You know you're in Maine when...

you know you're in Maine when....

you see more Subarus than every other car combined,
the sun rises long before Al Roker has to leave for work,
you find a dozen lobster roll stands for every one hot dog stand.

you know you're in Maine when...
your kids can't stop smiling
and neither can you.
even when it rains (and pours), 
yep, still smiling, just
seeking shelter near the Big Boot
or watching the white caps from the window,
the endless entertainment of a stormy sea.

you know you're in Maine when...
the shore doubles as a jungle gym,
 and an impromptu portrait setting,
 and a peacemaker.
(what is it about the Atlantic--
be it crashing against sand or rock-- 
that silences the bickering?)
I have no idea how that magic trick works,
only that it does,
and that I believe in taking full advantage
of the magic.

Friends, from Maine or from away, want to play along? Fill in the blank in the comments....
You know you're in Maine when....
(you've been away from home nearly two weeks and barely notice)


If joy has a face

Joy has a face, and I've seen it here, stared shamelessly at it for three days straight.

It's here, in the curl of toes against sand, in the filling and dumping of buckets, in the matching twinkle of ocean and ocean blue eyes. There it is.

When they use the waves like a jump rope, hopping their way to high tide, there it is. When their voices hit the highest glee and their arms flail like a lopsided windmill, when they run in, then out, then back again, oh, there it is.

Three days of sunshine and beach--and this alongside a kindred spirit--and it is all too much. I have no words and way too many pictures. And while I stare at the 200+ pictures I took in the past 72 hours, the only thing I can think is...

If joy had a face, then there it is.


Running with the Gulls (and other Maine attractions)

We left the Adirondacks, counting farms for the whole of Highway 12. When the turnpike forced me to choose a direction and an EZ Pass lane, I signaled east, then north toward "All Maine Points". Wave after wave hit me, and this all before we even smelled the salt of the Atlantic. How is it that we could travel further and further from home, only to feel it so much closer?

I should have warned my Facebook friends that I'd turn into an over-poster this week. It's just that everything feels newsworthy, monumental, amazing.

Our very first morning back in Maine, the sun sat up at before 5 a.m., not a cloud or curtain around to hide it. I rubbed my eyes, wondered why I still felt so tired. Until I looked at my watch and wondered no more. I threw covers over the kids' heads, shushed the sea gulls and implored the kids to sleep a bit more.

But by 7:30, there was no chance we'd be anything but wide awake, so we grabbed sweatshirts and headed north to chase the tide to the furthest edge of the sandbar. Only our first morning, and the moon had quite literally aligned to give me an encore of my favorite Maine memory.

 The kids picked up jagged shells and deemed them treasures.  They played tag with the sea gulls, and deemed themselves winners (though they were "It" for the duration of the game).

I promised them when we moved away last summer. I promised them we'd go back.

And here we are, smelling like saltwater and sunscreen. Here we are, planning dinner around ice cream. Here we are. And keeping a promise never felt so sweet.

We're back.


How many days 'till we go back?

Six months ago, when Caed found out Nana and Papa had booked a summer reunion at our favorite lodge, he said, "Oh man, it's like a dream come true! Better than Disneyland! Better than anything!" 
And with four months left to go, he began a countdown. Every morning on the way to school he'd ask, "How many days to the lodge?" And slowly my answer slid from 122 days to next week. On day T minus 30, he created a book about the lodge with pages listing the names of the cousins attending, a countdown for crossing out, and lyrics to a new song he and Dani would sing once we were on our way.

We sang it on Tuesday. He put me in charge of the echo. Here we go, rocking and rolling, to the lodge (to the lodge)...


As we drove away yesterday, I asked him if it was everything he'd hoped it would be.

"Yes," he smiled. "Do you think there's a lodge like that in heaven?"

"I do." I returned his grin in the rearview mirror. "Except without the mosquitoes." 

"Good." He settled back into his booster. "I was hoping that."
"Oh, and Mom? How many days 'till we go back there?"


The Lodge

Today we paddled and splashed and jumped,
found turtles and tadpoles,
caught fish and whiffle balls.

We ran into lakes, out of bug spray and time,
served peach pie and volleyballs,
turned a hammock into a swing,
a moment into a memory.

