Friday Free for All~Back to School Edition

These short school weeks are hard. The kids are WIPED OUT when they get off the bus, and by wiped out I mean cranky and angry and not at all a pleasure to be around. We’re taking a trip to the library after school today in a desperate attempt hopes that everyone will get rid of their crankies before we step inside the house. Parenting school age kids is a rough gig sometimes.

September is my vacation time. Classroom volunteering doesn’t begin until October (after the myriad of testing dates-3 weeks worth-end) which means I have free time to myself after a long summer vacation of only having free time when I went to work. I can play Candy Crush with no one looking over my shoulder, eat a piece of candy without everyone whining that “it’s not FAAAAIR” and generally take a small breather during the day. Oh sure, the house needs to be vacuumed and the collection of paperwork from school is starting to breed (already, I KNOW) and oh look the dishes aren’t done. But in order to be a better me when the zombies darling cherubs get off the bus, I’m going to drink coffee, fritter away time on Facebook and read a book. At least for today.

Fall showed up on our doorstep the other night and it’s glorious right now. The mornings have been chilly and the afternoons have been nice, unlike last week when the kids were sweltering at school and we had to run the air conditioners all day. The leaves haven’t started to turn their gorgeous colors quite yet, but this new weather pattern will definitely help the cause. Fall has always been my favorite season and I try to soak it up when it arrives. I think I need to go dig out some fall related decorations today.

Soccer is on the agenda for us this weekend. What about you?


Chickens Know Best

In early August our hens stopped laying eggs. Just stopped. No note taped to the coop explaining what was happening; just no more eggs. Doug mucked out their coop, giving them fresh pine shavings while I resorted to buying my eggs at the store again (gasp!). We went away camping with friends and came back to hens who still weren’t laying eggs. We were baffled as to their behavior, although my money was on the rooster. He’s such a jerk.

In search of an answer, I asked Dr. Google, and Dr. Google suggested that the hens might be thinking that it’s already fall (hens cut back on egg production in the fall through the winter). So, we started putting on their light at night and after about 7 or 8 days, they started laying again. One egg here and there, and then finally days when we’d get 2 or 3 eggs all at once. Chickens know best.

What the chickens realized a month ago is evident here each day now. Cool nights, followed by warmer days. Crisp winds and a yard scattered with leaves. The sun is lower, leaving my front lawn in shade much more of the day than it did only a few weeks ago. Random colored leaves litter my driveway. Kids wearing long sleeves and sweatshirts to school each morning, instead of shorts and t-shirts. I open all the windows every day to let in the fresh smelling air. Fall is on my doorstep and I love it.

Summer Staycation: Penobscot Narrows Observatory and Fort Knox

In the past several years we’ve spent our July 4th at a parade and then the beach, followed by the fireworks. This year, the weather wasn’t looking good for the beach, so we opted to hop in our car with our trusty passports and headed downeast a bit. Our first stop was the Penobscot Narrows Observatory.

The Observatory is part of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, which opened in 2007. The new bridge was built to replace the aging Waldo-Hancock Bridge (which, by chance, Doug’s grandfather helped build, which the kids thought was pretty fantastic). The Observatory is the only one in the United States and if you hit the weather just right, you can see for at least 100 miles. It’s a quick one minute trip to the top (420 feet up; yes, I was a nervous wreck) and it offers some amazing views.

(Fort Knox as observed from the top of the tower).

It was an overcast day so we didn’t get to see for one hundred miles, but we certainly had a pretty great view of Bucksport, as well as Fort Knox, which was our main destination of the day.

Fort Knox (named for Major General Henry Knox, same as THE Fort Knox in Kentucky) was established in 1844 to protect the Penobscot River Valley against a British invasion. Troops were garrison from 1863-1869 at the Fort. Today, the Fort itself is open to the public from May to October. The kids were enthralled with every little thing about the Fort and we explored it for several hours.

The Fort was a fantastic piece of history and all four kids loved exploring. It was a pretty neat way to spend our July 4th.

