Sunday, December 01, 2013

the end of the blog?

Maybe the life of an average blog is 9 years, only because it won't load any more pictures. I thought I was being judicious in my use of photos, but after trying for several days to load some snaps into my post about my latest quilt projects, it just won't. I'll try on another computer and if that doesn't work then I guess I'll have to switch to WordPress. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

do bad things always come in 3's?

This past weekend was chock-full, busy as could be and in ways I didn't expect. At the beginning of the year I printed out the Sub5 schedule and put it on my fridge to keep track of my points for the series. I also wrote on the calender all the races in the series so I didn't double-book, one has to prioritize and this year's races were close to the top of that list. Last year I should have learned my lesson when the Pumpkin run in Blue Hill was erroneously marked on one list as a Saturday and on another as the next day. The same thing occurred this year with the Turkey Trot and I was the only soul prepping and driving up to Brewer for the race last Sunday afternoon. However, I did manage to show up again yesterday with Maggie and Charlie in tow to run in tights, gloves, and hats to fight the bitterly cold 24 F day with head winds for the last 1.5 miles. 

It was a brutal run, but we quickly got warmed up and changed to drive to Orono for a piano concert I had bought tickets for months ago. Unfortunately, after missing out on the awards for the race to make the concert, I found at Will Call that they had no record of my purchase. I was so angry after having to rearrange Mass attendance, the misinformation about the race, and then being subjected to the snobby women in the ticket office telling me that I needed to buy more tickets to get in, that I just gathered our things and walked out. We got some hot cocoa and a little supper and went home to recover. However, when we were driving down our road I noticed red flashing lights beside our house. 

The town fire engine was there and I imagined the worst: injured child, the back of our house burnt down... a mother's mind can so quickly panic. After I pulled on a heavy coat I went out to discover that Tim had put the supposedly dead ashes from the wood boiler in the woods and they had spontaneously ignited and charred about 30 feet of brush. Apparently he hadn't learned his lesson either since he set fire to the compost bin last year doing the exact same thing. 

So, after one cross country banquet, one group piano lesson, one showing of Catching Fire with 15 8th graders, one road race, one non-attended concert, and one trip from the Fire Department, I'm really hoping Thanksgiving will be calm and peaceful with no drama.     

Saturday, November 16, 2013

back on track

All this past week I taped up my ankle and headed out for a run. My injury left me unable to work off all the extra calories I eat and my pants were starting to feel a little tight. Monday I ran 5 miles and by Thursday I was up to 10 miles. My foot is purple along the outside and is still a bit swollen, but with the Turkey Trot tomorrow, I didn't want to attempt it without some training. 

My gear has undergone a change with the shift downward in temperature: tights, gloves, winter shirt, and a blaze orange hat so I don't get mistaken for a running deer. Every fall I think about poor Mrs. Karen Wood from Hermon who was shot in her own backyard by a hunter 25 years ago. Because of that tragedy, laws have been changed dramatically in terms of hunters having to see what they are aiming for as well as educating the public about wearing orange when outside in November. Her death likely has contributed to the saving of hundreds of lives, which might give comfort to her family in some small way. As the winter progresses I will have to add more layers as well as grips on the bottom of my shoes. But running every day gives me a chance to be outside in the beautiful Maine countryside and be able to eat what I like without worrying about the wardrobe consequences.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

children learn at their own pace

We are having some issues with outside activities such as Cub Scouts and church due to homeschooling. It isn't that they discriminate against us because we teach our youngest at home, but they don't know what to do with a child who isn't in the proper age/grade slot compared to his peers. Timmy has had a very difficult time learning to read and is finally showing signs of speed and accuracy after starting his readers over again three times. We didn't start first grade until last January and are now in the final days of that grade. So he could be technically classified as being in the first or second grade depending on the subject and/or time spent on the enrolled curriculum; having a summer birthday doesn't clarify the situation. For activities I have placed him in 2nd grade and figure that it is better for me to demand that he be treated as such rather than let that decision be left up to someone else. Timmy will learn to read and do it well because he is a smart little boy and he lives in a family of readers and no amount of trying to hurry that along for someone else is going to work.    

Friday, November 08, 2013

more time to quilt

With  not being able to run, Tim running the big kids to school this week in the morning and the babysitter picking them up in the afternoon, I've had 3 extra hours a day to rest my ankle and make some progress on the long list of quilting projects I have accumulated. The swelling has gone down considerably, and I have moved from crutches to the velcro cast. It takes much less time to go up the stairs, but coming down is still a little difficult.

I finished sewing all 168 string pieced white/cream blocks for my Jamestown Landing quilt.

I finished up a blue star top, which will go to one of the boys. I love this pattern since it showcases great fabrics and goes together very easily.

I trimmed all 100 of my patriotic Log Cabin blocks and started putting them together with blue sashing and little white stars in the center. The points require 1 1/8th inch squares and very precise piecing. I've assembled 4 of the bigger units, so only 21 left to go. I' am really enjoying the pinning and sewing of each large block and seeing each little star come together. This might be one of those quilts I am loathe to part from, but I already promised it for the school auction in May.


