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Friday, June 29, 2012

parade ready

I'm pretty sure there is something called "parade rest" when official people (military?) are marching in a parade. At our house we have the opposite going on.  We are parade ready.

Sandi and I have spent this past week getting ready - she working on the equality video and me organizing and shuffling all our belongings and food into designated piles which will find themselves creatively arranged to fit into our car for a 9 (count them 9!) days away from home.  Between mowing the lawn, trellising the peas, balancing the checkbook, stopping the mail, paying the bills, running all the necessary errands and catching up on stuff than can't go undone for 9 days (9!), PLUS packing, I am now in desperate need of a vacation.

On the video front I want to tell you that I think we have squeezed ourselves into a loop hole that will allow us to post it for everyone to see.  I will do that as soon as I am sure.  Sandi has spent hours she couldn't exactly spare, staying up way too late and getting up too early, to cram the time in to make this really awesome, very powerful video.  I'm incredibly proud of what she has created and I can't wait to share it!!! I swell with pride and emotion every time I watch it. 

I want to tell you about another awesome thing:  Sandi's grandparents, our girls' great-grandparents, who have been married for 60+ years, want to participate in the parade with us.  To me this is no small thing.  For anyone of that generation to be on board, let alone to voice an opinion publically, is significant.  Because they are in their 80s and ambulating would be difficult, Sandi's dad is going to drive them behind us in a car so they can throw candy.

HOW COOL IS THAT????

There are people from this very small community who will be "coming out" for the first time in a public way in their community.  There are straight supporters coming out the woodwork.  There is this massive momentum pushing forward and I have to say, the ride is kind of fun!

Ella is counting down the hours now.  Sandi took this picture of her to end the video with:


So after the parade, we will be heading to Sandi's family's camp- the happiest place we know- for vacation. This means in addition to the sun and the sand and the lake, we will have Sandi to ourselves for 9 days!!!  I am so relieved for her and for us.  We need this time.

And, because momentum is in full swing, we are also going to march in another downeast Maine parade in Machias on the actual Forth of July.  I just went to Target and bought another $20 worth of candy to throw.  And yes, that is against my personal value system, but it's for a good cause.  Plus, I didn't think the kids would be psyched to see individually wrapped carrot sticks sailing toward them.  That's no way to win people over...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

kid sillies

Ella: "When I grow up and am a mom will I be able to drive?"
Me: "Yes, but let's not talk about you getting big and grown up, okay?" 
Ella: "Take it easy Mom.  I'm only 7."

Ella was getting a cavity filled the other day and Maya and I were sitting on the dental chair at her feet holding her hand.  Maya was dutifully stroking Ella's skin, passing gas and exclaiming, "Ella you are doing MAR-BU-LOUS!!!" (marvelous)


All the following are from Ella related to the "how babies are made" discussion:

Ella:  "How do babies come out a woman's belly?"  Explaination given. "I don't think I want to have a baby."

"Really?  You can get seeds from a place?  Like just go and get them?  How do they get the seeds out of the man's body?" Pause.  I said, "Well...they have a process for that."

"What?!  There are real eggs inside my body?  I think Maya doesn't have eggs. I think she has jelly beans."

Maya's favorite show currently is the Fresh Beat Band.  It's about a band made up of 2 boys, 2 girls and their names are Kiki, Marina, Twist and Shout.  Playing the Fresh Beat Band game in the car is currently my least favorite thing to do.  It goes like this:  Maya asks me who I want to be.  I volunteer to be Kiki and play the guitar.  She calls me Kiki while she pretends to be the drum beating Marina in the back seat with her pencils as drumsticks.  I must call her Marina as she will not answer to Maya.  Then she will suddenly say in utter exasperation, "Uggggghhhhh. MOM, I am Twist NOT Marina!!!" and so I call her Twist for a few minutes until she decides that she is, in fact, Kiki.  Wait, I thought I was Kiki?

I tell you, it's a barrel of laughs.

The other night we were having a "family snuggle" and reading books in our big bed.  Maya was displeased with the book we had choosen so she put her feet all over the pages.  She was ousted from the bed but it didn't slow her down.  She ran into her room and returned with a drum.  I said, "Oh no.  Tell me she isn't going to" just in time to hear the pencils touch the taut skin of the drum and Maya shout: "A one, two, three, FOUR!"

Living with Maya is an exercise in patience and near constant hilarity.

The other night Ella was protesting her bed time.  I told her "When you are an adult you can stay up as late as you want to." (Yes, I cringed hearing myself say such a thing.)
Ella: "When I'm a mom I'm going to let my kids stay up as late as they want."
Me (laughing out loud):  "Okay, honey.  Let's talk when you're a mom."

Maya: "Kaylee has influence." (Influenza)

We went out to supper to celebrate the end of the girls' school year and Ella caught site of a waitress at the restaurant who had a blue mohawk and pierced and tatooed all over.  Ella said, "She's pretty."
Wow, have times ever changed.

A while ago Maya and I had been talking about life before her. I had explained that mommy and momma had met and fallen in love and decided to have kids.  She had asked, "Did it hurt?" and it took me a minute to realize she was talking about the "falling" part.

