim sawed a 30 foot tall tree down  and cut the top out for our Christmas tree. It may look a little Charlie Brownish, but just as I was so proud at Thanksgiving that some of the ingredients for the pumpkin pie, the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes came from our own garden, I am proud that our tree came from our own land.

Steven at Hudson Valley Geologist shares with us his thoughts on the rewards and sacrifices involved to teach his kids on The Gift of Homeschooling.

A Guide to Raising Great Kids gives us a little insight in how we came to this point in our culture in What Can We Do?


 After 9 years of homeschooling, we enrolled the three oldest children in a local Catholic school. I can see how homeschooling helped them in mastering some topics, and how I could have done better in teaching them others. For the most part they have thrived, putting all my extended family's fears to rest that they were academically and socially deficient. They have played sports, attended dances, and here is Maggie portrayed as the Blessed Virgin Mary in the school's Christmas concert last week. 

Chris shares with us some wonderful stories about children in Miracles and Blessings at Home School vs. Public School.

A Net In Time Schooling shares with us some pictures of her son's homemade slingshot in Weapons That Work.  

Time 4 Learning gives us some advice on how to make the Christmas season a little less stressful in 5 Steps to Making a Snazzy  Super Simple Christmas.

 Since we had to take a few trees out of the way to get our tree out of the woods, we used this one on the front porch for the birds. We made garlands of cranberries and popcorn and hung orange slices from the branches. Yes, we had to tie the tree up so the wind wouldn't make it fly off, something that happened to our trampoline a few days ago.   

Victoria of Den School made some original and beautiful Christmas tree Cinnamon Ornaments.  

Dewey's Treehouse shares a positive book review Praise for the Number Devil, a story that "was supposed to be a mathematical version of The Phantom Tollbooth or Alice in Wonderland".

Henry Cate at Why Homeschool shares with us the myriad of reasons to teach your own children, but that homeschooling to avoid school shootings isn't the best reason for homeschooling.

Our family has many Advent traditions to prepare for the holiday: reading Christmas picture books every night, opening numbered calendars with chocolates inside, taking turns lighting the Advent wreath, setting up the creche and "walking" Mary and Joseph toward the stable. The youngest child places Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Eve night after returning home from Mass before setting out the Wise Men to slowly make their way to see the infant on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. 

Carol of Everything Home With Carol shares a review of the HEV project, a library of hundreds of short videos for homeschoolers available for subscription at The HEV Project Review.

Deborah at Life With GQ shares her blog's attempt to share the spirit of the holiday with others in Life With GQ Holiday Givaway.  

Again, our family wishes you many blessings during this season of giving and may you have a wonderful second half to your homeschooling year. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

What homeschooling has meant to us

I have been teaching one or more of my children for 10 years now and as I look back on those hours spent sitting at the side of a child learning to add, spell, read, and write, it makes me realize how blessed we are for the gift of homeschooling.

I have taught 5 children how to decode our language and love reading so much that a trip to the library is met with the same excitement that some kids reserve for the county fair. Our tradition of purchasing a wind-up flashlight for that magical day when they are deemed "a reader" is met with eager anticipation. I'm a big proponent of letting kids read in bed and with the wind-up light I haven't had to buy batteries for them in over 5 years. The sound I can hear from their rooms is priceless, first the chirrr,chirrrr, chirrr, as the light is charged and then 15 minutes later chir, chir, chir, and then finally after another 10 minutes of reading the light dims for good since I imagine they are so tired it is impossible to wind it one time and their eyes close for the night. 

My children have been allowed to sleep in (until this year when we have to leave at 7am to get the big kids to school) and have been sick less than the average. They have had time to play outside, build stuff, play with their smaller siblings, help around the house, and learn to bake and sew. They have been able to visit museums and historical areas in 4 states and spend time exploring them in depth. They have had a consistent education despite moving 5 times in the past 10 years.

I have to say that homeschooling has been a great gift to our family and as I review the past decade, I see not only the addition of 4 precious children to our home, but a daily pursuit of knowledge that will last throughout their lifetimes.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas gifts make good practice

Last year's mug rugs I made for teacher gifts were so well received that I decided to make them again for the big kid's teachers for Christmas. Since finishing the table runner that goes almost the entire length of my 9' dining room table with Twisted Pinwheels, I made up 5-6 little squares and went wild quilting them in various threads and free motion designs. 

For the piano teacher, who instructs the oldest children on four different afternoons a week, I am making a pillow that coordinates with her front rooms in pretty greens and browns. All I have left to do is get a brown men's dress shirt from Goodwill for the back- the button front means I don't have to put in a zipper or fancy flap to insert the pillow form.   

It has been fun making these because it has given me a chance to experiment with some new stitches that would be daunting to complete on a large bed quilt. 

My next big project is a blue and cream bed quilt for the kid's school auction this spring. After winning almost 50 fat quarters at the quilt group's Christmas party, most of which are fabrics I wouldn't purchase myself (if you get my drift), I will also be making a Project Linus quilt for charity and making up some large practice squares to work on more free motion designs. One of the ladies directed me to Leah Day's website, in which she demonstrates 365 different quilting designs on video. I might not find the time or inclination to try out an entire year's worth, but will be sure to find lots of inspiration and new quilting challenges.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ethical flu vaccine

Children of God for Life announced today that a new flu vaccine, Flucelvax produced by Novartis uses a morally produced mammal-based cell line rather than chick embryo. 
“We are extremely pleased to see Novartis advance in the market over those such as Sanofi Pasteur who are developing influenza vaccines using aborted fetal cell lines,” said Children of God for Life Executive Director Debi Vinnedge. 

Novartis, along with several pharmaceutical companies had taken license in early 2001 to aborted fetal cell line PER C6 and there was public concern that this cell line would replace the current and slower techonology of using chick embryo to produce influenza and H1N1 vaccines.

But Novartis changed direction and unlike some of its competitors chose the option of using a tested and safe mammal cell line that would not infringe on moral concerns. Vinnedge says she is thrilled they are the first to bring the new technology to market.

Tim worked with Debi Vinnedge while writing an article on the current moral debate over vaccine production published in Angelus Magazine (Feb 2006) This issue of manufacturing vaccines using stem cell lines derived from aborted human embryos is one that affects every Catholic parent. Currently the MMR, Hep A, and chickenpox vaccines versions made in a immoral manner are only available in the US. Hopefully Novartis will see great economic success with its new Flucelvax vaccine and expand to create moral alternatives for the above problematic immunizations.   

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

busy as a beaver

The past few weeks I haven't had the energy or inclination to blog about anything. The election results were so depressing that I didn't turn on the computer except to check email or turn on the radio except to get my daily dose of encouragement from Rush. 