Monday, November 04, 2013

DNF: did not finish

I have run my last trail race and I wish that I hadn't. My friend Shane was right in how treacherous yesterday's course was and I managed to fall twice. There were many opportunities to fall, slip, go right off the side of the mountain, and I waited until 2.5 miles into the 4.2 mile course to trip over something and go down wrong on my ankle. After taking off my shoe and sock I sat quietly until Maggie came along the path and got up to continue on. However, at the very end of the race, with only 1/10th of a mile left, I tripped on a root and hit the deck. I asked the next runner to send back help and with a burly man holding me upright, hobbled to the school to get some ice. I managed to drive home, thankful I wasn't driving the standard shift Jeep, and made french toast for the crew before I succumbed to the pain and lay down on the bed for the rest of the evening. Tim took the day off from work and it looks like, with my ankle swollen to 3 times its normal size that we are going to hit the ER later today.
So, my lesson for the day is, after 3 trail races this year, and 4 falls, I'm not suited for this sport and will stick to races on nice, level, non bumpy roads. Hopefully my foot will be back to normal by the Turkey Trot in 2 weeks, where I still hope to bring home the Thanksgiving dinner main course as a prize. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

another trail race, another fall

Maybe if I ran a sedate 10min/mile pace I wouldn't have these calamities, but today I ran the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust trail race, 6.3 miles and took a tumble. The race went up a mountain so steep that I was walking the last bit to the top and then down on single track paths that would have suited a mountain goat. At the bottom of the first mountain as my friend Dave was catching up, I slipped and lost all the Gobstoppers in my fist (my shorts didn't have pockets) as I hit the dirt. Luckily I didn't hit any rocks and my only injury was a tiny cut on my palm. I was sure that we were mostly finished, but his handy GPS said we had only run 3.2 miles at that point. We ran a little flat piece and then up another large hill and flew down some wide paths to the end. I finished 3rd for the women with a 8:11 pace. The second race in the trail series is next week, a 4 miler that supposedly is even more hair-raising than this one. I can't wait.

Friday, October 25, 2013

stiching overtime

I finished up my 3rd unfinished challenge project a few weeks ago, a king-sized star quilt for my sister-in-law's Christmas present. I did show her the quilt as well as the beach glass modern one I had in the state show and let her pick which one she wanted. She chose this one that I quilted in a large overall teardrop pattern, which was fun and easy to do. I think I really like doing overall designs that some think you can only achieve on a long-arm machine. 

 For Christmas I am also making Julia Ellen a pink twin size quilt made from a Bonnie Hunter book I bought before taking her class this past spring. The Turkey Trot blocks and border are string pieced, using up every bit of pink scrap I owned as well as a lot of pinks in my stash. Every few days for the past 3 weeks, Julia Ellen has asked, "Are you working on my quilt?" Yes, dear, and now the top is complete and almost ready to quilt. 

My next project is to quilt Maggie's purple and white top, all basted and purple thread purchased. I think I will attempt a vine and spiral overall design. I still have a long list of quilts to work on, including the school auction quilt due in May and our guild's row by row quilts we are working on over the course of the winter and spring, but I'm making progress.    

Monday, October 21, 2013

speedy kids

I am so proud of Maggie for her efforts this year in cross country. She has been an encouragement to her teammates and a natural leader, despite being only a 5th grader. Last week the girls won the Inland Schools Championship and Maggie was one of several girls who broke the previous 5th grade mile pace of 7:15. She and Charlie got up on Sunday morning to compete in the Black Bear 5K, knowing they could run 3 miles well (they both did phenomenally well in the Harvest Run 5K after running the 1 mile race). Both kids placed 2nd in their age brackets. I came in 2nd overall for women (21:11) so we came home with numerous University of Maine t-shirts and backpacks. Charlie has 11 points in his age group in the Sub5 series, despite competing against 19 year olds. I am very glad that I have such great kids who want to be outside, away from the TV, and sharing a sport I so love.    

Saturday, October 19, 2013


That is the number of eggs we have collected from our chickens during October and we still have another 12 days to go. The lights go on in the coop at 3am so they think that there is 15 hours of daylight and will not go into a molt and stop laying. Every morning I go out about 6:30 with a bucket of fresh water and my Italian egg basket that I bought 13 years ago in anticipation of this task. I pour some crumbles in the outside feeder, refill the water, throw a handful of buckwheat in the run, and let the girls out for the day. Most days I gather the first eggs and let the children go periodically down to the coop to gather the 4-5 eggs that are produced later in the morning. 

What have we been doing with almost a dozen eggs a day? Boiled, fried on toast, or poached is now standard breakfast, and then I went through the Betty Crocker Cookbook and made a list of all the yummy dishes that require many eggs. Quiche, french toast, pumpkin bread, and almond pound cake are among the favorites. Maggie loves to make cookies so we have been eating lots of chocolate chip, chocolate crinkles, and snickerdoodles. But we still have lots of eggs, dozens of eggs, so I'm taking them to school on Fridays to sell. Hopefully I can build up a steady clientele who want farm fresh eggs to reduce our stock and the school gets a little extra in the petty cash drawer. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

busy week

Last week the children's auntie came for a visit to Maine and somehow we managed to not only attend 2 soccer games, 2 cross country meets, 2 road races, but also took the little kids on 3 field trips. We suspended school Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to visit Moose Point State Park, the town of Belfast, and Fort Knox. While we didn't see any moose, we did see cormorants, a great blue heron, a lobsterman pulling up his catch, and several photogenic children (oh, we brought those with us). Belfast's candy store has expanded to a soda fountain, where Cheryl and I came out eating pistachio and salted carmel ice cream cones. The kids brought their flashlights to see in all the dark corners of the never-completed structure in Bucksport, designed to protect the surrounding area from the British. 

The last Saturday in September Maggie, Charlie, and I ran a 4K in Blue Hill, where all 3 of us won our age brackets. My legs hurt for days afterwards due to my blistering 6:02 pace. Then this past Saturday we were joined by Timmy and Mary to participate in the Harvest Run, benefiting the girl's school. I won overall for women, Maggie won her age bracket for the 5K, and both Charlie and Maggie ran both the 1 mile and the longer race. For the past several days my knees have been hurting, I guess running on wet grass isn't good. Now things are settling down to normal with both sports finishing up in the next few weeks and no races until Oct 20th.    

