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Wednesday, July 31, 2013


For anyone who is looking for a truly incredible book to read with a child, you can look no further.
I'm not talking about Harry Potter (which might be the most fun book to share with an eight-year-old) but about one of the most poignant and eloquently written books I've ever read:  The miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.
A few months ago we were in the library and I was discussing books with my friend Monique.  Our daughters are the same age and we were comparing notes. She told me about this book and said it was one of the favorites she had read with her daughter.  I took it out that day.  We renewed it as many times as allowed while Ella and I finished book 2 of Harry Potter at which point I wasn't sure she would survive the disappointment of going from Hogwarts to a book about a rabbit.

But there are some things I've learned during my mom stint: sometimes rather than convincing and cajoling, you just have to start.  So I opened the book and began to read.  Like the young Fred Savage in the Princess Bride, she was reluctantly hooked.  A couple of pages in, I nonchalantly said, "Maybe you don't really like this.  Should we stop?" to which she gave a pleading, "NO! Keep reading!"

I won't ruin the book by saying too much about it but I will say that it is the most beautiful story about love: being loved and learning to love.  Magic wands and Firebolts are great but we could all do with more stories about love couldn't we?

big time rush

Last week we found ourselves the recipients of some complimentary tickets to teeny bopper heaven on the Bangor Waterfront.  Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice (musical groups with shows on Nickelodeon) were in town and testing the lung capacity of all the kids between the ages of 3 and 18 and the nerves of the corresponding parents.
The Bangor Waterfront, formerly a weed-laden pile of bumpy earth and sketchy post-dark activity, is the happening place all summer long.  The entire area has been revamped and a permanent outdoor stage has been constructed.  Big-time acts are booked all summer here: Bare-Naked Ladies, 'Lil Wayne, Kenney Chesney, Toby Keith and so on.  Our friend Matt works for Darling's which is the big corporate sponsor for the Waterfront Pavilion (thus the name Darling's Waterfront Pavilion) and at several shows a season, Darling's runs a VIP tent. 
Not only did we get tickets but we got VIP passes as well.  We are talking free ice cream and food in the tent,  drinks for Sandi and I,  and use of the fanciest portable toilets- we are talking FLUSH toilets- on wheels.   I felt like we were totally and entirely spoiled and I loved it.  Thank you Matt and Darling's for being so awesome.  (If you need a new car, go buy it at Darling's because they make good things happen.  Not just concerts and music but we did the Darling's charity ice cream truck to help a friend in need last fall.  They are the coolest company.)
It was the girl's first concert and probably gave them the total wrong idea about what concert-going is really like.  I mean, what five and eight-year-olds get to flash a VIP pass?)
After two opening acts, the big wheels came out and the screaming- I mean shrill, ear-splitting screaming- began. Maya was really, REALLY into the screaming.  It was like she had returned to her people. 
I must confess I had never heard of these musicians.  When everyone around me started screaming at pitches that made me worry for the dogs of Bangor, like Maya, I had no choice but to scream right along with them.  Honestly, there are so many times in my life when I want to scream but really shouldn't, it didn't seem right to let a screaming opportunity pass me by.

Yup, I'm a VIP.  Read it and weep.
The concert was super fun and super loud and left me feeling very old.  I had a crick in my neck and I was wondering if I had Ben Gay in my purse, that is how old I felt.   Seriously, I was wishing for ear plugs.  Ella plugged her ears a few times and we actually got a pair of ear plugs for the kids from a generous ear plug-toting mom.  We had been smart and left Maya's hearing aids at home but I still worried for our children's auditory health. 

Seeing Big Time Rush wasn't a dream come true for me but being out on a warm summer night with my family and friends on the edge of the river of our increasingly cooler city of Bangor was a big time rush for me.

Thanks Jeff Kirlin for the great pic.  I'm stealing it to put here but giving you full credit- you take awesome pictures!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

keep riding our roads

We had our community KROR (keep riding our roads) ride Saturday and it was better than I could have ever imagined.  I'm guessing we had close to 50 cyclists show up to ride.   We had a perfect day for it, some donated apples and water, and even this beauty from Central Maine Disposal.  Because let's be honest, when it comes right down to it you can pack your own apple but you can't pack your own potty.