I finished the lap quilt I was working on and started a Christmas twisted pinwheel table runner that we worked on at quilt group. I am currently free-motion quilting feathers in the pinwheeels and pebbles in the background. Hopefully I can have it finished by December 25th. 

I also offered to pick out fabrics and put together bags for the group to make a calendar quilt for the town's library and just getting it all organized and cut out took several hours last weekend. All 12 blocks were taken home so my portion of the project is complete.  While waiting for end to the school dance I picked up some machine quilting books at BooksAMillion, which I will put under the tree for me from the kids. 

We are finding the ongoing transition from homeschooling to Catholic school a challenge for the older two children, the amount of homework each night is sometimes overwhelming and the lure of Minecraft on the laptops they are given is too much for Will to resist most days. Mary is more conscious of time management in terms of getting her work completed, but her issues are the lure of fashion status and the increased facination with the opposite sex. I guess all this should have been expected with puberty, but I find it very hard on the parents.

I'm still running every day, but hoping to take a short break after I give blood tomorrow. Last week I caught a cold and it hampered my race pace on Sunday's Turkey Trot. I did shave off 23 seconds off last year's race, but still didn't come home with a free bird. A friend mentioned that my name is mentioned in a local newspaper article about the Sub5 series and suggested that I might be up for "most improved" runner at the awards dinner in January. My goal for next year's series is to win my age bracket again and to run in all the races, including the County Half Marathon, the Cobscook 10K, and the Machais Blueberry Run which all involve spending the night in a hotel the night beforehand. 

Homeschooling the boys is proceeding along at a fast clip, Timmy is on lesson 20 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and will be moving up to 1st grade by the end of next week. Charlie is 3/4 of the way through history and science for 3rd grade and is slowly working on memorizing the times tables. 

All in all, the last month has been the equivalent of a hamster on a wheel, running faster and faster just to keep up. The reason for this is the number of children (6) times the number of activities (piano, theater, Scouts, swimming, and altar serving) makes logistics and driving all over midcoast Maine inevitable. Luckily theater and swimming are over for the winter, but basketball for Mary and cross country sking for the little ones is just about to begin...    

Friday, November 02, 2012

new york marathon hogging resources?

I've been through several hurricanes, sleeping in a narrow hallway during Gloria in 1985, living in the dorm at Virginia Tech with no working bathrooms (for only 24 hours and it was so gross I drove 300 miles home until the issue was resolved) and seeing the destruction in the forest wrought by Hugo in 1989, and losing power for a week (our neighbor somehow procured us a generator after 24 hours) during Isabel in 2003. I know gas lines, but I can't fathom the devastation I have seen in pictures from New York and New Jersey.There are people dumpster diving for food, waiting in lines for 6 hours for gas, begging for water, food, and clothes. People's toilets aren't working and they are using the hallways of their apartment buildings as bathrooms. So why is Mayor Bloomberg insisting that this weekend,of all weekends, New York host the NY Marathon?  

People who read my blog know that I am a serious runner and that I run in a lot of races. I understand that people have trained 6 months for this race, but there are other races, there are certainly things more important than one's personal satisfaction in finishing a 26.2 mile run. Supposedly there is a Facebook page already going of racers who are boycotting the race they already paid to enter, I say good for them. 

Rush Limbaugh was raving about this issue today, I would have called in, but I was running at the time. I did compose my call in my head instead, "Rush, not all runners are liberal health nazis, one of the reasons I run is so I can drink a 32oz Cocacola without guilt. I've lost a total of 120 pounds of weight from my last 3 pregnancies running everyday at noon sharp listening to your voice of reason for an hour or so. I noticed an ad for the NY Marathon in a magazine the day after Sandy struck and mentioned it to my husband. He said they would certainly postpone the race, while I thought they would cancel it and refund every one's entry fee. But going ahead with it is just foolish, why use resources that people desperately need just for a race? I can see the residents taking their frustration and anger out on the runners and some people getting hurt. It is just a race, cancel it for this year and then have a big hoorah next year to show how everything is back to normal. It isn't the Olympics or anything."         

warm and cozy

Yesterday I washed my latest completed quilt, "Sweet Apple Crisp" a slightly enlarged version of a pattern in American Patchwork and Quilting magazine, with a big glug of vinegar to prevent any leftover red dye from the flannel backing from staining the top and laid it on the floor to admire and inspect for any remaining thread that needed to be clipped.

I had to pick out several of the original leaf wreaths from the Snowball blocks, as they were not perfectly the same and this made the quilt look odd. Instead I turned them into vines with spirals that mimicked the spirals in the four-patch blocks.  For the outer border I simply quilted over the vining design on the fabric rather than superimpose a design over it. I'll take it for show and tell at quilt group on Monday and see what the ladies think. I'm pretty happy with the results and I'm sure it will keep someone's toes toasty this winter.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

the best $20 I ever spent

Timmy has been slower than molasses in winter in learning his phonics sounds, but since he should be moving into 1st grade, I pulled out my secret ammunition in the war on illiteracy: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book goes tiny step by step in teaching a child to read sounds, then short words, then short stories in about 15 minutes a day. I have used this book with 5 children now, after being advised to buy it from the mom who first introduced me to homeschooling 15 years ago. We have never gotten through all 100 lessons, usually quitting at about lesson 60-75 to move on to real books and the Faith and Freedom readers. 

Timmy is still having trouble recalling the short a sound, so we have repeated 2 lessons, but in the past 2 weeks he has started sounding out 3 and 4 letter words. My goal is to have a child who loves to read, so I don't want to overburden him with excessive practice each day, just a slow and steady progression from "the cat sat on the mat" to eventually reading his way through my extensive children's fiction collection.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

faster than the wind

I did very well in two of my last races of the season, winning the female title in the Harvest Run cross country 5K on such a cold morning that the ballpoint pens used for filling in registration forms froze and I had to thaw the ink by repeatedly holding them up to the propane heaters behind the tables. But when 10am arrived, I stripped down to a thin shirt and shorts, pulled on some spikes over my shoes, and ran through the puddles and over the slick grass. Then the following weekend the weather was much more agreeable for University of Maine's homecoming and I came in 2nd in the Black Bear 5K with a new PR of 21:05. This might be an all-time best, including high school, but since finding out would involve searching through a huge Rubbermaid bin of memorabilia, I won't worry about it anytime soon. I've secured first place in my age bracket and moved into 2nd place overall in the Sub5 series standings. Somehow, despite all the logistical chaos of my life with 3 kids in school, homeschooling the little boys, and having to guard all our possessions from a destructive preschooler (her latest feats involved ripping off several keys from Will's old laptop and sprinkling a 1/2 pound of shredded Cheddar all over her bedroom floor in the middle of the night), I have still been able to train and improve my running times.    