Then came this conversation:
Maya: "Mom, on the Wonder Pets, the ducks had to be saved from the hot lava.  It was so hot that you can't touch it.  Remember when you and Mommy fell in hot lava?"
Me: "What?! No, Mommy and I never fell in hot lava."  Pause.  Think.  "Oh, you mean when we fell in love..."
Maya: "Yes, that is what I meant."

Yesterday, to reward the kids for exemplary behavior I took them to the local bakery and let them pick out whatever they wanted.  Ella choose and eclair.  Maya choose a purple airbrushed flip-flop sugar cookie.  I went next door to the wine store and when we walked in Ella said, "Is this your treat Momma?" Indeed.

We got in the car and Ella was exclaiming about the culinary wonder that is the eclair.  It was the best thing ever.  She was going to get an eclair every time she got to choose a treat.  The filling was more pudding than custard! Oh, the delight of it all- SPLAT.  Out shot the filling all over her lap.

Now I know I could have done a better job teaching her the pitfalls of the eclair. I mean, it isn't as though I haven't been around the block where pastries are concerned.  I tried to help her wipe it up and laugh it off but the tears started.  "This is my favorite shirt!"  "I don't like eclairs! I'm never getting one again.  NEVER EVER!"

Half an hour later I was trying to teach her the merits of laughing stuff off but the sting of the eclair's betrayal was still too fresh.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

summer starter success

I'm not sure that I should publicly boast like this, but I'm going to anyway.

In preparation for the summer, Sandi and I had a long talk about how I would survive.  Having a full understanding of my need for many hours of exercise in a week and needing to pay for childcare to work, it seemed clear I needed a plan so as not to lose my mind in a state of overstimulated frustration, being taken down by bickering children and no capacity to deal.

It is true that I could send my kids to camps or pay my sitter to watch them so I could exercise, but neither of those feel like great options for a family that still has another 16 months to go with only my part-time income.  Plus, it is really important to me as their mom to have a great summer with them.  To me, summer is one of the major building blocks of childhood with day upon fun, carefree day tumbling together in an endless stretch.

That being said, what kids want a bitter, cranky mom schlepping them from fun thing to fun thing?

In order to balance it all I made a few key decisions:

1. I would cancel all scheduled activities. The only schedule I want in the summer is my 1-2 (mostly half) days of work. 

2. I would get up early, as early as it took, to get in some of my exercise.

3. I would keep a calendar for Ella to refer to so she wouldn't ask me 658 times a day what we are doing next.

4. Somehow, someway, the fighting between the girls would stop.

Sandi has to leave between 5:20-5:30 a.m. Monday thru Friday.  She returns home at 4:30-5 and then hits the office to work on care plans for the next day.  She comes out for an hour for dinner and bedtime and then goes back in the office to work and then goes to bed by 9.  We get about 15 minutes to chat before bed.  Allow me to say for the record clinicals sucks way more than the didactic part and the trips to Portland.  At least when she went to Portland, our pantry was stocked with items from Trader Joe's.

Lucky for me the sun is up early these days so I have options.  I get up with her around 4:15 am and go running. 

Easy incentive:

I also informed Ella that she would be going to the gym daycare with me 1-2 days a week so I could take classes. She earns a star (more on that later) if she goes without complaining and she gets to pick her own snack - blatant bribery I'm proud of. 

On Saturday's I get up and go biking with Emilie at 5:15 and set out every box of cereal in the house for the girls so they can let Sandi sleep (dubbed the "cereal buffet"). I find I need at least one day of 2 + hours of hard work exercise. Then I'm home by 7:30 for Sandi to leave for a day of studying. (Honestly, I worry soon that this time won't be enough. After a 35 mile bike ride I feel like I am just getting going. I tell you, I am fit but very high maintenance now.)

I am way past the point of preferring sleep over getting my needs met.  The mornings I get up early to run, I still have time to empty the dishwasher and write or work on the computer before the girls get up.  My days are infinitely happier.

But probably most important to my summer plan was figuring out to get the girls to stop fighting.  By the end of the school year they were embroiled in daily power struggles, often coming to blows.  I had fallen into that despicable parenting grove of just yelling at them to stop yelling at each other.

This is what I did and it is working:  I sat them down and told them that I was looking forward to a fun summer with them, but that we would only be doing the multitude of outings and adventures if they got along.  There would be no swimming, no ice cream, no beach trips for fighting, whiny kids. 

It took a few painful day to enforce the limit.   If they whined, they lost the TV.  If they complained they lost dessert. If they fought, I would cancel a trip or make them earn it back with exemplary behavior conditional to my approval.  I've been sitting with them when they have conflict to help them work it out and teaching them how to walk away when the other is being grouchy.  I'd like to think I'm even teaching them the art of "don't take it personally." I tell them I expect them to be friends and that Ella can't exclude her sister in favor of her friends. 

And you know what?  It is totally working.