Friday, September 20, 2013

mini me

Maggie was in her first cross country met on Tuesday, coming in 3rd place overall with a 8:08/mile pace. The course was wet grass with lots of standing water and mud, though afterwards she said she "could" have run it faster. Yesterday was the second meet on a tough wooded course with lots of rocks and roots and even a small stream to jump over, but she improved her pace to 7:56/mile, coming in 7th place. For the team it was the story of "the little Catholic school that could" as the girls won both meets, over much bigger schools with almost as many kids in each grade as we have in the entire K-8th grade. This youth sports experience is the best I've ever seen with kids who are cheering each other on as well as other teams, a prayer before each race, a coach who is really great with the kids and keeps parents informed, and parents and teachers who come out to support the the school. I'm surprised at how well Maggie is doing as she hasn't been very enthusiastic the past year or two about races. But she is finding it much more fun running with a bunch of friends, ice cream practices, and being on a team competing against girls from other schools.

Friday, September 13, 2013

our golden eggs

Although our chickens are now 4 months old, and technically 2 months shy of when they are supposed to start laying, I went out Wednesday mid-morning to check on the girls and found two eggs tucked in the hay in one of the nesting boxes.Tim claims that he has calculated how much each egg is worth based on how much we have spent on housing and fencing them in and that they are worth more than their weight in gold.

We celebrated their achievement by having scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast for supper. Both eggs were double-yolked, one tiny and the other super-elongated. Apparently, the first few eggs each chicken produces are a little off in terms of shape and size, but soon we will be making lots of cookies and pound cake with our very own farm-fresh eggs.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

a warning

Never go into a chicken yard with flip flops and painted toenails. 'Cause chickens go wild over blueberries, crazy wild. I almost had to bean one on the head with my compost bucket to keep her from pecking my poor feet. 

Yes, I have very spoiled birdies, every morning I throw in their pen a few handfuls of Sungold cherry tomatoes, the Japanese Beetles I find on the raspberry plants, and any fruit I would otherwise throw in the compost bin. The kids and I also feed them clover leaves one by one through the fence like we are at the petting zoo. I certainly feel like a real farmer every morning, having to don my rubber boots and take them fresh water and feed. They don't peck my toes then, no matter how blue they are in color.  

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

labor day race results

After pouring up until twenty minutes before the race began, I stepped up to the starting line in damp shoes and socks and ran one of the best races of my life. I stuck like glue to Robin, my only real age-group competition this year, for the first two miles, and then pulled in front right before Goat Path, a gravel and sand track that seems to go straight up. The humidity was high, but I kept a steady sub-7 minute pace to finish in 34:17, coming in 5th place among women and winning the master's award.

I get a kick out of surprising people when I tell them that I have 6 kids, but it still shocks me every time I do well in a race too. I only run about 35 miles a week and have to stop and walk during runs when it is hot/humid. Running is something that gives me strength and mental toughness, something every mommy of many needs to get through each day.   

Thursday, August 29, 2013

not risking it

Last night Charlie, Maggie, and I got in the car to go to the last track workout of the summer. We turned around when, halfway there, lightening flashed and the rain started in earnest. "I'm not willing to die to gain a few seconds," I said when the kids started to protest. So, I didn't get to run yesterday, but I did double up on Monday with 5 miles at lunchtime and a fast 6 mile group run that evening, followed by a few cocktails at the Sea Dog. 

I did well enough on Saturday (21:23) to bring home a free pair of New Balance shoes and hope that my missed day won't throw me off too much at the Labor Day 5 miler. Last year I ran it in 35:40, so I'm not shooting for a PR.   

Friday, August 23, 2013

sewing up a storm

I thought I was beating the competition (the other ladies in my quilt guild) by bringing in this quilt to show and tell earlier this month, but then in an email I found that 2 of the ladies have finished all 3 projects, well ahead of the December deadline. 

So, this morning after Mary's riding lesson, the girls and I bought backing for my 3rd project, a star quilt I've got to baste and quilt before Christmas. I haven't been exactly slacking off, since I've already made notebook covers for the girl's teachers for gifts... 

and all 100 blocks for the school's auction quilt...

 (this is the photo from the magazine pattern, only I'm doing it in King size)

I had  thought about entering some projects in the Blue Hill Fair, but with Will starting school on Monday and the girls starting the following week, I'm a bit overwhelmed and don't really feel a strong desire to drive 2 hours round trip just to drop off quilts for judging. Instead, I'll sit on the glider with a wonderful view of fields and garden that Tim and I got for a wedding present 17 years ago and of which I finally managed to make a cushion and pillows.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

gearing up and slowing down

Every week for the past month I have looked over the office supply store ad and circled super deals such as notebook paper and tissues for $0.01 each. My schoolroom now has stacks of supplies for each older child according to their (demands) list sent out by their schools. I guess I didn't realize how cheap homeschooling is until I was attempting to find every item needed and ended up spending hundreds of dollars on double sided tape, specially colored binders, and colored 4x6 index cards. We always just used cheap notebooks, dollar store pencils, and Crayola thin markers on sale at Walmart for $1. So, while the older ones are getting ready to start school, my youngest son has been doing schoolwork all summer....  

Late on Friday afternoon I called the counseling department of Seton, the homeschool curriculum we use. "I need some reassurance that I am doing the right thing by cutting back with my 5th child." I explained that Timmy had just turned 7 and was reading one painful word at a time. "Words like 'and', 'this', 'some', and 'know' take at least a minute to figure out. I'm getting a headache every day from banging my head against the wall in frustration!" I told the lady that my older boys also had a tough and long road on their way to reading prowess, and that Timmy had sort of fallen through the cracks in the past due to me having to spend so much time with the older children's schooling. "This past year was good, he has made a lot of progress, but it seems to be one step forward 3 steps back, some weeks."