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

3 distinct personalities

Will knew what to expect going into school this year having been down at St. Dominic's for a semester. He also has been in umpteen Scout troops, comfortable being the new kid almost every year and practically jumped out of the car at camp, so eager to be with 100 other boys, despite not knowing a soul. Maggie is my theatrical diva, so outgoing and flamboyant that I wonder some days if she really is the child of two introverted parents, but since she looks just like me and the other girls, I have to assume there was no switching of babies at the hospital. 

Mary is much more beautiful than I ever was, but personality-wise she is almost my exact replica, a little shy and needing to recharge her batteries by reading and being alone for small periods during the day. She does enjoy school and seems to have made many friends as well as impressing her math teacher with her wry sense of humor. However, being "on stage" for 7+ hours a day really takes its toll on her.

Yesterday she was practically vicious when she got into the car because of this pent up stress. She was rude to me, mean to her sister, and when I pulled the car over and told her to apologize, she wasn't sincere in the least bit. I informed her that soccer practice was not going to happen due to her horrid attitude and after arriving home I had to practically stand over her with a stick to make her practice the piano for the required 45 minutes. After she had a short calm down I came up to her room and told her that I understood her feelings, but that it was not acceptable for her to be horrid to us just because we are her family and "have" to take it. We hugged several times and she was pleasant and calm for the rest of the evening. 

She has undertaken a huge transition in her life at a very dramatic point in her development, puberty is fraught with emotional upheaval already, but adding in going to school for the first time didn't help, I'm surprised she hasn't been worse. I can't promise that this afternoon won't be a repeat of yesterday, but at least she knows that her mother understands and will try to give her a little quiet time each day to recover. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

basting woes

Earlier this week I finished a new quilt top, a throw to go on the back of a sofa. I wanted to use all stash fabrics, and managed to do so, even using a great number of scraps, but just didn't have enough of any one deep red fabric for the outer border. Tim and I put the rails on my quilt frame, but put one of the ratchet mechanisms on backwards, leaving me with not enough tension to properly baste the quilt sandwich. 

This is what it looked like afterwards after having pulling out 1/2 of the stitches with a pair of scissors and tweezers. It took me much longer to undo my mistakes than it did to stitch them of course. I re pinned everything back on the frame on Sunday evening and finished basting it again yesterday. Now I am ready to start quilting a leaf and spiral round wreath on each Snowball block and a trailing vine with tiny leaves and spirals through the alternate blocks with some teardrops filling in the background. 

I really love free motion machine quilting, but I'm a little hesitant to try something radically different for fear of having to rip it all back out. I've done all the "unsewing" I plan on doing in the near future, hopefully my sewing will proceed forward rather than back in the next few weeks. The last time I machine quilted the lopsided sitting messed up my hip. With 3 races left in the season I have promised myself not to sew for too long at any one time so we shall see if I can get this quilt finished in time for Christmas.

Monday, October 08, 2012

slow but steady wins the reading race

Last year I was starting to get really nervous about Charlie's reading skills. The other boys in his Cub Scout den were reading directions to various projects from their Wolf books aloud while Charlie was barely sounding out the words. I vowed that night to repeat all his 1st grade readers because it was obvious that he was struggling too much. I heard from the Cub Scout dads that they made their boys read for 30 minutes every night, while my 7 year old was still content to listen to me read picture books with his younger siblings. 

But like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, my 4th child is now reading well. I didn't push him beyond his comfort level, but he did practice reading and phonics every day and now he doesn't blanch at 6 page stories in his Faith and Freedom reader. He also walked to the library after his piano lesson on Friday and checked out several Magic Treehouse books, and he is actually reading them for fun. 

The big kids have mentioned several times that they seems to be called on in class to read aloud more often because they are such good readers. My guess is that all the dramatic reading of picture books to Timmy and Julia Ellen has paid off in terms of style. Even Julia Ellen practices reading with inflection as she sits on the floor flipping pages of the practically memorized Green Eggs and Ham while lisping, "I will not eat them in a BOX! I will not eat them with a FOX!"

My technique to encourage life-long readers by teaching the basics of phonics, requiring a small amount of reading aloud starting in 1st grade, and providing a plethora of interesting reading material seems to have worked. Only 2 more children left and I will be able to see my ideal Sunday afternoon come to life, a living room full of children draped all over the furniture, all so quiet you could hear a mouse squeak, because everyone is concentrating deeply on what they are reading. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

driving me mad

 I have been overheard this past week saying, "If there was an orphanage in Bangor, one of you would be dropped off," meaning Julia Ellen. In the past 4 days she has sniffed out the bigger kid's candy stash and ate every last Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, leaving the wrappers all over the girl's floor while they were at school. She pulled dozens of books off the shelves in the schoolroom, leaving us to pick our way across the floor. She screamed every single time she didn't get her way (which was about every 10 minutes), interrupting school time and grating on my nerves. The final straw today was finding this morning my pretty lime sweatshirt that I had just bought covered in black acrylic paint. 

Yes, it was partly Charlie's fault for leaving his paint somewhere she could reach, and I guess I shouldn't have left my sweatshirt downstairs, but I'm a little tired of the whole toddler/preschooler age. I'm not even pushing the potty training, as I said to another mom of many at the soccer game the other day, "Don't I get a pass after going through this five times already?" I know I shouldn't wish time to go any faster, but I sure do look forward to the day when our home is not quite so messy.

Monday, October 01, 2012

speed demon

Saturday morning I got up, put on my running gear, and drove the Jeep to Blue Hill for the Great Pumpkin 4K race. I was all psyched to run fast and come home with 10 points for the Sub 5 track club series standings. Unfortunately, when 9:30 rolled around I went inside the grocery store and asked, "Has the race been cancelled?" "Uhh. The race is tomorrow," was the reply from the manager. 

Apparently the original series schedule had the race mismarked as being on Saturday, when all subsequent info had it on Sunday at 10:30. So, admiring the lovely town and the beautiful fall foliage coming into peak, I drove home,only to repeat all my preparations the next day and return, this time with a lot more precipitation coming down. When I told one of my friends what had happened, he said, "I can't believe you didn't go ahead and run the course for practice." I replied, "A real runner would have done that. It didn't even dawn on me to do so." 

The rain only let up for the 15 minutes we ran, and I took off in front early with a 6:08 first mile pace. The course was mainly downhill and since doing very well in my last few races, I knew I could maintain that pace for another 1.5 miles. I finished with a time of 15:16 and was the first female finisher, winning a $100 gas card. This was my first win with serious competition and I was grateful for my fellow runners' heartfelt congratulations. 