The other day the girls got into an altercation while changing into swimsuits in the bathroom.  One had flushed the toilet prematurely on the other and was then smacked in the face.  I gave them one warning and they couldn't stop so I put them in a room together and told them that we wouldn't leave until they made up and came out as friends.  I figure it's better to bond them together against me if I have to.  They came out 30 seconds later holding hands.

Ella told me flat out that it is hard to be this nice to her sister.  We had a long conversation about building habits.  She wanted to go to a late birthday party last week and I told her she could only go if she was good to her sister for the entire two days prior.  An hour before the party, the fatigue of being nice had set in and she snapped at Maya.  Midway through, "MAYA! I told you-" she stopped herself, changed her tone and said, sweetly, "Maya, do you think you could please..."

I almost fell out of my chair.

Part of keeping the calendar for Ella is for my own comfort (I'm not a fan of repeat questions) and to allow her the freedom to occupy some of her own time. I say things to them like, "We are going to the Smith's at 11.  From now until 10:30 you can do what you want with your time."  There are specific TV guidelines so they know not to ask outside of those times.

A beautiful thing called momentum is happening so that now the girls just go off and play together. They make up with games, speak to each other kindly (!),  Ella reads to Maya, they pick out each other's clothes (okay, Ella picks out Maya's clothes) and there is a foreign presence in the house.

I believe it is called PEACE.

One of the other things that is working really well is that Ella is starting to be motivated by money and we are using it to our total advantage.  It was clear to us that she needed to have more control over things in her life (she actually said to us, "I need more control.  You're too bossy.")  She gets a "star" for certain chores and she can choose to do them or not do them.  No haranguing from us- she earns the money or not.   Each star is worth $.25 and the amount accumulated in a week is paid out each Saturday morning with 20% paid to her savings jar and the rest for her to spend as she wishes.  The other day she cleaned her whole room without being asked (normally a torturous event with a great deal of crying) and she earned 4 stars.  You get the idea.  Simple yet transformative.

I went from feeling victim to my kids behavioral patterns to feeling confidently in charge but putting them in charge of their own behavior. 

All of this leaves us time to have fun.  Like having my friend Chris and her daughters over to play:

(I'm getting miles out of this free sprinkler.)








Saturday night potluck campfire brought with it the excitement of morning glory sparklers:
And the disappointment when they burn out.

There was a lot of running with fire, an event normally frowned upon and so enormously enjoyed.

(These pics are so very blurry but I thought they were still kind of fun.)

In honor of the upcoming Olympics...
And I love this one mostly because Reed has his hands down his pants:

Hope you are all having a great start to your summer!  I'm going to go knock on some wood right this minute.

Monday, June 25, 2012

can you help?

I honestly have no idea how many, if any, two-mom or two-dad families read this blog.  But if there are any of you out there, or any couples for that matter, can you lend a hand?

In November the state of Maine will once again have the chance to do the right thing and make marriage equality a reality.  Three years ago our governor had written this civil right into law and in November 2009 a people's veto voted it out .  To say it was heartbreaking would be a gross understatement.  Sandi wrote this piece about the emotional fallout of losing that vote.

To have this issue voted on again a mere three years later feels akin to walking into a butcher shop and offer yourself up for the carving.  I've mostly felt vulnerable and raw about it, unprepared for the attention and criticism directed at couples and families like ours. We are peace loving, vegetarian, lesbians who recycle and don't believe in war so this isn't our most comfortable hour.  And I don't even read the newspaper or watch the news to hear the hate.  I can feel it.  I'm not quite ready to feel it again and have people talking in strong, opinionated tones about my life and my love.

Yet, I'm a fighter and I won't take this vote lying down.  I have to say I am carefully guarding my heart this time, but we have found some ways to add to the cause.  Sandi's amazing aunt, the original Suzanne Carver, is leading a nearly one-woman show in rural, downeast Maine to garnish the vote of some of the more conservative Mainers.  This is a region that was non convinced last time around three years ago. 

Aunt Suzie and we know her is a fiery, determined, imaginative, motivated woman who simply can't stand still in the face of injustice.  She is the kind of woman you would be blessed to have working with you and fearful to have working against you. She, and her husband and their amazing eight-year-old son Noah, have taken on this cause and are bringing the heat.  They have spent countless hours and their own money to create some visibility and awareness at the upcoming Fourth of July celebration in Jonesport/Beals (where Sandi is from), a great platform since everyone in the two towns and many of the surrounding ones, flock to the festivities.

Aunt Suzie has banners, mini rainbow flags, Hershey kisses and lollipops with marriage stickers on them.  They have constructed a float for the grand parade called, "Liberty and Justice for all" and have laminated a picture of our family to put on the back window of their truck and have asked us and any other gay couples or families to walk alongside.  (Want to?)  They are going to pull a flatbed with giant TVs and speakers to broadcast the uplifting, pro-marriage video Sandi and I are making. 

(Can we pause for a moment to fully appreciate the amount of family support we have?  I mean, a hug and a "I love you even if you're gay" would be nice, but banners and candy?  WOW.)