She definitely agreed that he was young to be going into 2nd grade and the benefit of homeschooling was that the child can progress at his own rate. "Don't push it," she said. So I put away the reader and over the past week we have done 1 page of math, 2 pages of phonics, and 1 spelling lesson each day. His attitude has improved and the reading aloud he does do for phonics is faster and more confident than before. We will finish these three subjects before going back to the Faith and Freedom readers (a Catholic version of Dick and Jane). I will start some 2nd grade subjects in a few weeks, but not enroll him until he is completely finished with everything from this year. It doesn't matter how long it takes him to learn to read and subtract properly as long as he does get them eventually with as few tears shed as possible.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

hold on tight!

The ride for the next two weeks is going to be very bumpy. We still are doing summer activities such as swimming lessons and riding lessons, but now the coaches of fall sports are gearing up with soccer camp and group runs for cross country. Will was taken back to camp for the last time, his 8th week, and the Union Fair starts Sunday with rides, cotton candy, and my once-a-year dinner of a steak bomb and a Coke. On several days I'm just going to have to pick which kid is going to be disappointed, I can't physically be in 3 places at the same time. 

Tim was subjected to some of this over-scheduling induced stress this weekend while I was up at the County Half Marathon. Friday he had to pick up the girls at camp, an hour round trip and then on Saturday drop off the little boys at sailing (30 minutes south), pick up Will at camp (45 minutes northeast), drop off Will at sailing, come home and pick up Julia Ellen and take her to sailing for the picnic, and then back home. My 13 mile run may have been less mentally exhausting, but did leave me so tired that I slept 11 hours straight on Saturday night. I was the 5th female finisher with a time of 1:41, beating my old half PR by 4 minutes, and winning $50.  

Monday, August 05, 2013

in a time warp?

Will is at his 6th week of camp, Mary and Maggie got dropped off yesterday at their camp, and so I am, for 5 days, back to being a mom of 3 children, all under the age of 10. The boys have sailing this week from 9-12, so for several hours each day I will only have one 4 year old directly in my care. I could say that it is like going back in a time machine to 2004, the last time I had 3 kids, but I was pregnant with Charlie, so it doesn't really compare. 

I don't know when I'm going to get to run this week and with a big 13.1 mile race staring me in the face on Saturday, I better figure something out fast. But for today, I'll enjoy not having to threaten anyone to get them out of bed, not having to yell to get everyone to practice the piano (Charlie is compliant in that venue), and not having anyone ask me in a wheedling tone if they can get on my computer. I'm sure it has always been difficult to be a parent who expects more than the average from their children, especially with a large brood, but sometimes the constant criticism from the grandstands as well as the griping from the younger set wears me down.     

Thursday, August 01, 2013

computer free summer

Since Will has been at Boy Scout camp as a CIT for 6 weeks now, with 2 weeks left, my stress level has been much lower than anytime in the past year. It isn't due to not liking my child, but the fact that I haven't had a teenage boy harassing me every day about being able to get on the computer or not doing anything else because he won't get off. The big kid's school let them take home Mac Books and an evening didn't go by that we weren't fighting with him over time-wasting games such as MineCraft. Mary didn't seem to have as many issues as her brother, but I'm glad that they supposedly won't be able to bring them home this upcoming year. The little boys got sucked in to the world of computer games as well, but after something happened that crashed my hard drive and required replacement, I haven't let them on my laptop. The result has been them attempting to watch more movies downstairs, which led me to then confiscate the DVD player. 

We live on a beautiful farm in Maine, full of fields of flowers, homemade tree houses with rope ladders, woods to explore, chickens to chase, and a garage full of roller blades, bicycles, games, and wood scraps with which to build stuff. Summer is short and before they know it the snow will be falling and the opportunity of warm days to spend outside in shorts and flip-flops will be over for the year. Maybe I'll get the mean mommy award for trying to keep them outside and away from electronic devices, but they will have many more good memories if they do something, rather than stare at a screen.   

Saturday, July 27, 2013

my trick worked again

Back in early May I took an all day quilt class and then got up early again to race and did very well. Yesterday morning I got up early, drove 25 minutes down the road, and had to turn around because I forgot the little table that slides onto my sewing machine. But then I drove like the devil to Augusta and made it to my Intro to Modern Quilting class only 5 minutes late. After spending the day sewing this wall hanging, 

wandering around looking at quilts (including my entry), and driving home, I got up early this morning for my previous least favorite race in the Sub5 series. 

I have never done well in the Bucksport Bay Festival 5K, but today, perhaps due to my semi-relaxing day yesterday, I finished in 2nd place overall, with a time of 20:53, a 6:44/mile pace. I was all set to give it up to my friend Lisa, but then I decided that all those Wednesday evening track workouts would have then gone to waste, so I poured it on and flew that last quarter mile. The next race on my schedule is the County Half Marathon, waaaay up in northern Maine. I'm certainly going to run much slower August 10th, even if the weather cooperates and the scenery lives up to my high expectations.   

Monday, July 22, 2013

a week off from regular life

This past week my dad and his wife came and visited us. I've never really been close to my father since we haven't lived in the same house since I was 5, but I have to say that this was our best visit yet. Tim took a few days off and we went swimming off the boat at Swan Lake as well as Craig Pond. 

Philomena kept me company several times during my 3X day trip down to the fruit trees to knock off Japanese beetles into a bucket before they ate every leaf to nothing. They took each of the big girls out for some shopping and lunch and we spent every evening sitting on the porch admiring the view, chatting, and indulging in adult beverages. One night we went to the lobster pound for an evening of good food, gorgeous views, 

and conversation that mostly consisted of, "Children put that crustacean down!"

It was a good week, but I fell off the wagon in terms of running, partly because of not wanting to disappear for several hours, but also because it has been so blasted hot. Maine is not supposed to be 90F, especially for more than 3 days. The combination of heat and high humidity means that garden has been growing madly and my diligence with the bucket means that the Japanese beetles are almost gone much to the chickens' culinary chagrin. But since I have a 5K on Saturday and a 1/2 marathon in 2 weeks, I better have my feet hit the pavement more often and lay off the booze if I want a decent performance.     