My racing didn't end in Blue Hill, I had to get home, change, and drive up to Bangor to teach CCD in record time, but we made the cutoff then too, pulling into the parking lot a mere 2 minutes before class began. What I really wanted was a nap, but I made it through class and Mass before collapsing in bed, completely exhausted from my fast paced day.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

the whole shebang

Two weeks ago the kids and I ran in the Orono Pie in the Sky 1 mile fun run and 5K. Charlie was phenomenal with a 6:48 mile, Mary and Maggie each ran around 7 min, and Timmy brought up the rear for our crew at 7:48. I got a 5K PR with 21:38, bettering my time over last year's race by 1:17. I ran the first mile a little too fast, but my sub-6 min start didn't seem to affect me later. I won a very tasty apple pie, which I ate for breakfast every morning, heated up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

This morning, after picking Maggie up from her classmate's sleepover party, I ran a revised course for the Multiple Myeloma race and won the entire thing, male and female. Now, I'm not going to suddenly obtain an inflated ego about this, there are several big races today and tomorrow and all the real runners are in one of those. The field was pretty small and in fact, I only recognized two faces from Sub-5, but it was a nice thing to pick up a gift certificate to the sporting goods store for new running gear. 

Or maybe I'll find something nice for Mary, who scored her very first goal, in her first year of playing soccer. I was so impressed by the sportsmanship of her teammates afterwards and a few of the girls even came up to me and said how proud they were of her for her efforts. She has really come out of her shell while playing soccer, showing some aggression that my super-shy girl rarely exhibits.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

preparing for winter

Everyone know the fable of the industrious ant and the feckless grasshopper. When cold snows come, the ant is snug and well stocked, while the grasshopper begs for assistance. Now that the leaves are beginning to turn color and the roof shingles show a touch of frost in the morning, our larder is well stocked. 

Starting in early summer and continuing through this week, I started blanching and freezing peas, beans, carrots, cauliflower, blueberries, tomatoes, and peppers. I dug up all the onions and potatoes and stored them in boxes down in the basement. Through the local homeschool group, I ordered 150 pounds of wheat flour to bake bread and cookies all winter, but now I must figure out how to to store it so it doesn't get eaten by rodents, bugs, or weevils. 

For dinner last night I made a green bean and sausage soup in which 4 major ingredients: carrots, potatoes, beans, and onions all were grown in our garden. I don't know if it was healthier than soup made from store-bought items, but it sure did taste better to me.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The saying, "You never know how much you have until you have lost it," has certainly struck home this week.  Homeschoolers have so much freedom in their daily lives to get up when they wish, start school when they want, and have their lives centered around their family, rather than around other's schedules. For 9 years we were able to sign the children up for multiple activities because their schoolwork could be completed by mid afternoon most days and they didn't have homework to interfere with evening events. 

Now our days begin with 5:40 revilie, followed by the van driving away at 7am. I do have a lot more time now to work with the boys on their schoolwork without the big kids monopolizing all my attention, so we do play many games and they have more educational computer time. But our afternoons are complete chaos. Last Tuesday was a good example with having to pick up the 3 big ones at 2:40, drive them 25 minutes to their soccer games, pull Will out just after the first half and drive like a mad woman back home to get him to piano lessons at 6:15 (he was still 15 minutes late). Then I had to fix dinner for everyone else and the poor kid was still doing homework at 9pm, when my eyes closed for the night. We have piano lessons for various children 3 evenings a week, Boy Scouts on Wednesday, Cub Scouts on Thursday, and Tim takes over on an occasional Monday so I can go to quilt group. I have spent over $100 in gas this week just to drive everyone up and back to Bangor 2-3 times a day. 

There isn't any activity I am willing to give up right this moment and soccer only lasts another 3 weeks or so. But it has been quite an adjustment going from staying home and doing school in our jammies to being like the Zizzer-Zoof salesmen in Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book,
 "All day they've raced around in the heat, at top speeds, Unsuccessfully trying to sell Zizzer-Zoof Seeds Which nobody wants because nobody needs. Tomorrow will come. They'll go back to their chore. They'll start on the road, Zizzer-Zoofing once more." 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

1st day of school

Tim starts his new job next Monday, so for the kid's first week of Catholic school he is driving the 30 minute route and dropping them off and I am picking them up in the afternoon. Our first day of homeschooling just the little boys was so peaceful, they did their work, did their chores, and I let them watch a movie while I organized and cleaned my quilting room. Charlie doesn't have half of his books yet since I put off enrolling him until yesterday, but he did read aloud, practice his catechism questions and prayers, listen to science and history, and do an art project with his little brother and sister. 

When I went to pick up the big kids Maggie was so exuberant that she almost hit her head on the ceiling, "I loooove school!" Will related a teacher's warning about, "don't get near the cars, you might get run over," that he got in gym class. He was so disgusted, "Mommy, I'm a Star Scout and was directing traffic at the Strawberry Festival when I was 10," at being treated like a little kid that we both pretended we were that safety conscious about other activities. "Don't touch that paper, you might get a boo-boo on your little finger." 

Mary was a completely different story, she was incensed that I sent them on the first day wearing "the wrong thing." Apparently every other girl wore a skirt and she felt like a dork wearing khaki pants. Even after admitting that she was making friends and that they use the same Saxon math series she has worked through for the past 3 years, she couldn't sleep last night due to nerves about a math test today. I sat with her, gave her a pep talk, and gave her a stuffed animal to hold before going back to bed myself. Math is not her weak subject by far, I'm far more concerned about her spelling and writing skills. My worry is the time factor, between soccer practice, practicing the piano, and homework, I don't know how much free time they will have each day. We seemed to have jumped onto the busy family bus and I doubt we will disembark until next June.         

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

labor day race

Sunday night I had nightmares, all involving people not understanding how important it was for me to get to the start of the Labor Day 5 miler before the 9am start. Despite all my anxiety-inducing dreams, I managed to be at the start in plenty of time and ran the first mile in 6:10, perhaps a bit fast, but I knew that if I wanted an overall 7:30/mile pace I would have to go fast the first two miles to make up for the "goat path" hill around mile 3 that seems to go straight up and up and up and finally flattening out in front of Stephen King's house with his creepy bat-themed wrought iron fence. 

I finished in 35:40, a 7:08 pace, a full 4 minutes faster than last year's time, but not fast enough to win my age group. I was bummed for a bit, but then found out the women's overall winner was 41, running a 6:20/mile pace, just not something I am capable of. My guilt mitigated, I met the rest of my family at the Sub 5 track club party, where we ate, played games, and talked running. The season is beginning to wind down and I will be looking forward to more restful dreams and sleeping in on weekend mornings. 