That is where you might come in.  Sandi's vision for the video is to have images of all sorts of different couples, faces that will make the issue more personal to those watching the parade.  Have you ever heard the expression it's easier to hate a group than to hate a person?  There are so many people whose opinion regarding gay marriage is swayed by personal stories. I just had this experience last week with my neighbor.  When he saw the pain this issue caused me and heard me talk about how it will effect our girls, he came back to say that he had changed his mind and would vote for equality in November.

There are so many people in this position. Once they see and hear the individuals that are effected, their hearts and minds open.  The video is set to One Republic's "Marching On" and it is coming along nicely.  The problem is we still need more pictures!!  We've only had about 10 couples/families respond.  Would you be willing to help? We want people from all over, not just Maine.  And if you are not gay (I won't hold it against you) do you have any friends that are?  (I know some of your BEST friends are gay....)  Pics can be emailed to Sandi at scarver@une.edu.  THANK YOU!!!

The video needs to be done by tomorrow so we can overnight ship it to Aunt Suzie.  So if you can help please help now!!  And if you want to march we would LOVE to have you. Downeast coastal Maine is beautiful this time of year. The parade is Saturday June 30th at 6 PM.

As a side note:  since watching the Fourth of July parade last year, Ella has been asking to be in a parade.  I can only guess she gets this from me.  Since we aren't the beauty pageant type and most of the young girls are in the parade for winning a pageant title, we weren't really sure how to make this dream a reality.  But here we are, ready to march as a family.  The two mom thing just keeps on working of us.

Friday, June 22, 2012

the birds and the birds (one of whom is good with a hammer)

It isn't as though we didn't know that eventually we would have to talk to the girls about how they were created.

I guess I just thought we had some more time.  Hopefully it would sound cool and scientific to explain to a ten-year-old that half of her biology was delivered by Fed Ex in a tank of liquid nitrogen whose insides were  minus 320 degrees.

I did not however, picture the birds and the bees discussion, in our case the birds and the birds I suppose, having to sound so confusing to my own ears when mildly explained to a seven-year-old.

It started this winter when when Mindy, pregnant with their twins, was visiting.  She said something while Miss Eagle Ears was sitting with us about explaining to Emerson about baby seeds and how they had grown into babies in Mindy's belly.

Ella is like a dog with a bone once she gets thinking on something.  She misses nothing and wants to comprehend everything.  The questions started.

It wasn't as though we were trying to keep her origins from her.  For me, it is more that I wanted to be careful how much role we placed on biology and genetics.  Short of reading her a scholarly article on the human genome project, I felt that it would be insufficient, and frankly unnecessary, to introduce the idea that she was physically created with the help of someone we don't even know.  Her donor's contribution means everything and nothing in who she is today.  The truth is she has two parents, two moms, who created her and I never want that to be minimized by the introduction of this very important, yet singular, genetic contribution. 
I suppose I am essentially summing up the nature/nurture debate.

One of Sandi's family members has been known to ask about Ella's "father".  Did her "father" have those almond shaped eyes? What was her "father's" ancestral heritage?  I was deeply offended by these questions simply because she referred to Ella as having a father.  Ella and Maya have donors.  They have two mothers. No father.  Being a parent to me is a verb, not a frozen sample of swimmers.  You can't cryogenically freeze your DNA to be used in the world and be awarded the reverent status of "father" or "mother".

I've always been so far over in that camp I have often downplayed the role of the donors in creating half of who Ella and Maya are.  Yet, in each of them I can traits that are not of their respective biological mothers.  This observation is somewhere between seeming really cool and really intrusive.  The truth is, I wish we could have created children using half of mine and half of Sandi's biology.  Yet, even if somehow we could,  we wouldn't have these exact children who, to quote the Little Prince, we have tamed and called our own.

Maya asked me the other day while we were driving in the car (the place for all sound discussions):  how does the baby get in the belly?  It grows from a baby seed, I told her.

"Yes, but how does the seed get in the belly?"  she pressed.

One good rule of thumb here is to answer only questions that are asked and be careful not to over answer.  Maya is four, after all, and was searching for something concrete and simple.  As if the answer to the baby seed question could ever be simple, especially in our case.  So I told her it takes girl parts and boy parts to make a baby seed grow in a woman's belly.  She was content.

We told Ella essentially the same thing in the winter when it came up and explained that we had a "helper" since we don't have any boy parts.  We told her that there are people that help couples that don't have all the parts to make a baby and that got such help to make them.  Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

But the origin of our girls has been a process for me.  I possess a certain defensiveness about the parts of them that don't come from us, but rather from this unknown genetic line.  It is as though I somehow feel undermined when someone from Sandi's side says, "Oh, Maya has this because Uncle so and so had it."  I feel, essentially, left out.  Yet, when I witness Maya's early athletic prowess or Ella's emotional storminess and sentimentality, I can't deny some of the things we've passed on.  And if I accept that then I have to accept that there are parts that also come from their donors. 

Perhaps this is really just the gift we need.  When Maya acts like a complete lunatic and we shrug and say to each other, "Where did we get her?" maybe what we are really doing is making a deposit in the parenting bank so that when they are teenagers we can be like, "Well, she certainly didn't get that from ME."