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Carnival of Homeschooling

One of the beauties of homeschooling is the opportunity to educate a child as well as help form their character. Those of us who have taught our own children from their earliest years through 8th grade, or even all the way to 12th grade graduation, know that this is a long, and sometimes arduous process. One of my hobbies is quilting, a useful art that transforms fabric into a beautiful object that can warm the body and soul for a lifetime. It takes a great deal of time and perseverance to make a quilt, just as it does to teach a child to read, write, count, and slowly learn to think and reason.

First you select yardage of fabric in your favorite colors, wash it, press it, and cut it according to the pattern selected. There are many homeschooling curriculum choices available from traditional, to classical, to unschooling.    

Jamie at Time 4 Learning boosts our enthusiasm with 5 Steps to Planning An Awesome Homeschool Year.

Jennifer at Time 4 Learning shares a video that poses the possibility of an addition to the English language in The 27th Letter of the Alphabet?

Julie at Brave Writer gives us good advice with 10 tips for homeschool newbies

Hire A Nanny shares many links in 25 Blogs to Think About Before Committing to Homeschooling. (I didn't look at each link, so I can't guarantee what you will find)

Tiffany at As For My House writes about homeschooling ethics in Seeing the Right and Wrong in Used Curriculum.
Then you piece together the blocks, using a 1/4" seam, pressing after each step. My educational philosophy of little steps repeated frequently has worked in teaching 5 children to love to read, play the piano, and memorize the times tables, just as using an iron correctly leads to properly squared and sized blocks.

 Mrs. White at The Legacy of Home shares with us a beautiful summer day in Homeschooling With Grandbaby. 

Shalynne at Wonderfully Chaotic gives us pictures and the recipe for Easy and Cheap Summer Bubble Blowers. 

Christina shares with us her philosophical musings in Weeding at Home Spun Juggling. 

Pamela at Zesty Mom reminds us to take time for fun in Summertime: 3 Ways to Keep the Living Easy.  

Chris at Home School vs Public School shares some more ideas for keeping the kids busy and learning in Summer Learning.

Once the blocks are completed, they are sewn together, using sashing to separate them and a border if it is desired. As a child masters the basics, they can progress on to more complicated and difficult subjects that help round out their intellect.

Annette at A Net in Time Schooling gives us a step-by-step how to in Building an Indoor Ant Colony.
Annie Kate of Tea Time with Annie Kate give us the blow-by-blow of letting her daughter bake her own dessert in Miss 9's Lemon Meringue Pie.

Ann at Harvest Moon by Hand shares with us a detailed art study with her two daughters in Artist/Picture Study-Georgia O'Keefe.

Jodi at Magical Mouse Schoolhouse gives us tips on visiting Disney when it rains in Magical Blogorail Yellow: It's Raining, It's Pouring!

Amy at Hope Is The Word shares some fabulous art work of her kids with Kaleidoscope Painting. 

The quilt is basted with batting and a backing and then quilted for beauty and to provide stability. A binding is sewn around the outside to keep it from unraveling, and finally a label is tacked onto the backside to show who made it and when it was completed.

Erik reminds us of our goal at A Guide to Great Kids with his post: What Do We Want to Accomplish as Parents?

Elena at My Domestic Church gives us the blow-by-blow of dealing with the bureaucrats in How to take the GED in Akron, Ohio if you are under 19 and a homeschooler.

Henry at Why Homeschool shares his daughter's summary of her summer in A report from my youngest daughter.

Of course we hope that a person who graduates from high school or college never really "finishes" their education, but continues learning their whole life. Just as a quilt is completed and the quilter goes on to another project, a homeschooling parent or child can go on to another phase of life and learning after they receive their diploma. My 10 year old daughter Maggie is currently making her own quilt after finding a simple pattern.

I'm cutting the pieces since I would rather she not cut off her finger, but she is doing everything else. Perhaps one day she will also teach her own children, not only how to quilt, but how to read and think, and be contributors to the world around them. 

Thank you for reading the Carnival, if I have missed your submission please accept my apologies. We are off this morning to enjoy another lovely Maine summer day at the pond with our company from North Carolina. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

4th of July disaster

When I attempted to swing by the library prior to Thursday's race from Brewer to Bangor to drop off a tote bag full of books, we were thwarted by road barricades. "I guess they have decided to close off the roads really early for the parade,"I thought. But as the 10:45 race start loomed closer, I found out that there was a different reason for the road closure. A man in Bangor decided to shoot off 70 rounds in his apartment and after a 4 hour standoff with police, only emerged after they used tear gas to smoke him out. 

Due to this "incident," the race and parade route were changed and shortened, which we found out 2 minutes before the race began. I didn't know exactly where the race was to go or how long it would be, but ran a 5:45 first mile and only started to be passed on the bridge. I guess I could have run a bit faster, but a 9:10 time was good enough to give me 5th place overall and 1st in my age bracket. Mary, Maggie, Charlie, and I walked back along the parade route, watching the floats and slapping hands with Governor LePage. 

It wasn't until the next morning, when I went on the Bangor Daily News website to find the details about the shooter that I read with horror about the accident that occurred after we left the ending point of the race. An antique fire engine lost brake power on the sharp turn and decline where the parade was rerouted and ran into the 1940's John Deere tractor, driven by Wallace Fenlason . He was thrown off the tractor and crushed under the fire engine. I found out yesterday that our babysitter and her whole family saw the accident. 5 days later, I still get teary-eyed when I think about how this poor man, who just wanted to share his love of America, Maine, and antique tractors with the crowd, lost his life. Our prayers go out to his family and friends as well as the fireman driving the truck.