Brenda demonstrating the charity toilet

My sister and Brian met us at the start and took the kids to the lake so I could ride.  What a beautiful thing.  It was such a great feeling to send them with their aunt, uncle and cousins without a worry.  If you want to do something for a mom you love, take her kids and act happy about it.  It will do her heart wonders. 
Emilie drove down for the ride and I was so happy to get to ride with her.  My friend Jeanne also showed up at the last minute and there was a former Trek teammate that made the trip for the ride as well.  (It was about an hour from where we live.)
There was a reporter from the Bangor Daily News who interviewed Chris and I and some of the other participants.  It felt like such an honor to welcome this group of dedicated cyclists, most of whom I did not know but felt an immediate kindredness to simply because they had come out to ride.   I was touched to see so many men show up to ride.
We asked people to choose from the three riding groups: a 35 mile faster paced group, a 35 mile slower paced group and a 12 mile group.  Chris's idea was to have a little something for everyone. 
I got to lead the faster group. Luckily there were four cyclists who were very familiar with the roads and were able to take over since the GPS Chris had mounted to my bike stopped working at mile 9 and had no idea where I was.  (The GPS malfunction was no great surprise since I have some trepidation about these devices in general and don't like to rely on a machine.)
I have never ridden the rural back roads of central Maine and was stunned at their beauty.  As I road, I initially felt caught between the gravity of the reason for our ride, and the sheer joy and pleasure that comes from sharing something you love with other people who love it. 
Before I knew it we were at the Whitten Road, the place where the incident occurred, and I was caught off guard by the unassuming simplicity of this country road.  How could such a thing happen here in this tender neck of road? I said a prayer for the people that live there, for the woman who is still suffering and for the world that must absorb so many countless atrocities. 
And then we paved the Whitten Road with all the goodness we could.

As we left the Whitten Road, our group hit its stride.  We were less spread out and had gotten to know each other a bit.  We talked about the police investigation, shared scary bike stories and safety strategies and then moved on to social chatter, wind-in-your-hair good feelings and straight up laughter. We had a group of 19 riders and by the end of 35 miles we felt like a family.

Emilie, looking awesome.

Jeanne, always with a smile on her face.

Chris's partner, Brenda, led the 12 mile group and then played SAG wagon and drove around with a cooler full of cold water.  She even made a stop for pretzels and Pringles at Chris's request.  Here is Chris enjoying her Pringles.  (She also took lots of these pictures which I stole from her.  Thank you Brenda.)

I failed to get a picture of Chris and I but I did get this one of her riding. 
I am proud of us.  We were both so outraged by the incident and were left feeling powerless and angry.  Chris said to me, "We should get a group together and ride."  Then with lots of planning and organizing on her part and some encouraging and high-fiving on my part, we got a group together and did a ride.  We didn't raise money or catch any bad guys but I'd like to think that we raised some awareness and helped soften the blow such an act of violence imparts on a community.  I could see from the smiles and feel in the hugs of gratitude I got at the end of the ride that what we did made a difference to those who came and road.

After all, these are our roads too and we have the right to ride them safely.

Some people say "We should.....".  I love that I have friends who instead of saying "You know, we should..." just go out and do it.   Thanks Chris. Your hard work meant so much to so many.

Friday, July 26, 2013

overcoming fear

Tomorrow is the community bike ride in support of the woman assaulted riding her bike on a rural Maine road in early July.  My friend Chris and I were interviewed by the local news to try to get the word out to anyone who wants to ride.  We welcome everyone or all riding abilities.  There is a short course (12 miles) and a longer course (35 miles) to accomadate all riders.

Because of the craziness of summer at home with the kids and Sandi being in various corners of the state, I haven't been on my bike since the horrible incident.  Yesterday was the first time. 

With pepper spray in my back jersey pocket and with more trepidation than I wanted, I headed out on my favorite back roads at 6 A.M. for 35 miles.  I needed to just get back on the horse already.