I'm joking of course.  In most ways we are no different than anyone else. Our children come from us but they are not us and they are only really "ours" for a little while.  Donor, adoption or the standard two parent biological model, it really makes very little difference in the end.  We love our kids for who they are and they love us because we are their parents.  I love Maya the same as I love Ella even though we don't share a genetic code.

In the end, there are plenty of things that can erode a relationship- resentment, careless anger, sloppy habits of speaking. There is no need an unknown genetic contributor to be one of them.  Certainly, genetics matter, but they don't possess us either.  We created our children in love (and with the help of an excellent doctor) and we have both been their from the second they began.  No donor could ever intrude on that.

Some kids at school questioned Ella this year in a way she hadn't been as of yet.  "So is one your mom and one your aunt?"  "You can't have two moms.  That isn't possible."  I loved her response:  "Yes, it is.  Go ask the teacher if you don't believe me." 

But the most heartbreaking one was, "Maya must not be your real sister."  I guess the child meant that Maya was Ella's cousin (following the line of reason that Sandi was her aunt) and Ella came home and asked us about this.  I know that the norm now is blended families and kids are just trying to figure it all out.  But it bothered me to see the doubt and question in Ella's eyes.

I mean, for the love of Pete, these girls are sisters:


And we are a family, with our Fed Ex, liquid nitrogen roots and all.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Trek Across Maine - year one

Warning:  this post will be a trek for you.

I have been planning for the Trek with the precision of a scientist working in a petri dish. The minusule details of childcare, lodging, transportation, packing, arranging how to have the necessary supplies in necessary places, getting the floors mopped before departure, in addition to the reflexive mommy-leaving-her-kids guilt, I had myself in quite a state as I drove to the bus that would take me to the start line at Sunday River.

I may or may not have cried the entire way to the bus pick- up after having left Maya with her grandmother, knowing that it would be them, not me, to pick Ella up from school and begin her summer.  I may or may not have thought about turning around and bailing on the whole thing as my heart strings more dragged, rather than tugged, me back home.  This has been my primary gig for the past 9 months and leaving felt really, seriously wrong. 

Emilie had given me a pep talk (more than one actually) about why I needed to do this for myself.  I didn't really know my team members and was anxious about being away from home for something so big and so long.  She had sufficiently calmed me down the week prior, yet as I pulled into the lot where I could see people loading their bikes onto a Ryder Truck, I felt like I was leaving for summer camp.  Except my parents weren't even dropping me off.  They had made me go by taxi. 

I was nervous and teary.  I gratefully ran into a friend who gave me a hug and some encouragement and I boarded that bus, reminding myself of my strength.  I could do this.  I would do this.

After all, I had raised $795 for the American Lung Association and as you know,  breathing issues hit rather close to home in our family.

Except just as the bus was pulling out of the lot, my doctor called and told me I shouldn't go.  The previous day's labwork came back and my thyroid levels were still too high and she didn't think it was safe for me to exert myself with a 3 day bike ride. 

Now if that isn't the universe playing a joke, I don't know what it. 

I went from teary doubt to solid will.  I was going.  I was on the bus.  I wanted to do this.  I had worked hard to get there.  I needed the time away.  I went from almost bailing on the trip to willful refusal to get off the bus. 

This was my line of thinking:  my thyroid levels have been high since February and likely longer since many of the symptoms preceeded the diagnosis.   We've been tinkering with a medication dose and watching the level stay consistently on the high side for months.  All those same months that I have been biking all over the place.  I concluded that I had trained with a high thyroid so I could ride with a high thyroid.

I suffered a nearly 3 hour, lurching and roiling bus ride that left me so car sick I was certain this would be the hardest part of my weekend.  I was grateful to see Sunday River and as we unloaded our bikes and gear, I prayed I hadn't made a self-willed mistake.

Sandi did not exactly approve of my decision to ride. She reminded me about a friend of hers who had died from Thyroid storm (when your hormones get all out of whack and start a  process that can be impossible to reverse- a condition triggered by stress) and I told her I was determined but not stupid and I would listen to my body.

"I hope so," was all she texted me back.

Friday morning, ready to ride:


The Trek Across Maine is what everyone says it is: a fun event that is a marvel of organization, put on by the most dedicated volunteers.  There were over 2,200 riders this year and 800 volunteers.  That is one volunteer for every 20 riders.  That's better than the student/teacher ratio at our school.  From where to put your luggage to where to get air in your tires, these people are on it.  They feed you all day, mark the entire 180 miles of road with orange spray paint for areas cyclists should be aware of,  have rest stops overflowing with food, water, Gatorade, sunscreen, Tylenol, first aid and bike mechanics. 

At each intersection, traffic was stopped to allow us through. The trekkers are like biking royalty. Except instead of a red carpet we got food, lots of food.   We wore orange bracelets all weekend that gave us free range calorie replacement at meal time.  Each day's ride ends with a true finish line, complete with thumping music, balloons, cheering and fans that come out to see the trekkers.  I felt like an actual celebrity.

Here is our team (minus Glen, the early bird) getting ready to board the shuttle to get to our bikes and the start line at Sunday River.  I had nervous butterflies but it was a beautiful mountain morning.