Monday, July 08, 2013

chickens and veggies getting bigger every day

This year's garden was planned much better than previously, I staked each row of crops and tied a string across to designate exactly where the seeds were planted, I put bird netting over the corn right after I planted it to keep the crows off, and put up sturdy fencing to contain the pea plants. The first two improvements worked like they were supposed to, but the pea plants grew much more than I expected and ended up pulling the poultry netting down to the ground by their weight. Likely too late, I tied them all up with taller stakes and string,but I doubt the pea crop is going to produce enough peas to keep my children happy all winter. Two of the beds are dedicated to raspberries, hopefully one day producing enough to make at least a raspberry pie or two after I eat my fill of fresh berries.

The chickens are growing like weeds, gobbling down their crumbles as well as all the cottage cheese I put out on a paper plate in their yard. They also like watermelon rinds, eating all the red fruit in just a few hours. Tim built them a proper gate and has now decided, after seeing a predator slinking around, to rebuild the fence with cedar posts instead of metal ones. 

My morning routine begins with "the girls" when I go out to let them outside, give them fresh water, and top off their food. I'm trying not to think about how, 6 months from now, I will be pulling on wool socks, boots, and a thick coat to do these same chores, but enjoying the idyllic experience of walking across the yard in my nightgown and Crocs each warm summer morning.     

Monday, July 01, 2013

vacation bible school exhaustion

Last week was filled with getting everyone up and out the door to sing, dance, do crafts, and learn about Saints with a "kingdom rock" theme. Timmy, Charlie, and Maggie had a great time going from station to station in the heat and then the cold, and then the rain, but Julia Ellen was plumb overwhelmed. The first day she ran out to the van, with her teenage crew leaders following, locked herself in, and wouldn't come out until I arrived and ordered her out. Even after a few days of not clinging to my leg every time she spotted me in the hall, on Friday she locked herself in the bathroom stall. Luckily her sister Mary was a crew leader for another group of preschoolers and was able to help the sweet girls in charge of my youngest. But the daily schedule of games and snack with 170 other children wore my crew out so much that a few took naps in the afternoon and had to be woken up for supper.

Luckily the long days didn't affect my running and I took 3rd place in the 10 mile Tour de Lac in Bucksport on Saturday. Since it had been so hot, I bought myself a fancy shirt I saw advertised in a running magazine that reacts with your sweat to cool your skin. Perhaps it worked, but since it was misting the entire race the heat wasn't much of a factor overall. I ran a little faster than my 7:30/mile pace during the first 8 miles, but started to fade by the end. Maybe it was the training, maybe my new shirt, but somehow I beat my PR by 30 seconds. The next race in the series is Thursday, a downhill 3K that precedes the 4th of July parade from Brewer to Bangor.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

why do I do this to myself?

Summer is supposed to be down-time, a season of being able to relax with a cool drink on the front porch while watching the children play tag and basketball knock-out. Instead, I have signed up the children for activities that require me to be a logistical master and be in the car for at least an hour each day. No, it isn't that bad, but Tuesdays are going to be a little tricky. Charlie finished school for the year yesterday, but Mary has about 30 minutes worth of work in English and Math, while Timmy is still progressing through first grade (1 hour's worth). Then I have to get the four oldest to practice the piano each day. They all have lessons on Tuesday afternoons, but I can't leave all 4 at once because they would not just sit quietly and read during the other's lessons, so I have to take 2 down to the library to wait their turn. Maggie and Julia Ellen have swimming lessons in the next town starting later in the afternoon, so my schedule looks like this: 

get up, dressed, start laundry, tidy house, take care of chickens... starting at 6
get children up, dressed, teeth brushed starting at 8
school with Mary and Timmy at 9
stand over children with a stick to practice starting at 10
get some sewing done, work in garden 
go run when babysitter arrives at 12 
herd everyone to the car at 2:15
drop off 2 children at piano, 2 children at library, go back home for 1 hour
pick up Maggie and drive to swimming lessons at 3:45
finish swimming lessons at 5:30
race home and fix dinner
tidy house, bathe children, and put everyone in bed by 8:30

Tim picked everyone else up at the library after work and was shooting model rockets with Charlie in the front field when I can home with a van full of groceries. (note to self: getting to the commissary 7 minutes before they close does not make for a pleasant shopping experience) The boys have swimming lessons on Thursday afternoons, and I still have to call Lisa about scheduling riding lessons for the big girls and Charlie. Luckily Will leaves for camp on Saturday, leaving me with only 5 children at home for the next month. The rest of the week seems to be filling fast with doctor's appointments, birthday parties, and such, leaving me with little time to sit on the porch with my glass of iced tea. But this is only the first week of summer and I'm sure I can somehow squeeze in trips to the pond and other fun hot weather activities that make Maine such a wonderful place to live.     

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

UFO challenge

For our first summer meeting all the members of my local quilt guild brought in 3 unfinished projects (UFOs) that have been collecting dust in our sewing rooms. Some were finished tops, some were assorted blocks in a basket, and some were kits with fabric washed and pressed, still in the bag. Our goal is to have them finished by our Christmas party with the incentive of $5 gift cards from Mardens, a local salvage shop with a huge fabric department, and a chance to win a $25 gift card as well. My first of the 3 projects is a red, white, and blue throw size top I worked on while 7 months pregnant with Julia Ellen, trying to make the time go by faster. My goal is to donate it to a veteran at Togus VA hospital in Augusta. My second project is a huge quilt top with blue stars on white background that I would like to make as a gift. The Bonnie Hunter quilt that I was planning on making for my dear SIL has 1000 blocks and since I have finished 50 so far, I think that might not happen this year. My third project is a tote bag we started at a guild meeting a few months ago, and since I didn't have a clue as to how to make a box bottom or make handles, I was stuck. After a lot of help last night after the massive show and tell of everyone's projects, I finished my tote this morning. The only problem was that I somehow turned the lining upside down and my inside pocket was facing the bottom of the bag. I guess I didn't want a pocket in there after all since I would have had to undo almost everything to get it put right. 