Sunday, September 02, 2012

all in one house

Tim finished up his last day of work down in the southern part of the state and starts his new job next week. So, for the first time in a decade all our family is residing in one location all year. No more deployments, no more admitting "summer people" status, no more waving goodbyes on Sunday afternoon. I can't recall all the times over the past 10 years when I thought I packed an item and realized too late that it was 1000 miles away in a drawer, or a piece of music for piano lessons was left behind, or I couldn't remember if I had enough pillowcases and needed to pack more. This morning was the first nippy day of the season, chilly enough that I had to pull out a wool blanket to cover myself at 2am. 

My box room with its neatly organized bins for kid's clothes was raided for Julia Ellen's fall wardrobe instead of the usual September scramble as I forgot to pack enough larger warm clothes for the smallest child. She is now adequately prepared with 5 pairs of footed pjs, long pants, and a half a dozen turtlenecks. It is so comfortable feeling that if I need an item it is somewhere in this house and all I have to do is unpack the rest of the boxes to find it.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

my second win

On Saturday I left my family and company to drive over to Skowhegan for the New Balance 5K. With both my running shoes frayed and full of holes, I went for the hope of winning one of the 20 pairs of shoes given away by the outlet store. The weather was perfect and before the race began I noticed a mom I had noticed once at the commissary. She is also a Catholic homeschooling mom of 6, though her children are a bit older. We talked about teaching CCD and curriculum and I assume being distracted helped me, because I ran very smoothly and finished with a new PR of 21:58 and was the first female to finish. I used my prize to get Tim a free pair of shoes, he really needed them and was unlikely to purchase them himself. I'm so glad I decided to run, I not only came home with 3 pairs of new shoes, but the phone number of a new friend.

race results

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Today after the children's auntie and uncle left for the rest of their vacation, the little kids and I cleaned up the garden, planted cover crops, and harvested carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cauliflower. 

The carrots and cauliflower went into the freezer for winter muffins and soups, the onion was spread out on the picnic table to dry, and one of the heirloom tomatoes was sliced up, sprinkled with a bit of salt and eaten in about 4 bites by me. 

I dug up the now empty beds and after spreading a little lime and fertilizer we broadcast buckwheat seeds. The grain we planted a month ago after pulling the peas up is now blooming and perhaps we can even grind some flour to supplement our pancakes.   

Friday, August 24, 2012

course champs!

Last Sunday Tim and I raced in a brand new race in Bucksport to support their cross-country team. The male-female relay had the guy run 3 miles before his female teammate repeated the same course. The brackets were based on the couple's combined age. Tim and I ran together, his first race in at least 20 years, if you don't count running the PRT every 6 months. Despite our good times (23:47 and 22:28), we just happened to be the only pair in the 91-99 year old bracket and won a pair of t-shirts. It was nice to participate in a race that didn't count for any points in the Sub-5 series, just a lovely run through the shaded woods for fun and all the baked goods we could eat. Now that we hold the course record for our age bracket, we will see if we can hold onto it or even beat it next year. 

Tomorrow is another race for fun, the Skowhegan 5K with 20 pairs of New Balance shoes as door prizes. Last year I thought the shoes were for the place winners so I killed myself to win my bracket, only to find out afterwards that they are randomly drawn. I'll see if I can have better luck this year as both Tim and I desperately each need a new pair of running shoes. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

keychains, backpack pulls, and fun

A few weeks ago I found a Shrinky Dink Klutz book at the thrift store for $0.99. Yeah, perhaps a couple of times in my childhood I traced and colored pictures and watched someone bake them in the oven (it wouldn't have been my mother though, she recoiled from anything crafty to do with kids). The special plastic was all torn out, but I headed up to AC Moore, our local big-box craft store with my handy-dandy 50% off coupon in hand. Not only did I get a package of clear plastic discounted, I added on my teacher discount (by showing my HSLDA card) and received another 15% off. Every week on my errands I made a point to stop by and pick up another packet for less than $3. At first I was stressing out about baking them and having them ruined by curling up on themselves, but after purchasing an embossing tool (it's a cross between a glue gun and a mini hairdryer) I can bake and shape their little pictures without even turning on the oven. 

The little boys have gone wild, and while Julia Ellen may have ruined a few of their projects, the results are impressive. The most money I've had to expend in this creative explosion are for a handful of keyrings to attach them to backpacks, lunchboxes, and whatever else they can imagine. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

our last packout

Yesterday, the same day a year ago we packed out to come to Maine, the movers arrived in a big orange truck to box up and wrap in blankets all our possessions. So far the house hasn't sold, despite the picture-perfect views of the mountains and brand new granite countertops, we haven't even had a showing in over a month. But it is clean and free from everything we own now except for a few camping items and Tim's coffee pot. He has another few days of work this week and then the last week of August before he starts his new job. For 12 years I have been alone during most of the summer, shlepping kids to camp and lessons, making them clean and find stray library books, getting them ready for Mass and buying doughnuts afterwards for good behavior. And, yes I organized the packout yesterday alone as well, arriving the evening before, making sure everything went as smoothly as possible and running up to Food City for some lunch for both my crew and the movers since my husband has been living off of Stouffers frozen dinners, coffee, and ice cream. 

But now we are back at the farm and once more I need to get into high organizational mode for they will arrive tomorrow to unload the truck and I have to have this place ready. Today I have to disassemble one set of bunkbeds and pray that they will fit back-to-back with their matching bunkbed in the boy's room. Timmy is too old for a toddler bed anymore and he has been switching between sleeping on a mattress on the floor and bunking with his brother. The girls get another set of bunkbeds with drawers underneath for Julia Ellen's clothes, space is more of a premium in their room with all the dolls, stuffed animals, and such that they accumulate. The double bed in the apartment has to be taken down to the garage to make room for the queen bed from the Auburn house. All the excess beds, dressers, and kitchen items we have accumulated over the years living in two places needs to be taken to the trash and treasure building at the dump. 