The first rest stop:


There were bikes littering the pavement and swarms of people.  Each day my legs were covered in tattoos of bike grease and I finally figured it out the third day:  I never lay my bike down like this.  I always prop it up on something and all this up and down off the ground meant a lot of greasy legs for me.

Day one was 69 miles of fun.  Me, Rachel and Lindsay at the finish:

The overnight storage of bikes is really a site to behold.  We generally finished fairly early each day so the field was even bigger later, but you get the idea:


Glen, me, Lindsay, Beth and Kim:

Getting ready for day two:


I spent the entire 58 miles of day two with Kim.  We were well suited to ride together in pace and personality.  We were laughing, singing, hooting and carrying on, careful not to annoy too many people by giving them small doses of our cheer as we went by.  When you pass people, you are to indicate by calling out, "On your left!" and it gets a bit redundant. Kim and I saw fit to make up some songs and unique phrases to announce our presence on the left.  Most of the riders were so happy and cheery and only one woman seemed put out with my rendition of "I'm coming on your left, I'm coming on your left" sung to "Hickory dickory dock."

  
 Coming in to Colby College at the end of day two.  (Thank you Chris for taking this picture!)


Colby is the heart of the Trek fun with something they call Tent City where trekkers can camp overnight in a giant field.  There are vendor tents and Gritty's runs a beer tent with a live band.  We sat up on the hill in the sunshine drinking beer (and water) and watching the other people finish.  I'm telling you, these trekkers know how to have fun.

At the end of each day there was this massive board where we had to highlight our number to indicate that we had completed the ride.  Seriously, no detail was overlooked.

Day 2 surprised us with a disappearance of the sun and a dip in temperatures that had many of us wishing we had packed sleeves and had me hoping for some hills to climb to warm me up.  I saw lots of people with arm bands on and I was so wishing I had packed mine from home. What a great idea- warm but lightweight to pack away when you get hot. 

My friend Beth was really quite cold during that ride and at one point her feet went numb.  She stopped at the next rest stop and they wrapped her in one of those tin foil looking insulated blankets.  When I saw her at the finish, she was sporting this clever get up: 

Some of my favorite things about the Trek:

-The sign on the side of the road that said: "Thank you from the bottom of our LUNGS!" and "What goes up must come down!" and my all time favorite:  "Steep hill ahead.  Use brakes."  As if.

-People who were out there riding with their kids on tag-alongs.  I met a dad and his son who had just finished his last day of first grade.  I saw them come in as the finish line was closing up on day one, that dad having lugged his son up and down 70 miles of road.  I mean, WOW.

-The cyclists with the bike horns- old fashioned honkers and the delicate chime reminiscent of a child's tricycle.

-Biking is happy.  There was no dark and desperate time like marathon running. I didn't cry at the end or want to throw up. I was just smiling and proud and fulfilled.

-Saying "thank you" to the volunteers out on the road and having them say, "No. Thank YOU."

-Eating was its own event. I was hungry constantly and devoured food like I was a cast away.  At the end of each meal I was so sad to be full because it meant it was time to stop. 

-Passing men going up hills and saying, "Good morning!" and having them grunt back at me semi-resentfully.  The women, on the other hand,  were always pleasant.  I just don't think men like to be passed by women.

-Rooming with Jane and Glen, a married couple who made me laugh and whom I now adore anew.

-Aside from loving the biking, it was so nice to not have to worry about anyone, not have to make or clean up dinner and not be concerned with other's needs.  What. A. Nice. Break.

The Trek is awesome because it can be a nice platform for the serious biker but there is lots of room for people of all fitness levels.  I saw all shapes, sizes and ages out there on the road.  One of our team members turned 63 on day one. I saw fancy bikes, cheap bikes, single speed bikes, tag-alongs, recumbent bikes, tandems, triplets and even a quad.  There were kids as young as 10 riding solo.  There was a rolling start each day so you can't compete with people even if you wanted to- you never knew if the person passing you left before you or after you since there are stops along the way.   There are some serious cyclists and at one point I ended up surrounded by them and their intensity was too much for me.  I dropped back until I was with my kind of people- the ones exclaiming, "Isn't this AMAZING?!"

Being someone who loves to bike but isn't "serious" about biking in the technique, gear or attitude, I was surprised by a few things.  First of all, I was faster at the trek.  My average speed each day was 2 miles per hour faster than my usual pace.  Second, everyone had told us repeatedly how intimidating some of the hills would be.  Turns out all the hills I ride around my house paid off because maybe only one hill felt like it kicked my ass. 

Thirdly, as a back-of-the-pack marathoner, it was such a treat to be more of mid-pack rider.  I heard someone say that people had been walking their bikes up the hills and I was surpised because I hadn't seen that.  That's because I wan't riding with them. I remembered the awareness I had at mile 24 of my first marathon when everyone around me looked like they wanted to die and I realized you can kind of gauge where you are by how those around you look.  With biking, the people I was biking near were fast and strong and capapble and I found that comforting.

Our team before dinner at Colby:



Our fancy shmancy matching jerseys:
(Thank you to Rachel, front left, for being such an awesome team captain! We were all Trek novices, Rachel included, and she led the way for us all.)


