Weighing the Years

A few mornings back, Caed grabbed my hand, walked me to the bathroom scale and said, "C'mon Mom! Let's see how old I am!"

He stepped on the scale, which quickly returned his weight age.
"Wow, I'm four and zero (40). That's like a hundred thirty nine sixty thousand!"

All I can say is, I can't believe I've lived this long!

Some days age weighs me down. Gravity has all the chips at the poker table, and my tired old knees can't even ante up enough to go for a run. Other days I wake up immensely grateful not to be in high school. I am much more comfortable in my 30-something freckles than I was at twelve and twenty.

If life was remote controllable and I could push rewind or play, I'd choose forward motion every time, even if it meant a slower pace, veins that pop out, and a mountain range of wrinkles on my knuckles.

Actually, now that I think about it, if I really did live on DVD, I might like to use that pause button every now and then. Not so much for me and my laugh lines, but so I could just sit and watch and soak in the story line of my two favorite (youthful!) characters.
So what button(s) would you push if the remote control for your life presented itself?


On S'mores and Summer Nights

The scents of bug spray and smoke are still keeping me company as I type, now two hours later. Even the bite of blueberry cobbler I just stole hasn't overpowered the bitter DEET taste on the tip of my tongue. And my hair. Lord have mercy, I smell like a chain smoker.

But these are the best kind of stinky smells.

Aunt Robin bought pink marshmallows and Uncle Stym built a cracklin' hot fire.

"Did you know the pink ones aren't really strawberry?" I heard Caed inform his cousin. "They are just white ones with food colorin' in it. My mom won't buy them cuz they taste the same as the white ones."

He added, "But I can't wait to try one of those pink ones YOUR mom bought!"
We worked hard at making this memory. We planned around the weather--multiple times. We went grocery shopping. We set up a tent, borrowed a fire pit. We salvaged wood and built a fire. We carried the chairs, rid the yard of dog doo, repelled the bugs, stoked the fire, roasted the marshmallows. All for the sake of s'mores and story time by the fire.

It was worth it.

But have you ever noticed how we describe the preparation and maintenance and clean up of the aftermath in terms of hours, while the eating of s'mores and exploring of rocky shores get assigned only moments?

It seems we have to work so hard for these sweet memorable moments. And in a flash they're over, and our hands are sticky, and we smell so bad that even the deer flies leave us alone.
But maybe that's part of what makes these moments so special. Because we work so hard for them. Because there are precious few of them. Because they run away so quickly, uncatchable, leaving us perpetually It, reminding us there are no tag backs.

Whatever the case, wouldn't you agree these sweet, fleeting moments we crown worthy of memory are so very worth the chase?

And of course this is linked to Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped. Are you sensing a pattern? Yes, I pretty much do this EVERY week. But I can stop anytime I want, really, I can!


I See a Blueberry Cobbler in Our Future

Well, it seems that every year since the dawn of the blog, I write a post about blueberry picking. And why should this year be any different?

But first, I would like to point out that nine-month old Molly is a body language prodigy. Not only has she perfected the Stink Eye, as demonstrated in the photo below, but she has mastered the high five and the fist bump (thanks to cousin Caed's dutiful tutelage). I love how her Stink Eye pose simultaneously asks "What you talkin' about Willis?" and "You wanna piece o' me?"
Pictured below, Grace and Caed remembering to count their blueberries before they eat them. (Note: Grace tried very hard to adhere to her rule of "pick five, eat two", but judging from the buckets she turned in, I'm guessing it was more like "pick three, eat three, pretend to bring some over to the big container, sneak a tremendous mouthful".)
Now this next picture cracked me up. Because folks, if this isn't a candid, then I don't know what is. Pretend these are little bubble clouds of thought, left to right:
Glory: "I think I'm gonna be sick."
Grace: "Here, Caed, just a few more. Remember we can pick two and eat five."
Caed: "I can't even LOOK at another blueberry."
Dani: "Would you believe this is the same blueberry I've been carrying around for fifteen minutes? I don't really do fruit, so this is more of an accessory."

We returned with nearly eight pounds of sweet Maine blueberries. Even little Sal's mother would have to agree that's a whole lotta blueberries!

So tomorrow, I think we'll host an impromptu blueberry pancake breakfast. All proceeds will go to the Make a Face Foundation, founded of course by Molly, the face-making prodigy, in an effort to raise awareness about how special she is and about how much she loves pancakes.


Adventures in Ferry Boating

First of all, my sister Robin and I deserve an award for getting our brood out of the house before 8:30 a.m. In lieu of awards, we'd take some coffee, chocolate or ice cream (or a combination thereof). Okay, okay. It was reward enough just to see the smiles on our children's faces when we boarded the ferry boat. (No. That's a lie. We still want a mocha frappe.)