Did I mention that at least some of the unpacking must be accomplished by next Thursday when Tim's sister and her husband come for a visit?  I'm not going to panic or stress out, for this is our 10th and last packout in the last 16 years of marriage and I have all the time in the world to rearrange our stuff. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

two firsts

Last Sunday Will served his first Novus Ordo Mass and I received Holy Communion from a lay person for the first time in 12 years. There are so few vocations in the diocese of Maine (only 6 current seminarians) that they have moved to a "cluster" system of staffing parishes. The 6 churches in the greater Bangor area used to be served by 12 priests, but are now covered by 2. They are very good and holy men, but worked to the bone every day, especially on weekends to say Mass at every church. Other parishes in the area are in the same boat, the Bucksport priest travels to Stonington and Castine, each town an hour away from the rectory. He literally has to run out the door after Mass to make it in time for the next one, never able to offer Confession to the outlying parishes. It is a sad state of affairs and I am fervently praying for a new bishop (our old one was transferred to Buffalo) who is orthodox and on fire for the Faith. Orthodoxy in belief and liturgy results in vocations as we can see in both religious orders such as the Nashville Dominicans and the priesthood, as evidenced by FSSP

Will has served as an alter server in the Traditional Latin Mass for 7 years now, ever since his FHC at St. Benedict in Virginia. But there is no TLM anywhere near Bangor, and I understand that our priests just can't do one more thing, especially something involving training and taking away another Mass to squeeze it in (they can't legally say more than a certain number of Masses each day). So I made arrangements for him to begin serving, with one non-negotiable; that he not serve with girls. I don't want to go into why I believe that girls reduce the number of boys willing to serve and why this in time dries up the feeder mechanism for future priests, because these arguments are so obvious. So, last week he served with another boy and everything was lovely, both the sacristan and the priest commented positively about his professionalism on the altar. We sat up front after the previous week's debacle, so when it came time for Communion and the priest was distributing Holy Communion to the left hand side of the church, we went up and received in the hand from the lay person. I don't recall if he attempted to bless the little ones, which is not appropriate, but I had to remind myself that while I am a stickler for doing the right thing during the liturgy, others have not had my experience and knowledge. I may be a convert, but I have read and studied the history of the Church and her traditions and know that only a priest or parent is supposed to bless a child. All in all, it was a lovely Mass and I am grateful that the parish is willing to accommodate our "quirks."

This Sunday I thought Will was scheduled to serve Mass, but as I was kneeling in the pew the sacristan asked me to come to the vestibule. He explained that two servers were already scheduled for that Mass, but one of them was a girl. It was up to me if he vested or not. I hesitated for a moment, but said, "He'll just sit with us." He was very gracious about it and promised to talk to the coordinator about having Will serve next week. This has been a big transition for our family and while we knew what we were in for when we left the Auburn area and the TLM every Sunday, it is still hard emotionally. My hope is that our example, as well as the example of other faithful families, combined with the ministry of holy priests, and hopefully a very holy and orthodox new bishop, can, in time lead to a renewal of orthodoxy and more vocations to the priesthood.

Friday, August 10, 2012

too smart by half

Last September the kids and I went to the Bangor Humane Society and brought home 2 kittens. The children and cats played, Julia Ellen dragged them around, and I fed them and cleaned their litter. Today the cats are 1 year old and one of them is not welcome in our house anymore. Star, the girl kitty, loves to lounge around all day and is polite. Night, the boy cat, is huge, muscular, and gets into trouble every day. He gets on the kitchen counters, knocks over vases of flowers, and likes to drink out of the faucet. Fresh water in his bowl every morning is not apparently aerated enough so his latest trick is to turn on the faucet by nudging the handle of the kitchen sink, leaving the water to run for hours. He doesn't merely threaten to let the well go dry, but since the hot water faucet is easier to manipulate, I have woken several mornings to steam rising from the furnace room vent, his having used so much hot water that the tank has refilled and was being heated by expensive propane. I've taken to putting mixing bowls over the handles, but it isn't really a long term solution. 

Several times I've gotten so mad to throw him outside, but all that will do is bring fleas into the house. He can't stay out there because he would be food for the nightly howling coyotes in a matter of days. But since his other trick in the past few weeks is sitting in the mudroom and bolting out the door, I think he really wants to live outside. The only option seems to be to turn Night into a barn cat. He can spend time outside, go into the barn to sleep through a kitty door, and keep the mice under control. Just as the Little Golden book, Four Little Kittens, bases its story around the idea that kittens, like children, have different personalities and vocations, some kittens are just meant to be alley cats, ship cats, barn cats, or house cats and no amount of behavior modification is going to change that.     

Friday, August 03, 2012

I love living in Maine

A few weeks ago I needed some garden product to keep the nasty striped beetles off my pumpkin and cucumber plants. After dropping off big children at some activity I only had Timmy and Julia Ellen in the van. Inevitably the toddler fell asleep just before we pulled into the Hampden Hardware parking lot. I got out and saw one of the young men who works there standing in the entrance to the back barn. "I have a dilemma. The baby is asleep and I don't particularly want to wake her up." After explaining what bug I wanted to keep off my plants, he told me that the product recommended by my gardening book is not legally available in Maine, but that he had some powder to try. While standing next to the van, I examined the product, paid for it, and got change without ever going inside. Obviously this would never happen at a suburban big-box store.

Then yesterday the kids and I finally had enough free time accompanied by beautiful weather to pick blueberries. This year is expected to be a bumper crop and our town's blueberry field certainly was evidence, the berries were so plentiful I could hold the quart basket under a clump, wiggle my fingers and see 20 berries fall in. We filled 5 quart containers and a huge flat bottomed basket in less than 30 minutes. Unfortunately, my sunglasses kept slipping down my nose and I put them in my pocket. Inevitably they fell out and even after wandering around and around we couldn't find them, since all blueberry bushes look alike. After getting home I got dressed to go running and made up a sign to put up at the entrance to the field.     

I finished my 10 mile run and sat on the porch cleaning blueberries and drinking Cocacola for a bit. While I was in the shower, a lady called and left a message saying that she found my sunglasses and left them on the picnic table. After supper I called her back to say thank you and sat on the porch thinking, "There are few finer things than being right here, drinking a tropical adult beverage, watching my kids play among the newly baled hay, and cleaning the last of the blueberries I picked this morning in Maine."

Small town Maine with its friendly people and wonderful scenery truly is "The Way Life Should Be." 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

appropriate Mass behavior

On Sunday evening Will was supposed to serve his first Novus Ordo Mass. However, he had been asked a few days before if he could compete in the Red Jacket Regatta in Rockland, a small boat sailing race for youth. Tim drove down to pick him up early so he could get to Mass on time, but when he arrived, due to the lack of wind, Will was all the way across the harbor. While the sacristan was understanding of the circumstances, I hope that next week's Mass will go a little more smoothly. For in addition to Will's absence, Mary asked if we could sit in the back pew and that was a huge mistake. 

I won't go into all the details, because that would be gossip just for the sake of being nasty, but the family sitting in front of us made our family, with the smaller children drawing pictures on their bulletins and Julia Ellen drawing in my tiny notebook through Mass looked angelic in comparison. But I'll just say that there were large quantities of toys, wailing, chatting by the grownups, and Playdough was almost ground into the carpet. The woman who was sitting beside them leaned over at the end of Mass and said, "Are these your children?" "Well, it is a few of them (Timmy went with Tim to pick up Will)." "They are so well behaved and so nice looking." At this point there was a little whispering from behind me because the children knew that I would stop at the store on the way home. I waited a moment until the priest exited the church and then explained,"If they get a compliment then they get doughnuts." 