The last day of the Trek is what many people consider to be the hardest.  While it boasts the shortest mileage day (48) the road is peppered with hills, rolling and steep, which must be pedaled by tired legs.  For me everything about the last day was big.  The uphills were substantial. The downhills were a massive and thrilling.  My energy level was through the roof, whether from a true athletic peak or riding the groove of my overactive thyroid, I felt like I was on fire.  I wanted to ride with my friends but my body was urging me on with the subtly of a locomotive pushing me from behind.

I started out with Lindsay and Kim but they were, smartly, starting out more conservatively. I was trying to hold back but I felt like a caged animal needing to be sprung so I gave myself permission to fly (moderately and with consideration for my heart rate and any other red-flag physical abnormalities, of course).  The combination of the wind on my skin, the rolling green hills, the sun magnifying every color and texture and the smooth motion of my legs stroke after stroke as I became one with my bike, my legs active and hungry for movement, I just felt so incredibly, intensely  ALIVE. 

Riding up and down those hills I felt a synergy of experience and sensation that I have had a few other times in my life- always when I'm doing something physically demanding- a perfect marriage of body, mind and soul.  I was part of everything and everything was part of me. I was on the edge of the world, riding a wave that wouldn't quit.  At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I think I experienced true euphoria. 

If that feeling that I had is the same feeling people get when they find Jesus or smoke crack cocaine then I shall stand in judgement no more.  The feeling filled me to overflowing such that I had no choice but to scream with joy as I tore up and down those hills.  I went from "10 miles down, 38 to go" to "I only have 20 miles left and this will all be over."  I wanted to slow down, to make it last, but the speed and the push was what drove the joy into the upper registers.

Maybe it was just my thyroid.  Maybe you all think I'm crazy and don't at all get how someone can feel such elation from exercise.  Its okay.  Either way, I had a sprititual shake-down out there on the asphalt of Route 3.

Then before I knew it I was in Belfast and I was pulling into the team staging area where you can meet up with your team and ride to the finish line together.  I pulled in, high on endorphins and buzzing from my spiritual epiphany only to get off my bike and stand there entirely alone.  Luckily, I saw my friends Chris and Brenda and went over to chat with them while I waited for my team.

Chris, an avid rider, corrected me when I referred to myself as a biker.  She informed me that we are not "bikers" but "cyclists" (good to know) and that the chain grease on my leg made me look tough instead of just clumsy.  It was so good to see these two.

Within an hour, six of us had convened and it was time to head to the finish.  There were four other team mates behind (and one long since finished) but we knew they still had a ways to go.  We headed in a pack toward the finish and as we cruised the streets of Belfast toward the finish, people were all over the street clapping and cheering for us. 

As we approached the last turn to the finish line, a volunteer called into her radio, "Here comes the Gold's Gym team from Bangor" and then we rounded the corner and headed downhill into the finish chute.  The announcer bellowed, "Team Gold's Gym!" and the crowd roared as we road on and on through the long chute lined with screaming, clapping people.   I thought my heart would burst with pride and happiness as all these people celebrated our accomplishment.  My mom was there in the crowd and I spotted her just as we curved around to get our medals.  Thanks mom for coming to support me.

I got off my bike and a woman put a medal around my neck.  "Can we do that last mile over?" I asked.  What fun.
In truth, I wanted to turn right back around and head back to Sunday River to do it all over again.  At least one more day. One more peanut butter and banana sandwich and a dixie cup full of trail mix.


When the bus finally dropped us back off at our cars I had that same summer camp feeling I had in the beginning.  Except instead of a  macaroni necklace I had a medal and some burning quads.  Back in the parking lot again, I was now lamenting the end of the experience and that I would miss my friends.  It was like the end of summer camp had come and as we split up our duffel bags and hugged each other, we knew regular life wouldn't be as cool as what we had just done together. 

Then I got in my car and drove toward home.  I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw that the man in the truck behind me was smoking.  I wanted to run back to him and scratch my shiny medal against his window and yell, "Don't you know what I just did?  Don't you care about your lungs?"  but in an extreme act of maturity I just shook my head and drove home.

And you know what is different about my life than summer camp?  My regular life is just as cool. I got home in time for date night with Sandi. We sat out on a restaurant deck by the river and drank beer and shared dinner and talked in a way we hadn't for weeks. 

This morning I signed us both up for the 2013 Trek Across Maine.

All day when I've been driving I've felt like I am still riding, the way you can still feel the rocking of the ocean long after you leave the boat.   As the road swells into a hill and scoops down the other side, my body can feel it internally.  My brain says to pedal fast or crouch down and tuck in to coast.  I passed a cyclist today and wanted to yell out, "On your left!" but realized I was in a whale of a vehicle rather than the two skinny tires that held me up all weekend.

Needless to say, I'm glad I went.  For every reason. I loved me teammates, I adored everything about the Trek and I loved playing with my body that way.  Perhaps it was reckless of me to go despite my doctors warning but my body, and my partnership, survived and I'm glad I didn't get off that bus.  (Although I did have to promise Sandi I would never do anything like this again until my thyroid level is normal.)

