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Thursday, July 31, 2014

just the way we do things around here

Unbeknowst to me Sandi had promised Ella we could paint their room this summer.  

So last week this was the conversation in our house:

Ella:  "Didn't you promise we could paint our room this summer?"
Sandi:  "Yes, yes I did."
Ella:  "Well, when are we going to do it?"
Sandi:  (pause)  "Suz, think we could paint the girls room this weekend?"
Suzanne:  "Aren't you on call?"
Sandi: "Yes, but this is the only weekend we are home for the rest of the summer.  It is kind of now or never.  Hopefully I won't get called a lot."
Ella: (silently watching with a look of unbridled glee and anticipation)
Suzanne:  "Do you know what a big project that would be?  Just cleaning the room out would be huge."
Sandi:  "I know.  And I have to fix all the walls.  But I promised."
Suzanne:  (thinking perhaps this was not the time to comment on exactly what is promised to our children and when) "Yeah, okay.  Let's do it."

And so it began.

Sandi and I don't really know how to do anything small or easy.  We are only partly realistic about time and the energy and effort a project takes and we often make up for it by staying up into the night to hammer stuff out.   It will be shocking to our kids when they become parents just how much we do "behind the scenes"when they are asleep. 

Friday was spent packing up the kids room.  I kind of really loved that part.  I have fantasies of the clean slate approach and ideally putting only half the stuff back in.  Sandi tackled sheetrock repair (holy...the things the walls of kids' room withstand and the stories they could tell) with a can of mud (spackle) and a knife.  The girls and I got down to the serious business of rearranging their room.  What can I say? We work with our strengths.

Saturday morning was incredibly productive.  I got up early to ride my bike since I had to be home by 6:30 since Sandi was on call.  Maya decided she was ready to master two wheeled bike riding before 8 am.  Sandi got called in and it seemed to make sense to wait to get paint until she was free.  The thought of two kids with different ideas duking it out in the paint section of Lowes had me sweating.  So instead I mowed the lawn and then we went to pick raspberries.

And it was only 11:30 a.m.  I felt like I needed a nap.

Signs of learning to ride a bike.  
I have never seen such a determined child.  She just kept at it, refusing all help because she wanted to get it herself.  And she did.  I have to say, watching both our girls master two wheels has been one of the highlights of motherhood for me.  There is something about them going from totally not getting something to being able to do it all on their own that makes my heart burst.

And yes, we realize she looks like she is riding a clown bike.  We started her small on purpose. 
 Post raspberry picking lunch. (Thanks Jeanne for sharing your berries with us again!)

I can't help it. I love pictures of beautiful food.

Sandi was free again after lunch so we met up for paint selection.  There is a fine line between allowing your kids creative freedom and maintaining the resale value of your home.  I believe we straddled the line and then fell squarely on the side that significantly depreciated the value of our house.

I wanted so much to say NO.  NO WAY.  What about this soft lilac and butter yellow trim?  What about basil and cream?  

Every cell in my body protested.  But I wanted my kids to have this freedom of choice, this expression of themselves in their own space.  Plus Sandi was looking over at me like, You must not veto.  You cannot control this.

And now their room looks like Sweet Frog.

Lime Mousse accented with Pink Destiny
We are serious about our painting around here.
By the time we got paint, sanded and then cleaned the walls,  it was after supper when we started actually painting.  The kids were psyched to be given a roller, real paint and permission to put it on the wall.  We worked for a while with them, then put them to bed on cots in our room and worked into the night.  We had the music going and it was just like old times of us tackling projects together.  It was exhausting fun as my body reminded me of all I had done between my 4:30 wake up and this nighttime painting.

The "before" pic came out horrible so here is the best I can do.  The walls were a pale yellow with matching trim from when this had been our room before we built the addition.  This pic is taken after we had primed the walls white.