Now, I've always been one of those middle-of-the-road moms when it comes to little children and Mass, I've brought religious coloring books, bags of Cheerios, sippy cups of water, holy cards to organize in a little picture album to keep them occupied and quiet. I've rarely seen any horror shows depicted on the internet of kids bringing McDonald's Happy Meals into the cry room, screaming fits that go on through the entire homily, or Nintendo games played during the Consecration. But as I told Mary after informing her that it was all her fault for begging me to sit in the back, we will be sitting up front in the future. After 14 years of taking unruly children out of church, spending most Sunday mornings in the cry room, training babies to be quiet for the sake of those around them, I refuse to subject myself to someone else's poor parenting during Mass.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

learned my lesson

I've been working on an antique looking lap quilt for some time, the piecing went together quickly, but only because I didn't trim the excess fabric after I added the next row. When I started quilting, the straight lines looked great, but the free motion daisy design just kept looking awful, I had little control over the stitch length, the quilt kept refusing to move. I changed the needle, re-threaded the machine, took it in to the dealer to be cleaned and oiled, attempted to put wax paper/Pam spray on the back for more glide... nothing worked. Will and I spent over a week picking every stupid flower out, because by the time I gave up I had tried to quilt 20 flowers. They looked awful. After letting the quilt sit for a week or so, I gave it another go today. This time I quilted little leaves and spirals in the black open spaces and was successful for the most part. 

Then it hit me, my own laziness in not trimming led to all that extra work. The poor machine was quilting through, not 3 layers, but in some blocks, 5-6 layers of fabric. No wonder it was struggling and skipping stitches and refusing to move over the seams. I can't take it apart, but I will never, never sew another seam on a paper pieced block without trimming to 1/4 " again!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

author read aloud

On Tuesday morning sailing was cancelled due to a forecast of thunderstorms that didn't materialize until 4:30pm. However, I had found an interesting activity for us in Stockton Springs at the library to make up for the disappointment. Chris Van Dusen, children's author and illustrator of the Mr. Magee books came to give a fabulous presentation and read aloud of 3 of his books, including one of our favorites, The Circus Ship

This story is based on the real 1836 sinking of a circus ship, The Royal Tar, off the coast of Vinalhaven, but with a much happier ending. The children had a wonderful time helping point out the hidden animals, Charlie and Timmy finding the trickiest ones, and have looked at the book again and again in the days since.

People who live in big cities always cite their cultural opportunities, but even in the wilds of Maine we have plays, art galleries, library concerts, and famous authors willing to share.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

sick, sick, and car sick

This past two weeks have been a little draining. The week before Will went to Boy Scout camp he had  3 days of fever, diarrhea, and a dripping nose. Luckily he recovered enough by Sunday to enjoy a week of camping, canoeing, and orienteering. Julia Ellen came down with the same odd combination of symptoms this Saturday and we decided that Tim would stay home from Mass with the two little ones, there being only room for 4 children in his new car. The van was still at the shop, getting a new transmission installed. After we arrived at the church 30 minutes early, I let Charlie and Maggie go over to the playground while I called Tim on my cell phone.

"The bad news is that Charlie gets car sick in your car."

"Oh my gosh, not my brand new car!"

I couldn't let him suffer too long, "The good news is that Charlie did not get car sick IN your car. We pulled over at Hollywood Casino and he barfed in the bushes."

However, I had to call Tim back a bit later. Within 15 seconds of climbing on the playground equipment he was stung on the cheek by a wasp and started screaming. I piled everyone back in the car, stopped at McDonald's for some ice to put on his face and gave up on anyone in our family attending Mass this week.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

forced time out

Things have been falling apart at our house this past week. My internet connection was down for 3 days and since Will is at Boy Scout camp, I had no idea how to fix my modem problem (thank you to the nice man on the phone from India who kept repeating, "I apologize for your frustration," when they couldn't find my account. "But I have your satellite dish on my roof and we have had service for a year!")  My van has been in the shop since Tuesday afternoon when the transmission suddenly died. It won't be ready until Monday. And most distressing of all is that I was diagnosed with bursitis and arthritis in my sore hip. I've only run a few times since my last race and start physical therapy on Monday. I took off almost 20 years of running, mostly to have babies, and now I feel like I threw away the gift of that time. If I don't get better, I don't see how I can continue, it isn't fun to run with constant pain. 

But after having my short pity party, I realize how truly blessed I am. My connection to the world was resolved with just tightening a loose connection on my modem. My van is fixable and we can afford to make that repair. My hip seems to be improving a bit and, even if I could never run again, I can always take up swimming to stay in shape. My husband loves me, my children are all well (except for Julia Ellen's minor fever), and I have food in the pantry. There are many people who are caring for sick loved ones, millions of people don't have a job, and many more are worried about how to pay the bills. Today there are almost a hundred families in Colorado standing by a hospital bed or mourning the loss of their loved one. The only thing I can give is to offer up my pain for them, for the survivors to be given peace and have the strength to recover physically and emotionally from this massacre and for the souls of those who have been killed.    

stocking up on school supplies

It is the middle of summer, time for trips to the lake, dropping off kids at camp, swimming lessons, certainly not time to think about backpacks and notebooks, but now is the time to act if I don't want to spend a fortune on school supplies. Our local big box office supply store is Staples and they are running some great loss leaders on all the things I need this fall. When I combine that with my teacher discount card and a 15% off back to school card I bought for $10, the floor of my schoolroom is filling up with bags of gear. The big kid's school apparently does not come out with lists until the first day, by the time all the sales are over, but I can guess what items they will need and buy now. I already bought all their uniform needs at the school consignment sale last month, so all I need left are some cool lunchboxes (Maggie doesn't want to borrow her little sister's pink Hello Kitty one) and a year's worth of mechanical pencils.

Friday, July 13, 2012

curling up with a good mystery

I'd like to think that the folks who work in the Bangor Library's children's department think of our family with fondness. After all, we are likely the family with the most consistent attendance as well as sheer volume of books checked out, but more than that, we return our books within the two week checkout window. Wednesday, when we were standing at the counter I was told that one of my selections was actually on hold by someone else, but it was accidentally put on the shelf. He said that I needed to return it within two weeks, but I assured him that I would do so by Friday at the latest. The murder mystery, Death of a Kingfisher, was one by my favorite authors, M.C. Beaton, and sure enough, I had it finished within several hours of returning home that evening. If you like non-gory mysteries with a share of humor then you will like the Hamish MacBeth series that spans over 20 books and goes back at least that many years. Featuring a local copper in rural Scotland, this series is just the thing to curl up with on a rainy afternoon with a cup of tea and a plate of cookies. 