I do like how the bag turned out, I might try to make another, this time with black and white fabrics and a red cuff, but making sure that the darned pocket is facing up.     

Friday, June 14, 2013

cleaned up big time

On Saturday morning it was cool and raining like the dickens, but I had signed everyone up for the Garelick Milk Run in Bangor. Tim and Julia Ellen stayed at home, but the rest of the crew were still game to run a mile downhill as fast as they could. Charlie came in 3rd overall in the family run (7:05) with Will close behind, followed by Timmy, Maggie, and then Mary. I followed in the competitive run with a time of 6:04. Timmy won $25 from Hannaford, Maggie won a water bottle, and I won a cooler of dairy products, and that was just from the door prize drawing. The local outdoors store, Epic Sports, always gives gift certificates, so Charlie got $15, I got $25, and we won the family category, netting us another $45. With our winnings I bought the girls new Speedo bathing suits (the most modest suits I can find locally), and Charlie's birthday cake. 

There are a lot of local races in the next two weeks, everyone keeps asking me to join them, but I'm taking a little rest and doing my prep work for the Tour de Lac 10 miler at the end of June. The prizes there aren't monetary, but Margaret's homemade raspberry jam prizes are worth the effort. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

wrapping up the school year, sort of

Will officially graduated from 8th grade last night and the girls only have to attend class until Friday, but school is still going on at home. 

Charlie only has about 1 week's worth of English left as well as CAT testing, but we just started a new biography of Robert Goddard from the Childhood of Famous Americans series and began reading Treasure Island aloud. 

Since Timmy didn't officially start 1st grade until January, he obviously isn't going to be finishing his work anytime soon, but I'm not worried about intruding on his summer vacation, his work only takes 1 hour per day max. Mary and I decided that she could use a little 8th grade prep work this summer in grammar and math so we will be doing that for about 30 minutes a day. 

Add to that workload swimming, piano, and riding lessons and it will already be a jam-packed summer, but I'll still cram in races, gardening, taking care of my chickens, and finishing up some quilting projects.

Monday, June 10, 2013

little chickens

Our chicks are not yellow fuzzy, down-covered balls anymore, but are skittish, gawky birds with cinnamon colored feathers coming in and huge feet. After buying a full sized galvanized waterer and feeder, I took them out of the box brooder and let them out in the coop, blocking off the doorway with a board so they won't fall out when someone opens the door. Will and I made a small outside enclosure for them and let them explore the great wide world for a few hours each day. However, they are skinnier than I anticipated and can escape through the crack between the stake and the coop wall, as well as over the top of the 3 foot high fence, so my design needs to be improved significantly. 

I am finding the birds to be soothing, they make good company when I need to escape from the barnyard atmosphere of my house with 6 children bickering and cackling constantly. The chickens are also amusing to watch, I gave them a scoop of cottage cheese (part of our winnings at the Garelick Milk Run) and after a short period of hesitation, they began to peck and run off with curds to the corners of the coop to gulp down. They stepped in the white mound, pooped in it, and when I came back in 30 minutes, the paper plate was completely bare. The chicks startle easily, instinct against predators means that any noise, be it the door opening, a scrape of the stool against the floor, or a loud burp, sends the creatures into a deep freeze, not moving or making a sound for 10 seconds or so when one bird gets tired of standing at attention and goes back to the regular business of eating, drinking, pooping, and scratching in the litter.

Originally I wanted to name all the birds after flowers, but since they all look exactly alike, I think I'll just call them all Buttercup and be done with it. 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

hot race results

Last weekend I had my first night away from the children, other than hospital visits to produce for them another sibling, in 9 years. Friday night I ate dinner at a fancy-shmancy restaurant in Ellsworth all by myself. I ordered shrimp jambalaya and had the prettiest plate of chocolate mousse I have ever seen with 3 scoops lined up with whipped cream and a different berry on top of each, raspberry sauce swirling about the edges. I wish I had taken a picture, but I left my camera at home. I further regretted leaving it behind when I drove past town and saw the raw beauty of Hancock and Washington Counties on my way to the motel in Machias.

Route 1 swooped through tiny picturesque towns and continuously skirted postcard-worthy views of water, islands, and conifers. The next morning I woke to a super hot day, for Maine that is, of 85F and I drove on another 45 minutes east to Pembroke, where the Cobscook 10K would take place. Since I was so early, I drove the course and took in the view at the end of a side road, which literally ended on the gravel beach. If I hadn't been driving the Jeep, I would likely still be there trying to extricate my vehicle, but it was the loveliest place I had been in a long time, fog hovering over the water with islands of stiff hemlocks and fir trees rising out of the mist.

Until the director called us to the starting line all the runners were standing on the west side of nearby buildings, knowing that we would be overheated well before we hit the only bit of shade on the course. Of course that was when the hills began and the road changed to gravel, adding to our misery. This was an endurance race rather than one to be enjoyed, my time (49:55) was 5 minutes slower than my last 10K, run only a month before. Afterwards, I staggered to the shade of the tent, where someone kept passing me slices of watermelon and bottles of water until I was able to sit upright. After the big picnic, complete with salmon, hamburgers, and dozens of desserts/salads, I drove on to Eastport, the easternmost city in the US, and to Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the easternmost point in the US, before returning to my motel and hitting the shower and bed by 7pm. 

This weekend's race is not only shorter, a 1 mile downhill sprint, but cooler by 10+ degrees. As Saturday is predicted to rain heavily, I am being flexible as to who I end up taking with me. Also, my goal of breaking 6 minutes might have to be postponed for a year, I would rather not take any chances on slipping and falling just for vanity's sake.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I guess this is living in Maine

It is the day after Memorial Day and not only did we have to wear coats to Mass on Sunday, sweatshirts outside on Monday (luckily it finally stopped raining), we woke up to see frost coating the grass this morning. The corn and tomatoes still have to be planted so I didn't lose anything, but it is disconcerting, knowing how short the summer season is here. 

