Monday, September 29, 2008

Hail mary, Pray for us.. NOW!

While the kids and I have tromped around and explored every bit of the 17 acres of fields on the farm, we have not ventured more than a few dozen feet into the 20+ acres of woods. When we bought the property a few years ago I hiked along the property line with the previous owner and wished to refresh the spray paint blazes. Then on Friday Tim took a walk and reported back 90 minutes later that he had been around the entire perimeter. “If he can do it then I can too,” I thought to myself, but was prohibited by the rain for the next several days. So on Sunday afternoon, with a tropical storm heading our way and Tim off at Lowes with the little ones, I decided to take the two older children and see if we could accomplish my long put-off goal, start some sort of path around the property and refresh the blazes marking the property line.
We started off well, finding four or five orange streaks on tree trunks before we got hopelessly lost. In our efforts to find the clearest path through the scrubby fir and dead limbs we ended up going in a huge circle and I began to go through my list of favorite prayers that I use outside of prayer time when the children have nightmares or while crossing high bridges. After 2 hours had passed I wondered how long it would take Tim to realize that we were missing and call the police to organize a search party. While we were taking a thinking break we heard a car from a nearby 2 lane road, “Let’s go east out to the road and follow it back home,” Will suggested.

It took another 30 minutes of following old logging roads, walking single-file along the narrow median, and cutting across a neighbor’s hay field to get back to our own road. When we finally trudged up the driveway, we were all soaked to the skin and Mary was completely worn out.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t go into the woods without a compass, a cell phone, and a very good sense of direction because sometimes you can get lost in your own backyard.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

barn raising

Our next farm project is the construction of a machine shed/barn so we don’t have to store the tractor in the garage and have the smoke alarm go off every time Tim starts up the motor. There is room for a cow and a loft upstairs for hay storage. Yesterday the concrete crew came with 3 cement mixers to pour the foundation. Maggie and Mary finished their schoolwork in plenty of time, but when Will still had his English assignment left when someone hollered, “They’re here!” I let the work slide.

We all spent the next few hours observing the guys in rubber boots raking wet goo into all the corners up to the blue chalk line,
smoothing it out with huge skimmers, and perfecting the coat with huge machines that looked like fans turned on their sides. To document this moment in our family’s history I pushed each of the kid’s Crocs in the wet concrete in a corner and scratched their initials underneath. David, the builder, won’t start framing for a few weeks, so next summer when we pull back into the driveway we will see it completed and ready for our farming adventure.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

off in the little "school" bus

This week must be field trip week with a trip Wednesday to the Cole Transportation Museum in Bangor, ME and an outing on Friday with friends to school day at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, ME. The kids knew that we would go see lots of cars, trucks, and fire engines if they finished their schoolwork quickly so by 10:45 we were out the door.

“Miss Hormonal” here got very teary-eyed when I read about the impetus for this private collection of artifacts. Apparently Galen Cole was a combat infantryman in WWII and lost his entire squad to a German tank gun. He made a promise to God that if he survived he would do his best to leave his community better than he found it. After 50 years of running a trucking company he saved enough money to build this museum.

We had a grand time walking up and down the aisles seeing lots of old snowplows, cars, trucks, soapbox derby winners, plows, railroad cars and a locomotive, tractors, and an authentic train station. I was struck by this line from their mission statement, “to inspire patriotism in young people and help build their aspirations --- after seeing what these Maine pioneers accomplished with hard work, honest endeavor, and primitive tools - to believe that with today’s improved knowledge, advanced equipment, and similar efforts, they also can become creative doers and builders of a bright future for themselves, their communities, and their fellow men.” After just seeing the lumberjack saws I had good reason to fully appreciate the farmers who first cleared the trees and rocks from our farm, planted crops, raised animals, and kept themselves warm in the winter without cars, tractors or efficient furnaces.

Appropriately we finished up our expedition with lunch at Dysart’s truck stop, including a mighty fine apple crisp.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

prayer request

Tim is flying down to Florida on Wednesday and taking his sub-specialty boards Thursday. After a year of training and months of intense studying, it all comes down to one test. Luckily he has been through this before- 3 times and passed with flying colors every time. He then will hop on the overnight train out of DC and we will pick him up at the station Saturday morning.

Please join us in praying for his safety and passing the boards, hopefully the last test he ever has to take. If you don’t mind, pray that everything here gets ship-shape for his arrival without me hollering at the children too much. “Get off that just mopped floor! Do you want Daddy to think we lived in squalor all summer?”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

real life biology 101

Our first several weeks of school have gone pretty smoothly, especially considering I have two little boys constantly underfoot and not a single toy in the house with which to distract them. Maggie is so enthusiastic about the two subjects she can do alone that she is now on page 95 of the handwriting book and is on page 46 in phonics. Mary and Will finish their assignments in about 3 hours, leaving plenty of time in the afternoons for visiting friends, horse lessons, and constructing a homemade “fair” on the swing set.

Extra science lessons are built in naturally over the course of the day. While touching a blue salamander that now lives under the turned-over wheelbarrow is pretty neat, learning about yellow jacket nests is dangerous, especially for poor Charlie who has been stung 14 times so far this summer. The destruction of these nasty creatures has been my project, yesterday I set out at 6am armed with a shovel and cans of wasp spray to exact revenge on a swarm that had stung me near an old stone wall. Later I showed the kids part of the paper nest with wasp larvae emerging and described the fat queen.

Every day we have at least one sighting of the wild turkeys who slowly stroll through the fields eating bugs and seeds. Today they came so close to the house that I joked to Maggie, “That big tom is going to try out your bicycle. Maybe his friend wants to jump onto the swings.”