I wasn't prepared for how random strains of anxiety would intrude my peaceful ride.  It was a truly glorious morning, cool and clear with the rising sun dousing the rolling landscape and awakening the hundreds of shades of green.  I was irritated to have to redirect my brain away from how such an assault can take place.

At about mile 20, on the most remote road of my ride, I was on a stretch of road made up only of trees. There is a peppering of houses on this road but I rarely see cars.  A small, red, older model pick-up truck was heading toward me from the opposite direction.  When it got to me it pulled over.  There was a large man inside with his window down.  He opened his mouth to speak to me and then said, "Never mind."  His tone was not menacing in any way.  I was riding fast before he stopped and I just kept on going.  I did not slow or speak to him.  He drove away in the opposite direction.

My mind started going.

Was he going to ask me for directions?  Did he think he knew me?  Did he mean me harm?

I felt in my back pocket for my spray and then rode as fast as I could to get to where the houses were, compulsively checking my mirror for any signs of a rear approach.  Not trusting the tiny mirror, I had to keep looking over my shoulder as well.  What would I do if he came back?  What strategy would I employ if he did this?  What about if he did that?  The woman who was attacked was pulled off her bike.  How does this even happen?  I felt paranoid and my heart was slamming around in my chest.

How would I describe him if I needed to?  What was it that was in the bed of his truck?  Some sort of long square columns that were a faded red.  He had long shaggy hair and was wearing a gray t-shirt.  I racked my brain for all the smart moves of all the female protaganists I'd ever read about in crimes novels.  I would scream first and foremost.  Would anyone hear me.  How fast could I ride if I needed to?  I could escape anyone on foot but what about if there was a weapon involved?

He didn't come back.  He may have meant me no harm or it may have been a near miss.  In all the countless hours I've spent on my bike only one time has anyone stopped me on the road.  I was with my friend Emilie and someone pulled over to ask for directions. 

To be honest, I am furious to be so scared and untrusting.  I used to wave to everyone on my bike and say, "Good morning!"  Now I hope to see no one and I look at every man as a potential predator.  I don't care if it is the smart and safe way to be.  It still makes me angry to have to be that way.  I have never worried about my safety on my bike, save for the general fear of inattentive or aggresive motorists.  To carry pepper spray, to be afraid, to question the safety of my route or the time of day I'm riding, to now wonder if I am safe on the 4 mile loop I run near our house, is somewhere between being smart and feeling victimized by people who perpetrate violence.

Sandi said to me that we live in a different world than we used to. Maybe it is just time that I get on board with that. 

When we go to camp, I love to run on the miles of dirt road in the blueberry barrens.  Several family members are expressing concern for me to do this. There are many transient people who come to the area during the blueberry harvest and there have been incidents, sometimes serious ones, in the past.  But I don't know, truly I don't, if me not running on the barrens when the sun comes up is smart and safe or if it is giving up my power.  In order to give it up I feel like I have to give up a part of myself, a part of my freedom, a part of the joy of being at camp.  Does running alone in a remote area make me selfish and inconsiderate of my family who depends on me or does it make me brave and empowered?

I share all this for a couple of reasons. I want to shed light on the wide-spread destruction these acts of violence, especially those targeted at women, have on individuals.  Also, if anyone has any feedback or advice on this I would be happy to hear it. 

For now I am carrying my pepper spray and looking into a self-defense class.  I'm also considering attaching playing cards to the spokes of my bike wheels so everyone can hear me coming.  Perhaps a giant horn isn't a bad idea either.