Our chicks are doing well, their little wing feathers are growing and they all seem to be happy and content little birds. We have tried to give them a few little things to supplement their crumble feed and to entertain them, but so far the only thing they really enjoy are worms. Since it was raining for 3 days straight, it was easy to walk along the driveway with a bucket and scoop up worms who attempted to escape the soggy soil. They were dropped one at a time into the brooder, where one chick would pick it up and run around and around with the worm dangling from her beak. Other chicks would join in the chase, tugging and stretching the helpless worm in an attempt to snatch it for herself. Finally, the creature would be pulled into smaller chunks and swallowed. Out of all the children, Timmy thought this the most hysterical and could have sat there for an hour watching the chick's antics. I hope this experience does not transform my most gentle child into a bloodthirsty maniac, but I doubt it. It wasn't as if he fed them worm after worm after worm, I think 8 was the limit for the entire day after I warned him that too many would make the baby birds sick to their tummies.      

Saturday, May 25, 2013

we're real farmers now

Yesterday, while a friend brought the big kids home from school and Charlie was at his piano lesson, the two little kids and I drove up to Holden. The feed store had called an hour before to say, "The chicks are here! Do you want 5 extras?" Our 17 new baby Golden Buffs were put in little boxes for their transport home, each child carrying one carefully by the handle and base as we walked across the wet field. We had the chicken coop placed on the far side of the garden because that was the most level spot and wouldn't be upwind from the house, but it is a long trek, as I'm finding out. We lined the box with paper towels and shavings, filled their waterer and feeder and gently placed each bird in their new brooder under the warm light. 

Today's weather is a repeat of Friday: cold, windy, and rainy- more reminiscent of late March than the cusp of June. However, the children didn't seem to mind as they pulled on rubber boots again and again to run out and see the chicks every hour. So far Julia Ellen has been good, but a little demanding that she get to hold the baby birds. I will hold the door key to their coop in reserve if she disobeys and goes out to "visit" without me. As I told the little ones, the chicks are only 1, and now 2 days old and are very delicate. 

I too, am very excited about our new acquisitions and was worried last night if they were too warm or too cold and what I would find this morning when I went to change the bedding and water. But my fears were relieved, when at 5:15am, they were all cheeping and busy eating and drinking. Who knows what we are going to do with the eggs from 17 laying hens, but since I won't have to deal with that for months and months, I won't fret about it now. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

school auction night

Last night I sprayed on more hairspray than a Georgia beauty pageant contestant to hold my curls in the humidity, donned my only fancy dress and pearls, and attended the older children’s Catholic school auction.

There are several fundraising events throughout the year, but the big one is the 3 part auction with raffle ticket items, silent big items, and the live auction big prizes. Every family donates something and all the classes make a project in addition to the dozens of baskets of merchandise donated by local businesses. A few months ago I made a queen size quilt and was surprised to find that it was part of the live auction.  Not very intelligently, I realized last night that I didn't take a picture of the completed quilt, just the top.

While our trusty babysitter played games and fed the children at home, Tim and I chatted with friends, put down bids, and dropped raffle tickets in various bags. The auction was still going at 9:30pm and I asked a friend to bid on the quilt and I would buy it from her if it didn’t go above my minimum, as I didn’t want it to sell for less than I paid for materials. But right before we were to leave the quilt came up for bids and I was pleasantly surprised to see a bidding war ensue, with a final price of $400. So, even though we didn’t go home with anything since Tim’s bid of $50 for a John Deere toy tractor was trumped at the last minute and our raffle numbers were never called, we did our part to ensure a quality Catholic education for the students for another year.      

Thursday, May 09, 2013

lost and found

Now that we live in one house and are not bouncing from one state to another several times a year I don't misplace half the things I used to. "I guess we left the piano books behind in Maine, I'll have to get the neighbor to pick them up and mail them back to Virginia." I jettisoned many duplicate items that we didn't need, giving them to the thrift store. But we still live in a big house (my guess is about 3200 square feet) and there are 8 people living in it, most of whom tend to lose items on a daily basis. Apparently as Mommy, I am required to keep a mental inventory of every item within these 4 walls, no matter how small. I am asked, sometimes every hour, where a pair of earrings could be, where Geraldine the giraffe has been left behind, where a certain camping item would be found. The other trick I am supposed to have down pat is a running mental list of everyone's consumables, such as shampoo and soap and replenish them without any notification. I really hate being accused of running out of something the evening after I hit the commissary for my weekly shop. 

Most of the time I can easily find whatever a person is looking for as I keep the house pretty tidy, but this morning turned into complete chaos, not for the first time, when a child couldn't find a certain essential bit of their school uniform. Usually the children wear their fancier attire on Wednesday when they walk over to the church for Mass, but since today is a Holy Day of Obligation it was switched. At 6:30am Mary started screeching that her oxford cloth shirt was missing. We searched everywhere, including through the four closets, under the beds, and in pretty much every room of the house. No shirt and since we didn't have a duplicate, she wore Will's uniform dress shirt to school. (By the way, this level of freaking out NEVER happened during our years of homeschooling, in fact Mary often did her schoolwork in her pajamas) After the boys finished their studies this morning, I again started looking for the missing shirt, finally finding it stuffed in Charlie's dresser drawer. 

This must be the week for finding lost items, so far I have found a missing digital camera, a pair of $60 Felco pruners I thought had been lost in the woods for 2 years, and some pictures of the girls from last year's ballet recital. Now the only thing I have to worry about finding is my sanity if I am asked one more time today to hunt for something.