The other new mystery series I enjoy also has a new title out, Aunt Dimity & the Village Witch, by Nancy Atherton. The heroine is an active mother of twin boys living in a village in England, which has an unusually large number of murders and mysteries considering its diminutive size. The author does make a point of promoting the moral equivalency of paganism and homosexuality, but the overall story is well written and just I ignore those bits.

So, these two novels will go back in the book drop bin this morning after dropping off Charlie on his last day of science day camp.He has been having such a grand time building things, making new friends, and taking things apart that he has said, "Thank you Mommy for signing me up for science camp," every afternoon after I have picked him up. Maggie has also been at camp again this week and was even on the TV news a few days ago (look for the pink hat). I wouldn't have known a thing about it, but the librarian mentioned it and pulled it up on her computer so we could watch her dance and sing, practicing for the big show next weekend.

Monday, July 09, 2012

product endorsement

Up here in Maine we have two seasons: snow season and bug season. The first flying critters out to eat you are black flies, which leave bloody welts on the neck and head. They usually last until about Father's Day, when the deer flies and mosquitoes appear. Deer flies are nasty critters who circle the head in an attempt to drive a person insane and then land on the back of the arm for a nasty bite. The only respite from all these bugs is the first frost in early October. While Maine summers are lovely and much enjoyed, there is one thing to be said for the colder months: there aren't any bugs.  

 A few weeks ago I was at the local hardware store and noticed a product near the register specifically to address this problem called Deer Fly Strips. Made by a local, this super sticky strip of what looks like packing tape has pheromones sprayed on it to attract the pests to come a little closer. Once their wings or feet touch the glue, they are stuck. In just a few hours of wearing my hat in the garden and on the front porch, I had collected 7 deer flies on the back of my hat, all frantically buzzing in an attempt to become free. Since all they wanted to do was take a chunk out of my skin, I felt no pity for the creatures. Perhaps I sound a little callous, but St. Francis never lived in Maine and saw his 3 year old's neck covered in welts from "Brother bug". I've gone back to the house to collect my hat to work in the garden and look forward to wearing it for a trail hike planned later this week. It is a little gruesome seeing out baseball hats in a a row with carcasses stuck all over,but it sure does make going outside in Maine during the summer a lot more pleasant.  

Saturday, July 07, 2012

reason # 567

Yesterday I stopped by the fish market to pick up a haddock and scallop casserole for supper followed by the grocery store for dessert. My total at Hannaford came to $17.76.

"How appropriate," I said. 
The cashier, a young woman said, "Huh?"
"The total bill, how appropriate that it is 1776." She still looked at me like I had 2 heads. 
"You know, the Declaration of Independence, the 4th of July," I explained.
"Oh, I never knew the year or anything," was her reply. 
And then it just slipped out, "You went to public school, didn't you?"
"Yeah, Hampden Academy."
"And that is why I homeschool my kids," I replied before I gathered up my bags and walked out. 

Too harsh, I'm sure. But I'll move hell and high water before I send my kids to a school where graduates don't know the date of the birthday of our nation.  

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Walter Hunt 3K

Up here in Maine, the 4th of July means parades, picnics, trips to the lake, fireworks in the backyard (now that they are legal, thank you Gov. LePage) or in town, and the annual race between Brewer and Bangor just before the parade. I took Mary, Maggie, and Charlie to compete and with my hip still a little sore (I figured out that it was from changing chairs in front of my sewing machine making my body do some weird contortion to step on the foot pedal, a true quilting injury) I wasn't expecting much performance-wise. I ran the first mile in 5:58, finishing in 12:02, 17 seconds faster than last year, but another middle-age lady passed me in the last 10 seconds, so I didn't win my age bracket. The kids didn't do so hot, Charlie even got sick during the last portion of the race. We did get to see the entire parade while walking back to the car. The rest of the afternoon will be spent resting followed by corn and watermelon for dinner and at dusk fireworks in the front yard. 

Bangor Daily News article about race, my finish is at 2:24 on the video. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

gardening fail

To say that I'm disappointed by Fedco seeds is an understatement. I thought I was being efficient by purchasing all my garden plants from the same place, but while I was happy with the quality of their trees, raspberries, potatoes, onions, and asparagus I bought this spring, about half the seeds I bought were defective. Only a few of the flower seeds I started in little pots sprouted and none of their broccoli, sunflower, or corn came up, even after planting new seed after it was evident the first sowing didn't sprout. Many of the pumpkin seeds didn't sprout either and it being the beginning of July, it is too late to buy seed from another source and start again. 

Luckily we do have plenty of carrots, broccoli (Burpee), onions, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and lettuce. Instead of being able to eat sweet corn 10 minutes after picking and being able to put bags and bags of pureed pumpkin in my freezer, I'll have to buy both vegetables from the farmer's market. Next winter I will buy some more raspberry plants and fruit trees from Fedco, I'll go back to buying my seed from Johnny's Select Seeds, a Maine company with a sterling reputation.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

you think it is hot?

Try running 10 miles in it. 

I swear, you would think that it never got above 50 degrees in Maine in the summer by listening to people's conversations today. The line in front of Gifford's ice cream shop (some great ice cream, made right here in Skowhegan, Maine) had at least 10 people standing in line all day. 

But little old me, with a hurt hip all week, rose at 5am to drive to Bucksport to run my 2nd Tour de Lac, the 3rd oldest road race in the state. I prepared for the race by overdosing on Motrin and rubbing 5 layers of Icy-Hot on said hip. Luckily there were 5 water stops along the course since I took one gulp at each and dumped the rest right on my head. I almost quit at mile 3, but found my groove and then started slowing down around mile 6, but the last 2 miles I was dragging. Final time: 1:19:31, a 7:58/mile pace. I have never been so glad to finish a race, but the best part was that the outdoor pool opened up early just for us and we could swim in our race clothes (I brought a change of clothes, but no bathing suit) before the awards were announced. The cool water just sucked every degree of heat right out of my muscles, it was just lovely. I won a jar of homemade blackberry jelly for winning my age bracket. 

Next race is the pre-4th of July parade race on Wednesday in Bangor. The 2 mile course has thousands of spectators lining the route, but with no pool to plunge into afterwards, it could be a very sweaty walk back to the car. If Giffords is open on the 4th, I will take the kids there for ice cream afterwards, no matter how long the line.