Friday, July 19, 2013

why I'm not always a fun summer mom and why I don't apologize for it

When I picture school getting out for the summer, I imagine kids bursting through the school doors into the hot sunshine, throwing books, papers and pencils like confetti and running for the playground. 
My own work morphs from homework police, school paperwork organizer to beach packer and event planner.  (Regardless of the time of the year, "van driver" is still high on my job duties list.)
Summer is supposed to be the epitome of the carefree childhood with the only worries being if you are going to have a red Popsicle or a smooth fudgesicle on a 90 degree day and if you have more bug bites on your legs or your arms.
Let me first say that I am all for that.
However, over at our house, we are combining loosey goosey summer with some school work.  Yup, I'm that mom.
Third grade is apparently a more academically challenging year.  Kids need to have their addition and subtraction facts down and will be moving on the multiplication.  That is a lot of memorizing if you have to do it all at once.  There is something educators warn about: "the summer slide" and ways to combat it. 
Allow me to also say that we are not the parents wondering about the just how early you can apply for early admission to Harvard.  We are not academically pushy or demanding.  Our main goal is to raise children that feel good about themselves and their place in the world.  This looks different for different kids.  For Ella, it means having a sense of mastery, confidence and comfort which will be especially important next year as she actually transitions to a new school for third grade.
Here's what we have adopted at home.  Each Monday morning, these stickies appear on the wall:
The goal is to complete them by Friday. If that happens she gets a dollar. She takes the weekends off . Because third grade also has a big focus on independence, she is in charge of her time management around the stickies. She can do them all early in the week and take the rest of the week off or she can save them up and do them all at once at the end. She can do some each day and keep the workload even.
It is very interesting to watch her approach to these stickies.

This just over 4 hours of work each week.  I think that is a very fair price to pay out of the multitude of summer hours to start next year off well. 

We let her take a week off when we were traveling and she will take another full week off when we are all on vacation together.  So far she has earned that reward dollar each time.

In many ways it seems sad to do this to a kid.  But knowing my kid I am certain the reward will be much higher than a handful of dollars.  I also remind myself that doing this teacher real-life time management without the complication of tiring days spent in school as well as the core life skill of learning to work hard for something and reap the rewards.

This week, after spending the weekend at camp, we went swimming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Today we go back to Schoodic for the weekend.  She has managed to do all but two lone stickies she left for today.  It certainly isn't all work around here...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

a way to help out

For anyone who lives locally who wants to feel like there is something they can do to combat the feeling of fear and powerlessness associated with sexual assault of a female cyclist 10 days ago, let me tell you what you can do.

My cool friend Chris has organized a group ride on Saturday July 27th in Canaan, Maine.  Here are the details:

Keep Riding Our Roads
Please join us for a group bicycle ride to show support for the female cyclist sexually assaulted in Canaan on July 7th. We are local women who often bike these same roads, alone or in groups.  We love Maine’s rural roads and want to combat the fear this heinous crime has created with a sense of solidarity and community. Let’s keep riding our roads together on July 27 and show support for the community, those that assisted, and the woman so deeply affected.
This will be a no-drop, non-competitive, group ride for ALL cyclists consisting of an initial short loop (10-15 miles), then a longer loop for those wishing to ride longer. This is an informal ride and will be non-supported so bring your own food/water. 
WHEN: July 27
TIME: 10am
WHERE: Fedco Trees, 213 Hinckley Rd, Clinton.

Also, you can go here for the public Facebook page for more updated info as it comes. 

This ride is open to everyone because everyone is affected by tragedies such as this one.  Please come out to assert your right to ride safely and to gather support for the woman so deeply and permanently affected by this event.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Schoodic: a sight for sore, tired, weary eyes

Last weekend we went to Sandi's family's camp for the first time this summer.  It is our family's favorite destination.  We got there Friday night with a plan to leave Saturday after supper (Sandi had not slept in her own bed all week) unless the gravitational force of lake life life got the better of us and made us stay through Sunday.

It was unbelievably such a sigh of relief to be sitting on the porch gazing at the lake.  It has been a long and arduous year in many ways.  Schoodic felt like the big reward. Maya did the happy dance we all wanted to do.
Friday night found us having supper on the porch, followed by a sunset kayak paddle and a raucous game of football.


Saturday morning dawned spectacular and promised to be one of those perfect Schoodic days.  We discussed if we would be leaving that night or staying another.  Taking the firm stance that I would need to all but be dragged from there, I was all for the longer stay.  (Plus, can we be honest for a minute about how much work goes into getting to camp for the weekend?  You might as well stay two nights.)

I'm not sure I had ever seen a prettier morning on the lake.