To get us going in the right direction, Caed and Glory volunteered to consult the map of Funtown Splashtown they picked up in the Casco Bay Ferry terminal. They discussed the route to Peaks Island at length, "No, this is scaryworld. And over here is castleplace. And we should check out that sliding thingy. Wait, I think we need to gooooo....THIS WAY!"

Once aboard the ferry, we took our seats at the tip top of the ship and Glory held on to her newest BFF (purely for safety reasons, of course).And because the whole reason you sit at the tip top is for the views, I'm sure no one is going to blame me for taking some pictures. Besides, it's entirely possible Robin took these while I was living in the moment, right?

(Okay, the truth is, Robin was preoccupied with keeping her girls from climbing on the railings because apparently, they wouldn't have minded going for a swim. And Robin, being the good mother that she is, told them to scoot way back, that is, after she got a few good pictures of them near the railing).

Here's a view of the fair city from which we departed.

And of our morning's destination:

And here's the blurriest picture you'll ever see of the Portland Head Light paired with the clearest view of the Spring Point Ledge lighthouse. What, you've never heard of the Spring Point Ledge lighthouse? Yeah, I hadn't either. I had to google it.So once we deboarded the ferry boat, we headed straight for the local beach. It was a cozy, gentle beach, perfectly suited for its home on Peaks Island.

Once the kids were thoroughly warned on the excursion-ending consquences of submerging their whole bodies in the water, we let them run off to chase gulls, throw shells and flirt with the surf. Robin took some more fantastic photos, but my back side was in them again, and so they didn't make the cut. After all, this blog is supposed to be about the children, not nomination material for What Not to Wear.
Snack time on the rocks was our opportunity to get a picture of the cousins all looking and smiling. Between my sis and I, we probably made a hundred attempts. And one turned out. That sounds about right as probabilities go, right?

So, are you tired of all these family adventure style blog posts by now? Well, too bad. Because there are probably more coming. And just like we told the kids who desparately wanted to put their whole selves in the frigid water, "You can't always get what you want.....But if you try sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need!"

And in that case, I sincerely hope that what I need is a Mocha Frappe.

So, what's your weekend hold? Any big adventures planned? Or perhaps just some trips out for coffee and/or ice cream?


Absolute Happiness, Relative-ly Speaking

Could I get a tall glass of gorgeous life, on the rocks, please? Oh, and don't forget a big chubby helping of happy.
Whoa, you guys! Wait for me! How am I gonna be in the moment with you if you keep leaving me in the dust, huh?
So I gave my sister the camera, and apparently she thought that was her cue to take a million pictures of my back side. Why I'm even posting some of them is beyond me. But I do know the reason for this next photo. I thought it was cute that the kids were waving to a crowd of Harley riders at Fort Williams, who were so very sweet to wave and yell back with surprising enthusiasm. (Is it okay to refer to Harley riders as "sweet"? I think so. I mean, Sherri and Big Al are Harley riders, and is anyone sweeter than Sherri?)
The cousins are getting along beautifully. Caed and Grace have paired up in their affinity for adventure and imaginative play. (Remind me to tell you the story about how Quiet Time turned into Must Save the Planets & The Entire Universe From Destruction Time).

And even Dani has found it within her heart to welcome her cousins with open arms. In fact, she has been following Glory around like a puppy dog, calling her "Monny" (she's just not a fan of Gs, Ls and Rs) and insisting that Glory sleep in her room, use one of her blankets, and generally be her BFF.

I was also predicting a total meltdown once Dani discovered that "the baby" (aka Molly) was using her old pack-n-play, and went to great lengths of stealthiness to hide the crib usage from my territorial toddler. So you can imagine my surprise when Dani proudly announced tonight as she slipped her foot into her jammies, "The baby s'eeps in MY cwib and I s'eep in my big gu'l bed. I s'aring wid da baby!"

Well. Who's a big girl now?


The White Elephant Gift

There are entire days when my camera is there, but my heart isn't. I apply the sunscreen and bug spray and weather appropriate attire, but I do not apply myself.

I am watching but not seeing. I am calling out but not communicating.

I teach Caed to play PIG and I throw the game so we can wash up, get to bed, close eyes and mouths. I am wandering in thought to nine o'clock when it is only seven.

I am spent, and I want to be alone. And it's not even about the day being hard. It wasn't. I woke up wanting to be alone.

This is the truth I don't like admitting.

Last night my husband said, "You like to take pictures and tell stories, but sometimes that comes at the expense of the moment. You're there, but you're not there. You're taking the picture, not being in the moment..." He went on to describe (and I paraphrase here because I didn't dare take notes!) that I often sit on the outskirts of experience. I watch and document like a reporter, an outsider. I do not participate full-fledged.

