January. The ground here in Maine is quite snow-covered, the icicles very long off my front porch. It’s birthday season here in our family; Drew turned 8 just after Christmas, Annie and Izzie will be 6 next week, Meg 12 in just three short weeks. Report cards have come in for all four kids and they’re doing so incredibly well, all of them. We are proud parents.

We’re in full hockey season mode, as all of the kids are skating again this year. Annie and Izzie are still doing skills and improving all the time. Drew is in his last year of Mites and cross-ice hockey; he’ll be moving on to Squirts and full-ice games in the fall. He’s improved so much as a player and goalie this year. Meg re-joined the world of co-ed hockey after a season of playing with just girls. She is one of four girls on her PeeWee team and one of two girls on her middle school team. When the kids aren’t skating with their teams, they’re outside on our rink, practicing what they’ve been learning so far this season until the sun goes down. It’s nice to see them love it.

I hope to come back to this space more often, to share details and photos of our life. I’ve been so busy living it lately that taking the time to document it, whether it’s here or in my scrapbooks (haha, I am so, so far behind) gets pushed to the side. I’ll take baby steps, stop in to say hello, then try to get myself more organized and visit for longer. I miss it here.


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.

Yeah, I Pay My Kid in iPod Songs

I’m pretty sure the word “chores” is one of the worst words in the English language. I know it was one of my least favorite words as a teenager. I had to dust and fold towels and I think I got paid for it, but I honestly can’t remember. I hated dusting. I didn’t mind the towel folding so much though.

Now that I’m a mom of four kids, I’ve started assigning Unpaid chores to the kids. They’re unpaid because when we tried the paid option with Meg a few years ago, she refused to do anything that she didn’t get paid for. Yeah, lesson learned there. The kids are expected to clean their rooms when asked. Sometimes that results in tantrums (ok, it often results in tantrums) but let me tell you, when their rooms are clean they are happy, happy kids. I refuse to clean their rooms for them. I will sit and watch them, assisting with what to clean up next, but I will not clean 3 kids’ rooms on top of all the other stuff I’m expected to do for them. It’s called responsibility.

Anyway, now that Meg is 11 1/2, she wants stuff. Books. Clothes. Earrings. Songs for her iPod. She has a couple of regular chores, which she does sporadically at best (clean the cat boxes, wipe down the table after dinner and sweep under the table). Recently she created a list of songs that she wants on her iPod (which is an old 2nd generation iPod Touch I bought used from one of Doug’s co-workers, but she thinks it’s gold) and asked me to buy her some. Being the clever mom that I am, I came up with a mutually beneficial solution~she does chores outside her regular chores, with a smile (or at least not crankily) and I will purchase her songs. Lo and behold, my dishwasher is getting unloaded and refilled more often, loads of towels get washed/dried/folded/AND put away, and songs are magically appearing on her iPod.

I’m not really that clever. I want help around the house, she wants tunes, and voila, we have a solution. I’m happier, she’s happier. The other kids don’t have iPods yet, so I’ll have to come up with some other chore ideas for them. Maybe cleaning in exchange for tv time?

What about you? Do you have your kids do chores? Do you pay them in cash or other ways, or not at all?

On Firsts

I swore I wasn’t going to cry this morning putting the three little ones on the bus, because I’d been looking forward to this day since school got out in June. The first day of school. The first day that I have no kids in my house all day. The first day that no one would be asking for snacks or to print a picture or me needing my referee hat to break up yet another fight. I did tear up, not because I was sad they were going to school, but happy because they were so, so happy. I really can’t wait until they come home and tell me about their first day.

Meg headed back to the middle school for 6th grade this morning. She’ll be with her entire group of friends, have some of the same teachers, and will be having a new teacher for her math and science classes. Her band and chorus permission slips are already signed and she’s looking forward to just getting back to school.

Drew is in his last year at the elementary school (our system has a K-2 school in each town, then the two towns combine for a 3/4 school then off to middle school at 5th grade) as a big 2nd grader. He’s excited to do lots more math, be with some of his guy friends from first grade and check out all the non-fiction books in his classroom.

Annie and Izzie will be in the same kindergarten class this year, with the same teacher that both Meg and Drew had. It was an easy decision to make, because I know that the teacher is a perfect fit for them both, and having them together to start such a big, wonderful adventure will be good for them both. They were thrilled to find out that three of the kids from their t-ball team will be in class with them, and their two best friends from preschool are in the same class, just down the hall.

Yes, they are holding hands and it was so sweet and unprompted that it made my heart swell.