 We were sort of banking on Sandi not getting called Sunday since it is usually a quieter day.  But Murphy's Law was in full effect and since there was painting to be done, her pager went off promptly after breakfast.  It soon became obvious that she was going to be gone for a while and if we were going to get the room painted, the girls and I needed to start painting.

Have you ever painted with kids?  How about in an unbalanced ratio of parent to children?

As I got the supplies ready, I considered knocking back a couple of drinks and then gave myself a pep talk and told myself it is just one's life is on the line can do this.

 Years ago when Sandi and I remodeled our house (and long before we built the addition on to it), Kristi and I were going to spend the day painting while Sandi was at work.  We were working on the miles of trim for the many, many windows we have in our house.  Kristi had this brand new, expensive brush Sandi had bought to cut the edges of where the trim met the wall.  I was responsible for rolling the flat, broad parts of the trim.

We worked along for a while.  I asked Kristi if she wanted to switch.  No, she said, she was fine.  We worked for a few more hours.  I said, "Would it be okay if we switch?  My hand is starting to hurt doing this."

There was a long pause.  Then Kristi said, "Well, the thing is, Sandi sort of asked me not to let you paint this part.  I can't give you the brush."

This is a true story people.

So I have a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a sloppy painter.   I am the roller in our relationship and Sandi is the edger which I believe to be a metaphor for our lives as well.  After I paint, I am covered from head to toe in paint.  I have speckles of it in my hair, on my face and all over my arms and legs.  I look like I got into a fight with a rabid paint can and lost.  Sandi barely has a splotch.

As with many things, though, this works well for us.  Our strengths balance and paint together peacefully and productively.

But here I was, the machine gun painter, with two inexperienced children and no one to temper us.  What would become of this room?

Suddenly the brash colors were a gift.  Who cares if it is imperfect when bright lime and Pepto Bismal pink is going on the walls in a kids room?

I chased the girls around the room trying desperately to keep a wet edge for both of them, rescue their drips and do their edging (me edging?).  I totally let go, found my zen and just enjoyed their happiness at being allowed to paint their own room.   We blared music, we danced, we laughed and I tried to just breathe when every other minute I would hear, "Uh...Momma?  I need help over here."

I sent Sandi a text that said: "You might want to lower your expectations before you return home."

When we hit the room as a family after Sandi's return and fueled by lunch I thought poor Sandi was going to have a heart attack.  We had moved on to trim and the kids were accidentally painting the hardware on doors and dripping on the floor.  Now we kept hearing:  "Oopsies!" as now every other second seem to be punctuated with an accident of some sort.

Sandi said, "I think painting with the kids has cured me of my stress of painting with you."

You heard that right.  Compared to a 6 and 9-year-old,  I am a painting maverick.

As we finished up the first coat,  I was afraid of what we had allowed them to do.  Ella kept saying, "I love it.  Do you love it?" and all I could say was, "I love that YOU love it."  I kept telling myself it was their room, their experience to enjoy and resale value/appeal be damned.

And you know what?  I kind of love it now.  I certainly love their utter joy at transforming their room.  They are truly over the moon and overflowing with appreciation toward us which is no small thing.

(We are still trying to decide about the curtains.  Do they clash or pull in the various pinks?  At this stage of the game are we really worried about being too bold in this room?)
 Ella has moved her bed into this little nook and since it is kind of around the corner from Maya she feels like she is getting some of the space she increasingly needs from her sister.  Who knew a boxed in chimney could bring one girl such happiness?  Yesterday she bought herself a bean bag arm chair and a lava lamp with her lobstering money to decorate her corner.
 Maya loves it because she is closer to that Candy Land striped door that goes across the hall to our room.  Plus she gets the fish tank to herself.  It is all relative to what is important to you.
Overall, it was a huge success cramped into a very full summer.  What it cost me in sleep and good taste it made up for in the joy of our children and their pride in helping.  The only lasting drawback is that now I want to paint the whole house because all the other walls, while tastefully colored, look awful.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

gone to haul

If you are a lobsterman and you go to work, you go to haul your traps or just "to haul".   So if you are not on land, but on your boat working, you have "gone to haul."