This was by no means a guilt trip. He was simply pointing out the truth. The same truth that I don't like admitting. I guess the word is out whether I admit it or not.

So the gift I unwrap this week is an uncomfortable realization. It is the white elephant gift--the one I pass around and hope someone else takes--but it keeps landing back on me.

I've quoted these words of Jim Elliot to myself a hundred times, "Wherever you are, be all there."

For me, I think that means a little less camera, a little more eye contact. A little less hurrying through it and a little more engaging in it.

It means that the next time we turn on the sprinkler, I put down my camera and let the moment soak in the old fashioned way. By being in it.

Linked up to Tuesdays Unwrapped, where we're challenged to discover gifts in the ordinary, the messy, the unexpected places. (Even the uncomfortable, awkward, white elephant gifts.)


Get the Picture - Take 1

Melissa of A Familiar Path just launched a Using Your Camera (without reading the manual!) series, and today she's asked for a bit of show and tell.

I feel like she's writing this series just for me, seeing as I'm the poster child for the manual-adverse crowd. I'd sooner cuddle up under lamplight with a legal brief than comb through an instruction manual on an electronic device. But alas, I love my little camera, which, as my husband would attest, is constantly set on tourist mode. Which means it chronically flashes and snaps to be point of embarrassing my ever uncooperative subjects.

But thanks to Melissa, I found a few new ways to embarrass my husband capture great photos of my family. Specifically, I benefited from her tutorial on "SCN". I didn't realize SCN stands for "scene", nor did I know my camera has SEVERAL different scene settings. (I know, I get the "Duh Award" for the day).

Now, I have no idea which scene settings were used for these pictures. I just know that I toggled between the "kids and pets", the "beach", and the "night snapshot" SCN settings to capture these shots.

This one reminds me of an 80s era Ralph Lauren ad. Except without the exceptional photographic quality. And the model is much younger. And much cuter.
Ahoy matey!

I am pretty sure I shot this next photo using "beach" mode. The setting sports a graphic of sun and waves to represent the mode, which is an awfully big assumption considering the sun and the beach are not often paired around here. But on this particular day, I was lucky enough to have both sun and beach, and to take a million pictures in that setting. Here is one of them:
I took this last set of pictures at dusk, after bribing encouraging the children to finish their eggplant parmesan in a timely manner, waving the carrot possibility of ice cream in front of their faces.
So thanks, Melissa! Whether or not my photos reflect it, I did learn something new. And I'm looking forward to the next lesson!


Stories in My Pocket: Knowing Smiles (Part 9)

To read from the beginning: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

I power waddled through the outlet mall in search of an Auntie Anne's Original and a cold cup of lemonade. And maybe some summery PJs that I could squeeze into a few hours after delivery. I veered off course to take a closer look at an adorable jean skirt that would have fit nine months ago, longing for the day when I could again wear a garment that wasn't strung out on elastic or overdosed on fabric.

I nearly dumped my drink on the denim temptation when the phone rang.

"Hello?" I fumbled, pretzel butter-fingered.

"So, the results came today. Looks like I won't be starting my clinical rotations anytime soon."

"What? Are you serious? Tell me the truth. Did you really fail?" I panicked, belly tightening.

"Yes. Well, I mean no, I didn't fail and yes, I'm joking. I passed. One down, two to go."

What followed was a happy dance among the chinos, but what probably looked more akin to a crazed pregnant woman practicing labor coping techniques. After Larry had been sufficiently lectured on the hazards of teasing his poor hormonal wife and inducing minor contractions, the phone call ended and the shopping continued.

It was a year and a half later than we'd planned, but the USMLE Step I was finally behind us.

Within a week, my new baby blue PJs made their way to the hospital. I came along too, now perfecting the antithesis of the happy dance. Labor had begun.

Lightning flashed and tornadoes touched down that day. Indoors and happily drugged, I babbled about Phil's disappointing performance in the Ryder Cup and labeled myself on par with the frumpy woman on "What Not to Wear". Oblivious to the pouring rain and branch bullying winds, we tuned in only to the beat of the monitor and the contractions etching from dot matrix into paper-laden zig-zags.

It was a civilized day of labor, nine to five.

One arm in the brace, another locked around mine, he told me I was strong and I was almost done. The hardest part, he said. The hardest part is almost over.

And he was right.

A few minutes later, we watched our son strike a superman pose on his way to a high Apgar score . "Did you see that Jo? He just stretched his arms and legs straight out! Look at this little guy!"

I did. I saw it, along with the spray that spanned four feet and hit his Daddy and the L&D nurse in a two-for-one shot.

We had so many reasons to smile.

We smiled because we were hungry. In visits prior, we were full enough on the pits in our stomach.

We smiled because we could hold hands without wincing, as a family we weren't sure we would ever be. Yet here we were, the three of us.