If anyone has even the slightest inkling that they would like to do this, let me be the first to tell you to go for it.  You won't regret it.  And even if you are unsure about the riding, you could always go for the food...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

last day of first grade (sniff sniff)

Here we are.  The last day of first grade. 

Hang on...let me grab a tissue.

I'm not a fan of endings and goodbyes and Sam and I had all we could do to not get sappy as we acknowledged this was the last day he would be coming to our house in the mornings before school.  Next year Skyler will be going to kid's corner with her soon-to-be-kindergartner brother, Reed.  We have loved having her with us for two years and my heart feels strapped down when I think about her not coming here next year.

Skyler took this picture and I ended up with a rainbow from our window prism on my face.  I'm going to go ahead and say I think that's lucky.
Our big girl who has styled her own hair, ponytail holder and all, for the past two days.
I made the girls Belgian waffles for breakfast to mark their last day.  Yes, the anti-chocolate milk campaigner served ice cream for breakfast.  Tell whoever you want.


The year started and ended with a rousing game of Twister (as you can see by the placement of the participants). 



Before we left, the girls did one last performance for me.  Their performances are part comedy, circus, acrobatics and interpretive dance.   They are cute and whimsical and have gotten better with time.  I asked them (made them) to leave the lights on so I could record it.  Yes, you can expect to be seeing this video at their senior banquet.

My daily drive:


And Skyler's daily swinging exit from my van:


They've had a lot of ups and downs this year.  Being more like sisters than friends, there is a lot of determining of the upper hand and sisterly spats.  But I think (hope) they have found their way and I think (hope) summer will be a good time for them to just play and not have the social/learning aspect to their friendship.
I've been fighting tears all morning.  My bike is stowed in my car, my bag is packed, I've eaten enough peanut butter to ride the Trek twice and I will be gone before they get out of school today.  Saying goodbye to these girls, these big, capable girls was so proudly sad for me today.

I just love them so, so much.  In a way that makes me want to stunt their growth and lock them in at home so I can keep them just like this.

Can someone please tell me how we went from this:


to this?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

First grade field (take 2)

Ella is lucky enough to go to a school where she gets to go on two field trips (or I should say lucky enough to have a school with a strong enough PTO to pay for them).   And Maya and I are lucky enough to be able to go on them too! (I'm pretty sure Sandi isn't feeling super lucky.)

I may not be the giant SUV driving mom with a pool in my backyard, a summer camp and a ski condo like some families in our community, but I have to say there is something to living in a community that has some wealth and whose parents can afford to be incredibly involved in the school.  There is so much opportunity afforded the kids because the parents give so much.  I'm really, really good with that.
I took all these pics with my phone so apologies for blurriness.

The destination was the University of Maine at Orono.  First stop: the Hudson Museum, a tribute to the Native American cultures of Maine.

The museum staff did a great job with a few teaching stations for each class so it wasn't overwhelming with numbers of kids, nor were they left to just look into glass display cases garnering little meaning from the items inside.  They were taught about Native American basket weaving, folklore, how they made and traveled the state of Maine by canoe and how they built shelter.  

The kids played an indigenous game wherein they rolled six clay "dice" and got to pick up the same number of sticks as the "dice" that landed design side up.  There were also a few coveted sticks for certain numbers which made the game fun.  You would have to ask the name of this game and I couldn't tell you. 
























Then it was on to the touch tanks.  The kids got to touch starfish, scallops, sea anemone, sea cucumbers and they got to see live sea horses!  Ella was REALLY excited about this, thus the exclamation point.  Turns out live sea horses don't photograph well so you will just have to use your imagination. 

To me the most exciting part was the probably 10 foot long salt water aquarium that contained some of the coolest saltwater life, including coral which you could see eating!  I always knew coral was "alive" but I thought it more as plant than animal.  Did you know that some coral have mouths with which they consume their food?  I sure didn't.

It was thought that there wouldn't be room for Maya and I in the tiny planetarium which was fine with us because it was 78 and sunny outside and we went up to the University gardens.  They are simply beautiful and Maya and I found "secret" paths that led to stone benches and we pretended it was our house.

Maya gets a little crazy from time to time and there was a lot of twirling and laughing to do in the gazebo (which was also our house).


Then we met back up with the first graders for a picnic on the grassy mall.

This was a good thing because Skyler and Maya had a lot of energy to run out.



The day left Maya completely spent:

Just today and tomorrow left of school.  Today was supposed to be Wonderful Wacky Wednesday (a fun-filled field day) but due to the rain, it was moved to tomorrow as Thrilling Thursday.  Maya and I can't go tomorrow (I am due on the Trek bus at 2 and have a whole bunch of stuff still to do) and I sulked a little but I'm getting passed it now.  I have been so grateful for all I've gotten to do this year.  Sandi's mom picks up Ella from her last day of school tomorrow and takes both the girls to Beals for the weekend and I am working hard not to cry over the end of first grade and not picking Ella up from her last day.  I guess even though it causes me some pain, I'm glad I set my parenting standards high.