One evening last week Will and Mary raced in hollering, “Where’s the camera??” Unfortunately by the time they ran back across the fields, the porcupine that had been lumbering toward them on the mown path had disappeared.

Once we get back to Maryland in a few weeks the children will be sadly disappointed to learn biology from books, with only the occasional trip to the park as a supplement.

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 11

All day yesterday I debated taking the children to see a Sept 11 film being shown at a nearby college. While I didn’t want to expose them to graphic images that would give them nightmares, I wanted to see some of the footage of that day for myself. I recall sitting at the kitchen table listening to the radio 7 years ago and hearing the news reporters make one gasping announcement after another, “A plane has struck the second tower!” and later, “One of the World Trade Towers has collapsed!” Back then I was grateful to be spared seeing live video, but I felt it was time to look back and remember.

Our lives were in a transition that week, having just picked Tim up at the Norfolk Naval Base airport a few days before. The kids and I had come back from Italy in May, packing up before late summer when all Italians go on vacation themselves and getting a crew to show up is next to impossible. The plan was to set out on a trip to Maine before Tim had to check in at his new command on a amphibious ship. We figured on going to the fair, eating lobster, and taking long walks on the rocky beach before gearing up for an inevitable deployment. I remember driving up along the highways in New Jersey seeing Old Glory tacked up at every overpass, but that was nothing compared to the hundreds of American flags displayed along Route 1 once we crossed over into Maine. Every town was lined with tiny flags in their yard, a witness to the patriotism of people who named towns founded during the War between the States Union and Freedom, Liberty and Unity.

So, last night I was a little apprehensive about how I was going to cover 5 pairs of eyes with only two hands, but I needn’t have worried. The film was very artsy, only showing the attack itself for a few moments before focusing on the ash and paper debris, the burned out cars and buildings, the exhausted firefighters walking around in a maze with no one to rescue for the next 40 minutes. There was no talking, no description of the other crashes that day, no record of heroism, or even mention of the 3000 people killed by Islamic fanatics. It was a strange and disappointing movie, but I was grateful we took time out of our day to play patriotic music and sing along loudly in the car, to pray for the souls of the departed and their families still mourning, and to remember the sacrifices of our soldiers fighting overseas so we have do not have another terrorist attack on our soil.

My country,' tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty,
of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims' pride,
from every mountainside
let freedom ring!
My native country, thee,
land of the noble free,
thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills,
like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
and ring from all the trees
sweet freedom's song;
let mortal tongues awake;
let all that breathe partake;
let rocks their silence break,
the sound prolong.
Our fathers' God, to thee,
author of liberty,
to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright
with freedom's holy light;
protect us by thy might,
great God, our King.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

big announcement

Well, I guess I should make it official: #6 “Baby Sunshine” is on the way, due in the middle of March. While we weren’t expecting this, it is welcome news. What else could a baby be? I suppose we will have to buy a bigger kitchen table so we can all fit, but that is a small price to pay for another soul from God.

This past weekend we told our families and the reactions ranged from, “I thought you would have been satisfied with 5 children,” to “We are just so thrilled!” The one thing everyone agreed on was that the names we picked were just perfect. I had promised Mother 1 year and 3 days ago that if I had another girl I would name her after her Grammy. “Please God let it be Julia, but if Henry appears then we will still be happy.”

As for my running schedule, well it got chucked as soon as I saw that blue line in the bathroom. There is always time to train and compete, after all I saw 80 year old ladies in some of races I was in this past year, but not one of them was pregnant.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

the food wars return

My children are picky eaters I admit, but they get it all from their father. The only member of his family to eat vegetables is his younger sister who fell in love with a vegetarian. Tim will eat small quantities of asparagus or green beans when it is socially required, but I don’t think a lettuce leaf has ever touched his lips.

I don’t mind the kids not liking bratwurst or cabbage soup, borscht or scrapple, pickles or olives; foods on my list of things I don’t care for, but my kids turn up their noses at cheeseburgers and luncheon meat, at rice and mashed potatoes, at eggs and oatmeal. It has become unbearable for me because when I cheerfully call out, “Lunch!” I will hear, “No peanut butter on Charlie’s, only apple jelly for Will…”

“Enough,” I say, “with your father still in Maryland, you will eat what is put in front of you or starve!”

Tuesday’s meals: oatmeal, Lunchables (I got Wasses hotdogs with chili and cheese, yum!), and blueberries and peas.
Wednesday’s meals: scrambled eggs, naked spaghetti with lots of Parmesan cheese, and corn and blueberries.
Thursday’s meals: scrambled eggs and bacon, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and pasta with meat sauce.
Friday's meals: french toast, ramen noodles, and cheese tacos

So far several of the kids have found to their amazement that they actually like the food that I have forced on them. Maggie is the most stubborn of the lot, I recall 3 years ago trying to wean her off baby food and having her go 5 days without eating more than a tablespoon of nutrition.
I have to get them to learn to eat more things than just fruit, dairy, and grains- they need protein to grow and veggies for the vitamins. They just have to be able to eat with other people in their homes and restaurants, and I need to be able to cook just one thing per meal, not 3 separate orders. I am a mommy, not a short order cook. I need to encourage myself to keep strong and not fall back on mac and cheese or cereal because I know they will eat it. On Saturday we will try something exotic after our trip to the big city and stop by the truck stop for cheeseburgers.

One day the children will say, “Gosh Mommy, this meal is really tasty. I’m so sorry I gave you such a hard time at the dinner table all those years.” I’m just not holding my breath it will happen with all of them this week.