Fifteen--14 and under--that's the latest math.
And we set the tables for 25.
Yes, I said tables as in plural.
So you shouldn't judge me for using paper plates
when it's my turn to cook dinner.
Okay? Okay.

Tomorrow we will
catch more fish
and buy more bug spray
and swim and paddle and jump
and be a family ( a big one).
And there's even talk of s'mores
and flashlights and
a dance party.

And even if I forget (again) to take pictures,
we will remember
the feel of the carved wood table we crowded around,
the sound of the tree frogs at sunset,
the squeeze of the go-to hiding spot,
and these looks, these unforgettable looks on our faces.


Busy, but Good

I've always been a bit irritated by people who answer "Oh busy, so busy! Busy, but good!" when you ask them how they are.

But guess what? I'm officially one of those people.

Which makes me slightly irritated with myself. I flipped my wall calendar to June a minute ago. And that's not the only task I'm eight days behind on.

But I'm not going to fight it. I'm standing with my back to the water while a thirty foot swell of emotion rolls in behind. And if the last day of first grade doesn't completely knock me over, the first day of summer will. Surf's up. And what else is there to do but hang on?

It's just a bit busy right now.


But good.


Surprise, surprise

For the past few weeks, I've hosted the same thought in a hundred different settings: Wow, it starts out, this is so simple, so sweet, so good. 

Open windows blowing fresh air over the stale mess of indoors.
Laundry time with Dani, her play-by-play proclamations on each garment, "Matcheene wash warm!"
Grabbing hands to cross the street, four people and a family wide.
Father-son whiffle ball games.
My six year old inventor, "fixing" the clothes line with a stick and a half dozen clothes pins.
And old dog who still shakes her entire hiney when she wags her tail--a tennis ball always to blame.
My now-more-gangly-than-pudgy (not so) littles who still act like lap babies, who beg to stay up for one more inning, then beg to be carried up to bed.
A runner's high, which feels an awful lot like the mother-finally-gets-a-moment-of-peace high, which now that I think about it, is probably why the feeling lasts the full six miles.

Every day, I reach in and every day--be it at the bottom of the hours with the sun long hidden, or the top of the morning as the sun first waves--every day I find a prize. And what's amazing to me now isn't how grand the prize is or how hard I worked to get it, but exactly the opposite. It's how the smallest of moments feel so special, and how it has nothing to do with achievement and everything to do with love.


I turned around this morning to see last summer

Photo by Thecleopatra
Last summer rolled into town piled high with sturdy cardboard, flimsy faith and gallons of paint. The rickety-wheeled months promised anything but a smooth ride, and I dreaded the mid-June morning when I'd have to hop on that wagon. I knew it would take me through seven weeks of single parenting, my husband 800 miles away. I knew I'd pass by a dozen goodbyes, none of them I wanted to say.  There would be nothing routine in this summer migration, no pre-dawn runs before a lazy day at the beach, no CSA, no canning and freezing for the winter, no camping, and weeks living without a single picture on the wall. Late-night packing would replace late-night writing, and I'd pack four boxes for every post I published.

But we had to get on board. So I pulled the five year old close, the three year old, too. We pressed palms together and wrapped fingers tight, and no 800-mile-wide Red Rover was going to break that grip. We jumped.

The first week in Ohio I swallowed back more anxious, Oh God what have we done? thoughts than I did calories. I lost faith, and five pounds along with it. But as the weeks edged on, His grace covered my weakness like new paint on the dingy walls of our rental house. It took no less than three coats of grace and Glad Yellow paint, but the faith, I gained it all back, and then some. The pounds, too. And the walls wore their glad layers well.

Hindsight is my favorite way to see God working, and sometimes my only way. I'm practically blind in the middle and at the start, it's true. But let me travel a year toward that same horizon, then turn around to see where He led me, and I trade dread for marvel. I shake head in wonder instead of fists in doubt.

I turned around this morning to see last summer. And I cried, this time not for the grief in leaving, but for the grace in His leading, one summer to the next.

"Looking back, you know you had to bring me through. 
All that I was 
so afraid of, 
though I questioned the sky, 
now I see why 
I had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view. 
Looking back, I see the lead of love."
-Caedmon's Call, Lead of Love

Linked today with Emily for Imperfect Prose.

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