Summer Staycation~Camping

Doug and I grew up in different families. His family of four boys and two parents went camping every summer from the time he was a baby. I never went camping as a kid. My dad traveled for work, we had a pool in our backyard from the time I was 9 (as did Doug, but not until he was a bit older) and camping just wasn’t our idiom. My idea of camping is being at a house on a lake, with electricity and running water.

Fast forward several years (ok, many, many years) to the beginning of July, when we decided to try our hand at camping. We did our research online, making lists of what we needed, then we hit up friends and family who are campers and borrowed the basics~tents, portable grills, sleeping bags~so that we weren’t putting hundreds of dollars into a venture that might possibly tank. We chose a campground at a Maine State Park 25 minutes from our home, just in case we had awful weather and had to pack up quickly and leave. Because our kids had never slept in a tent, we did a practice run in our own yard (which gave us the chance to figure out how to set the darn thing up as well) a few weeks beforehand. Most campgrounds have “quiet hours” which require, well, quiet, from about 10pm-7am. My kids are not quiet and failed the quiet test at home (they were up at 6 yelling in our yard; we do have one neighbor and they probably didn’t appreciate the loudness one bit).

The day we were set to leave for the campground was hot and muggy, but on our way there I could see the clouds rolling in. Sure enough, as soon as we got the tents set up and the cars unpacked, the skies opened from a big thunderstorm. Izzie and I hid out in the car as she is terrified of thunderstorms (and was having a reaction to her chickenpox vaccine she received a couple of days earlier and was quite miserable). It rained on and off the rest of that Sunday, which limited our ability to do much more than this:

We picked a campsite that was halfway between the bathrooms and the beach, and just down the road from the playground. This was a good choice because I have kids with itty bitty bladders who don’t sleep through the night, and we didn’t have too travel far to get to the beach. We did manage to enjoy some lovely beach time.

As with any camping trip, bring along the necessary ingredients to make s’mores; you won’t regret it.

Camping was fun, despite the thunderstorms and the fact that the kids bickered constantly at the campsite. I even had a little run-in with a skunk who wandered into our campsite while we were sitting at the campfire our first night there (I avoided getting sprayed but I was scared to death it was going to happen). We’ve just booked a campsite further north with a group of friends for August, which should be a ton of fun.

Do you camp? Do you go to campgrounds or state parks?

Summer Staycation: State Parks

We won’t be going on a summer vacation this summer. Doug’s work schedule makes it hard for him to get more than a day or two in a row off, so traveling isn’t on our list of things to do this summer. However, we live in the gorgeous state of Maine and have decided to visit as many State Parks as we can (Maine is big; we won’t be heading up north) this spring and summer.

Ever since we moved from our home with a swimming pool to our home in the middle of the woods, we’ve purchased a State Park pass. This $70 pass can be used at each and every one of Maine’s 48 State Parks and Historical sites and is worth every single penny we pay for it. This year we also got our hands on the State Park passbooks for the kids; each of the 48 parks and historical sites have a page or two in the book and you get to use a stamp to prove you visited the site. After a certain number of visits we can check in with the park rangers and the kids can earn little treats.

Over Memorial Day weekend we checked into our first state park of the year, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, in Freeport (not far from LL Bean and that big boot!). I’ve never been to this state park and I’m a native Mainer! The park is home to gigantic osprey nests, tide pools to find crabs, and trails for hiking. We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and visited the ocean first. Caveat: I am terribly afraid of heights, and of falling, and so I found myself a cozy spot and the kids and Doug did all the walking around on the rocks.

The ospreys nest high up in the trees, on an island that was across the water from where we were roaming. We were so fortunate that they opted to give us a little show.

The kids loved exploring along the rocks and searching for crabs, seashells and whatever other wildlife they could find.

After we had a small snack we decided to try out one of the easier walking trails (never take two five year olds on anything other than easy trails, trust me) and were overwhelmed with the number of ladyslippers we found along the way, in pinks and whites. Ladyslippers are endangered around here, so to find so many of them was such a treat.

I even got the kids to pose for me (not an easy task with four kids, ever) for a couple of shots.

Since Freeport is only about 40 minutes from our home, I’m pretty sure we’ll head back to this state park again soon.