We smiled because we could still believe, though our spiritual skin was rubbed raw from the grating doubt. Because we could still sing "Blessed be the Name", though our voices were hoarse from lament.

We smiled because we knew that hollowing pain made room for drenching joy that overflowed our depths and splashed out onto our cheeks. Without the carving suffered, there would have been neither room for nor recognition of this precious air gasping, of these lungs crying loud with life.

We smiled because we had lost and grieved and wept and worried, and because we knew the hard part was almost over.

We had so many reasons to smile. And so we did.


You Get All This for Zero Easy Payments! (You're Welcome)

Just a quick reminder that Stories in my Pocket will return tomorrow. And it is likely that this will be the last installment for a little while. So get your story ready to link up before this opportunity passes you by! And if you link now, we'll throw in a few extra site hits absolutely free! That's right, absolutely free. That's no charge to you, not even for shipping and handling. Not even a surcharge for Canada or Hawaii! How can you pass up this never-before-seen-on-TV offer (which incidentally, is still not seen on TV)?
So get ready to link up. It might be your last chance! But no pressure or anything.

For a refresher on the concept behind this series, click here.

Or, you can click here to catch up on all the stories written thus far.

And now, on a totally unrelated note, because I simply can't resist, I present to you the latest facial fashion of the season. It's a great wax-free way to cover those unsightly upper lip hairs, and eliminates all need for lip gloss. Mmmm. Tastes like summer!

Happy Friday!


Peace Out

This morning as we were gearing up to go the beach, I strategically stowed the kids in the car and ran back in the house to grab an extra towel and a few granola bars.

When I came back to the garage a minute later, Dani was screaming at the top of her lungs and Caed was feigning a whiny whimper.

"You guys, what on earth is all this screaming and fussing about?" I questioned.

Caed piped in on behalf of my buckled-in brood, "Well, Dani is screaming because she wants her sandals back on. And I am crying because I just want PEACE!"

Well now, don't we all...

Forget peacemaking talks and peacekeeping troops. If ever there is to be true world peace (or perhaps just garage/vehicle peace), we must abide by one simple yet profound rule of law.

No matter how old, no matter how young: Naps are mandatory.
Peace. Out.



Life is happening faster than I can blog about it. So what do I do? I go wordless and mess with my blog header. (A bit counterproductive, huh?) For more wordless Wednesday, click on back here.


Nature's Penance

She has confessed the drenching of her ways.

She has turned from her dreary path and washed her clouds of it.

She has repented of unseemly darkness, committed anew to shine summer light among men.

And we reap intended blessing from her golden penance.

She makes it easy to forgive.

Today the gift was already unwrapped, spread perfectly across the shore.
And as much I as could write on and on about the beauty of this day, I think it's best to leave it alone in my head, untampered and ever treasured.

For more gifts, be they hiding in shadows or by sunlight laid bare, visit Chatting at the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped.


In Which Vacationland Finally Decides to Live Up to Its Name

Caution: This post may (does!) contain endless drivel about our daily lives. Side effects may include boredom, jealousy, and general malaise. If you are prone to disappointment or suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, this post may not be right for you. Please consult your Browser to find potentially more appropriate reading.

The sun appeared early Thursday morning along with some old friends from Northern Virginia, and we've been going nonstop ever since.

We started our morning at Fort Williams. Note how Caed took charge as the tour guide for the little ladies:

You can blame Kelly for requesting a walking tour of Maine, which will likely be forced upon you in this and the posts to follow. The first order of business is to ensure you know what we mean by Fort Williams.
Yes, that is our very famous lighthouse, referred to as the Portland Headlight. You might also be interested to know that it is a rubbish free park. So be prepared to drive home with those poopy diapers in tow. (Again, just keeping it real --telling you what the mainstream tourbooks won't.)

Friday we joined the entire state of Maine (not to mention a fair bit of Massachusetts) at the beach. After enduring the darkest June since 1903 and the wettest ever on record, I dare say I've never seen so many happy New England faces in one place. This face was no exception:

Saturday morning we said reluctant goodbyes to our friends a couple of hours before we welcomed Nana and Papa to Maine. Then, after serving up a round of catnaps on the house, we set off to Freeport for LL Bean's summer concert series, featuring Dan Zanes.

And again with the smiles....Sheesh!
(I interupt this tour to tell you that Nana and Papa totally rock. They danced through much of the concert with their grandchildren on their shoulders. If that isn't a legacy worth carrying on, I don't know what is. Dance like no one's watching, and like you don't have 35 pounds of dead weight squirming atop your shoulders.)

Sunday was another gorgeous day, so we explored Two Lights State Park, followed by lunch at the Lobster Shack.

So you see, Maine really is "the way life should be", at least for four or five days out of the year!

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