Last week, the girls went "to haul" for the first time this year.  

 I said, "Girls, if you want to haul lobsters and make money, you need bait.  Learn to love that smell."

I think this picture of Maya and Makenna is hilarious.  Maya has practically no bottom and Makenna's new pants were just too big, but either way the matching buttless girls were too much for me to resist
 This is Ella's second summer with an official student lobster fishing license.  It means that she can have 10 traps in the water, tagged along with her grandfather and fished out of his boat.  The other three, and I, just go along because it is so fun.

Beals Island from the sea.  I have such a deep affection for this place.  It really has become my second home. 
 This is Brevan's first year fishing his 10 traps and he is all about "going to haul".  He even loves the bait and offered to bait all of Ella's pockets for her (those are the mesh sacks that hold the bait and lure the lobsters in).  Ella was quick to accept the offer.
 The first trap!
 Putting bands on the lobsters is a tough job for small hands!

 These two remind me precisely of the two Muppets that sat up in the balcony making jokes.

Baby lobster.
 Not a bad first day!
Together with us, Ella has made up a system to divide her money from fishing.  She has allotted percentages to savings, to her sister and to spend.  I taught her about putting money aside to things she wants to save for.  I explained that this is what I do to save money for vacation, for bigger purchases, and what I did for our wedding.  So out of her "spending" money, she can either keep it on hand or put some of it in one of the labeled envelopes for what she is planning ahead for.  For now she has an envelope that says "shoes" and one that says "clothes."   Today we made a trip to the bank for her to deposit the percent that goes to her savings.

I cannot tell you how proud we are of our big girl who seems to me making all the connections: hard work means money earned, that bait is a good thing, that she is very fortunate to have a Grampie who can give her this opportunity, that her savings account is actually still hers and that designating money and saving up for something is the way to responsibly manage money.

Our little fisherman (fishergirl?  fisherwoman?) "out to haul".

Monday, July 28, 2014

summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime.

Last week Ella got to spend the week at Windover Art Camp (the first and only summer day camp she has ever consented to attend) at had the most incredible time.  

Ella doesn't like meeting new people and certainly doesn't like being left in a group of kids she doesn't know even if it is to do something fun.  We've offered art camp and horseback riding camp in the past and she has firmly declined.  

Apparently this was the summer of brave because when I asked her if she wanted to go to Windover with Skyler she exclaimed, "YES!"  (It helps that her beloved babysitter went there for years as a kid and loved it and she, like Ella, is on the more discerning side.)

 Stepping on to the grounds at Windover feels like traveling back in time about 40 years.  The whole place has a hippie commune feel to it.  The staff is super chill and kids are given a ton of independence and countless creative avenues of expression.  

Ella and Skyler were old enough to make glass beads using fire torches and pottery on a wheel.  Ella kept saying, "And they don't help you.  They show you once and then you do it."  Her voice was a mixture between awe and complaint.  What I saw in her was that this kind of push toward creating on her own was exactly what she needed.  She took complete ownership over her art and she made some truly beautiful things that she was so proud of.  

"I made these glass beads ALL BY MYSELF."

Maya kind of dug the groove at Windover if you can imagine. (Yes, those are cowgirl boots with running shorts.)

And Sandi even made it out for the end of week art show and surprised Ella.

It was fun to hang out with just Maya while Ella was at camp.  It reminded me (and made me a little nostalgic) of how we used to do things, just she and I, before she went to school.  Maya is great company and is such a different child when it is just her, namely she is super well-behaved and just delightful.  She is also really fun and flexible.  We decided on a Bar Harbor adventure and found ourselves hiking up Acadia Mountain.  It was about a mile up, a nice mix of up and across and Maya did is all on her own.  She scrambled up rocks and boulders with an agility that I marveled at.  She is freakishly agile and athletic, once falling in what should have been a complete headfirst kind of thing and she landed like a cat on her feet.    