Maya was ready to show us her swimming moves.
First the tuck and dive.
Followed by underwater submergence (the hallmark of which is sizable splash.)
Some good arm over arm...
And ta-da!  (That is actually what she said.)  A swimmer is born.
Oh, and P.S. a diver as well.

Tia came to camp for the day and became quickly involved in some sort of plan the girls had with the dock and a shovel.

And our nephew Brevan decided to take all the girls on a boat ride.  

Schoodic is like a benchmark of sorts.  With nearly a year passing between visits, I can't help but marvel at the difference a year can make.  Changes that I might not otherwise notice, in myself and in the kids are highlighted against this backdrop.  As I sat with my feet in the sand I noticed how much more calm and contented I was this year from last.  No longer an engine at idle waiting to be put into gear, I actually could just stop and turn the key to off and relish all that was happening in the moment. All of the kids are more independent in the water, which is huge bonus, and they are so much fun to play with!  There is less fighting and bickering and more general enjoyment.  I watched our neighbors try to please a 9 month old who didn't like the sand or the water and I was very grateful to not be at that stage of parenting.
We are planning to go back this weekend.  Here's kids burning through your food supply with all the swimming, cajoling them to reapply sunscreen and trying to comb out swimmers hair.  Here's to  morning runs followed immediately by a jump in the lake, reading a book with my feet up, lots of family fun and wine at sunset.  Here's to a summer of fun at the lake! 

Friday, July 12, 2013


Yesterday, I woke Ella up just after six so she could go to work. 
 As of about a month ago, Ella has a student lobstering license in the state of Maine.  A Maine child is eligible at age 8 if they have someone to sponsor them.  That means she has 10 tags to put on lobster traps that she can fish.  Her grandfather set the traps for her in the reach just off from their house and yesterday was the first day she got to haul them. 

It was a VERY foggy morning.  We literally couldn't even see the Carver's house and we were mere feet from the shoreline.
Uncle Mark, Sandi's dad's brother, decided to come with us which made it all great fun.  I daresay Maya got some of her comedic tendencies from him.  He had us in stitches almost the whole time.  The kids don't exactly know what to do with his dry humor and they don't always know when he is joking.  Like when he pretends to get bitten by a lobster and cries out in pain, hopping wildly from one foot to the other and they just stare uncertainly at him.
Uncle Mark's truck in a would be William Wegman photo shoot:
The bridge from Jonesport to Beals Island in what the downeasters call a "fog mall" or a "fog mull"- I'm not entirely sure of the spelling but it means fog so thick that you can hardly see your hands in front of you. 
Each fisherman's buoy has its own distinct color pattern.  These are Dwight's beauties.

 Lobstering 101:
1. You "gaff" the buoy with this long hooked pole called a gaff.  (And all the nearby seaweed.)
 2. Place the rope in the hauler and let the hydraulics pull the trap up.
 3.  Get excited as you watch your trap surface.
 4.  Pull the trap up onto the side of the boat.   See if you can catch a glimpse of how many lobsters are in there!
 5.  Start counting your lobsters!  You have to measure to make sure that they are big enough to keep and you can't keep any of the reproducing females.  Throw away lots of cool stuff that found its way into your trap.

Check out this giant piece of kelp!
Make sure to throw back the baby lobsters so you can catch them again in a few years.

 6. Band the lobsters so they don't bite you or each other.

 7. Anxiously await hauling your next trap.

8. After you clean out your trap set a new pocket with bait before pushing the trap back into the ocean.  (Handling bait is a stinky job and Ella did a great job.)

Grampy showing Ella the difference between hard shell and soft shell (or shedder) lobster. 
Ella's first catch!
 9. Go back to the co-op and sell your lobster!  Ella made $41 for about 45 minutes worth of work. This is a major pay raise from the dollar at a time she makes at home for chores. That is, of course, because her grandfather absorbed all the expense.

There just aren't enough thank yous to express my humble appreciation for the family we have.  Words are grossly inadequate.  But since there is no room here for interpretive dance, suffice it to say: thank you Gram and Gramp for giving the girls the moon and your hearts. Thanks you, always, thank you.

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