Summer Staycation~Upta Camp

Last month we packed up our van and headed to one of Doug’s boss’ camp in Weld, Maine. This camp is on Webb Lake, just on the outskirts of Mt. Blue State Park. It was our second trip to the camp in the last year, as we were graciously allowed the use of the camp for a weekend last summer as well.

As with last year, the kids’ favorite things to do were to spend time in the lake, which is shallow enough to walk out quite far before needing to swim, and to use the kayaks.

The sunset on our first night was amazing. Doug and I sat on the dock and listened to the loons and drank it all in.

We took a drive on our second day, partly to get cell phone signal (none up there at all) and partly just to see what else was nearby (that is a loose term; nothing is nearby). We ended up at Rangeley Lake State Park, which was breathtakingly beautiful. Itty bitty, isolated campsites, but the lake itself was gorgeous, despite there being NO BEACH. Just a set of steps down to the water. It was strange.

When we weren’t out on the water or traveling the big kids and I played games of travel Battleship, which they’d never played before. They colored and read books and fought like cats and dogs (yes, even on “vacation”). Izzie took a fully clothed fall off the dock into the water and was miraculously unhurt, despite being soaked. We were so grateful to be able to spend time at the camp again this year and the kids are already asking if we’ll go back again next summer.

Back to School Tradition

My kids are heading back to school after Labor Day for the first time since Meg went to kindergarten in 2006. While part of me is antsy to get them out the door already, part of me is glad that I have time to take them to the lake one more time and make sure we have all our shoes, supplies and special snacks. It also gives me time to get our Back to School Tradition ready.

I’m not sure when we started our Back to School (and End of School, it’s the same) tradition, but the kids will soon start asking about taco night. Tacos are one of my kids favorite meals, whether made the traditional way with burger, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese, or our newest way of kielbasa with corn and black bean salsa, plus homemade guacamole. I’m a little smitten with the kielbasa tacos myself, because the roasted corn with the black beans and the guacamole on top of the grilled kielbasa is delicious. It’s one of the few meals that Doug and I make that the kids ask for seconds and thirds. I’m currently raising two great eaters, one ok eater and one picky eater, so when they ALL love a meal, I do a happy dance.

Taco night isn’t always held on the first or last day of school, mostly because of our busy schedules. This year I have a hockey board association meeting on the first night of school (I know, I’m really not thrilled since it’s Annie and Izzie’s first day of kindergarten) so I’m going to give the kids the choice of the night before the first day of school, or another night that week. It doesn’t matter to the kids WHEN we have our taco night, just as long as we have it. In the scheme of things, it’s a pretty small tradition, but it’s one that fits us just perfectly.

Do you have a back to school tradition? I’d love to hear about it!

Getting Organized

As we are quickly approaching the first day of school, all the cleaning and organizing stuff I managed to avoid all summer is starting to catch up with me. My kitchen island, which is the great dumping ground for mail, schoolwork, toys the kids fight over, and other assorted stuff is one task which needs to be completed before September 1st (my artificial deadline). I spent this past Sunday sorting through all the mail and leftover schoolwork (I know!) and have it relatively organized. Of course then we had to take everything off our TV stand in order to get Directv installed earlier this week, so of course it all got plunked on the island. I finally just tossed the now-dead flowers Doug bought me for my 40th birthday in JUNE that had been in a vase on top of the TV stand. I’m slowly, but surely, going to start this school year off organized. Staying organized will be the hardest part.

The other big dumping ground in our house is our “computer room”, which currently contains our computer desk, an upright piano, three bookcases, kids shoes, a couple of small tables covered in PAPER (so, so much paper), my grandmother’s chair, and other kid stuff. My mom was here last week and helped the kids get the room clean while I was at work, but you can’t even tell that it was clean. Doug and I have gone back and forth about getting a new desk, or buying more shelves, but this week we hit upon the perfect solution, thanks mostly to The Pioneer Woman. I am a faithful reader of her blog, own her two cookbooks and watch her show. If you follow her at all then you know that she created a room for her daughters in an upstairs attic space. Instead of providing the girls with separate desks, the designers built a long worktable for the girls (you can read about it all here). I am fortunate enough to have a father-in-law who has lots of power tools and loves to build things, so we’ve signed him on to create a long worktable to replace our desk, three small tables and take the spot of a bookshelf. I am beyond excited for this project, despite the fact that it means I have a ton of paper to sort, file, shred and generally organize.

The computer room currently looks like this:

(photo taken with my iPhone)

I will post projects updates and photos as we move along in the process. I’m so excited to have space for the PC, the laptop, our other important paperwork and be organized at the same time.