Maya found a squirrel to feed some of her Nutella sandwich to and we chilled on the summit happily for a long time.  One of my happiest places to be is on a mountaintop.  We had the best time.  

 A few other summer things...

Maya has developed quite a fond friendship with the 75-year-old man next door.  They bonded last summer over the fact that they both wear hearing aids.  Maya, so much more outgoing than her shy older sister, loves to wave to David and yell to him funny things across the lawn.

He recently let us borrow his lawnmower when ours broke and Maya thought it would be nice to pick some strawberries for him.  So he shared some of his wild strawberries with her.   Then we decided to make him a bouquet of flowers on the Fourth of July and she was so proud to deliver it to him.

 Then, while Ella was at camp, Maya's suggestion of what we could do when it was 85 degrees was, of course, bake cookies.  Doesn't everyone bake cookies with the air conditioner running?  We made a match of cut-out molasses cookies and when they were cooling she said, "I want to take some to David."  She decorated a brown paper lunch bag with flowers and wrote: "To: David, Love: Maya" and left it on his front porch in the shade since he wasn't home.

A few days later a basket was left on our porch for her.  It was full of ziplocs each containing different games and activities for first graders.  It looked like the exact sort of thing you would find in a classroom.  And with it was this note:

This relationship makes my whole heart happy.

 Also, our kids are growing like WEEDS.  We just made a second trip to the store for new sneakers.  They are going through clothes and shoes here like we go through a bag of nectarines. (Do you know how much money you can spend on nectarines when everyone in your house would be happy to eat 1-2 a day each?)

Ella told me, approximately 10 days after school got out that she is so excited to go school shopping. That chick loves clothes and shoes.
The girls have even started asking to go running in the mornings!   This is a wonderful turn of events, tempered only by the complaining that accompanies the amount of work running actually requires.   
Our neighbor Alli just got the same sneakers as Maya so this picture was required of the three girls. 
In her "spare" time, Sandi is seeing to long-delayed, not-so-fun, tasks that needed to be done.  She has fixed our wi-fi problem in the house, caught a mouse in the basement and is refinishing our kitchen table which, for whatever reason, had become so sticky we couldn't ever set paper on it without half of it remaining on the table.  In fact, it was so bad, that your skin would stick to the table if you rested your arm on it.  My mother actually said to me recently, "You have GOT to do something about this table."   Not only is it a project that takes time to complete, but to be without a kitchen table?  Not fun.

Our table for the past month has been the one that Patti bought for the s'mores station at the wedding. I am grateful to have it but I cannot tell you how much I miss my big table.   Dinner is so cramped we can just fit our plates and not dinner itself.  I can't even fit all the piles of laundry when I fold it, making an already dreaded task that much less fun.

I have never been so happy to see a table in my entire life.  And not only is it smooth and stick-less, but seems so HUGE.

The girls and I (mostly I) have shamelessly compiled a list of people who have offered us visitation to their pool this summer.  When it is hot, being nearby some sort of water is really the only option for us.  Luckily people with pools usually want to share them!  (Thanks Lindsay for this one! And thank you Megan and Terry for the visits as well!)

 Our summer schedule is super busy and full but I try to have a few days a week with the mornings free for stuff at home and errands (which is more like playing catch up than ever feeling ahead of the game).  I am trying to relax more this summer and enjoy all I can- tea on the patio and time to write before the girls get up.  Then Maya comes out and does some reading on my lap as the sun is just getting warm.  It is so entirely wonderful.

 I have decided that summer in Maine is just always going to be a manic experience and I just need to enjoy the ride.   It is so indescribably beautiful, so vastly opposite from the seemingly endless frozen tundra of the winter that we really have no choice but to squeeze every last drop from the lemon of summer.  

So here's to a messy house for the duration, having a cooler perpetually in my entryway, fingers crossed that the checkbook stays balanced and another cup of iced coffee!

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