Winding Down

We’re on the downside of summer here. The calendar says August 6th and that means school starts for all four of my kids in less than a month. Part of me is screaming “yay, school starts in less than a month” and part of me is wondering “how is it already August”?

Our summer has been busy with trips to lakes, beaches, state parks and forts. We’ve been to our local library weekly, checking out a lions’ share of books each visit. We’ve had All Star softball, birthday parties, soccer and volleyball camps. We’re heading camping with friends this weekend and then will spend the rest of August winding down. We have school supplies for four to shop for, clothes to organize, eye exams. Bedrooms and computer rooms and kitchen counters need to be spruced up and ready for the upcoming school year. Soccer cleats need to be purchased, hockey gear needs to be sorted and lists made of what is needed for the season. It’s time to read more books, take last trips to the lake before the weather changes, get a little extra sleep.

These last days of summer inevitably intertwine with school year preparations and a balance needs to be found to cling to the last warm days while purchasing pencils, graph paper and erasers. The cool nights are coming, but they aren’t here yet. So, we’ll plan beach visits with friends, head to the library for more books, and still buy new school shoes. We’ll slowly switch gears from lazy summer mornings to school bedtimes complete with bedtime stories. I’m ready to embrace it all.


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?


We’re two and a half weeks into summer vacation and my kids haven’t slept past 6:15 more than once. Most days, Drew is up at 6, banging around in his room or running up and down the hall, trying to wake the others up to come play. To say this makes for long days is an understatement. Short of duct taping him to his bed, I have no idea how to get that child to sleep in.

Our first week of vacation we wandered aimlessly around the house, with the kids literally up my backside all day long. I was thrilled not to have to make a 7am and 8am bus stop trip each morning, but we’d make no real plans for the beginning of that week. I wanted to rest, but the kids were B.O.R.E.D. They fought, threw things at each other and generally drove me to madness by 3pm.

This week I instituted school. I know, a weird concept in the summer, but my school-age kids THRIVE on the structure of school, so I decided we needed to have some school time during our day. Meg has summer work she can do (not mandatory, but this kid ASKED to go to summer school and got other homework from her language arts teacher) through a website called Compass Learning, and Drew has a math website he can access to keep his skill sharp. Monday morning I set Drew up to review some math skills on the PC and Meg logged into her account on the laptop and they were happy, happy campers. I’ve also mandated 30 minutes of reading (also known as mommy-sanity-saving quiet time) each day.

This week did throw us a curve ball with a stomach bug that’s gone through all the kids plus me (always fun lying sick on the couch while your 5 year old twins have the run of the house because the other big kids are sick too). I’m still working on Wednesdays so we’ve alternated having my mom and mother-in-law come watch the kids, which is great for all involved. We’re trying hard to get into some routine, because we have a long July and August to contend with as the kids don’t head back to school until September 4th, which is late, late, late.

We’ve had some fun so far, including a very impromptu beach trip on my birthday with many friends and kids that included a group picture of the kids (which if they didn’t pose for they didn’t get cupcakes!) and a wonderful birthday serenade. It was one of the most relaxing days we’d had in a long time and the moms all agreed that we’d be heading back together again soon. We’re heading camping for the FIRST TIME EVER this weekend and I’m torn between thinking we’re going to have fun and thinking that since my kids are so loud we’re going to get kicked out because they’ll be loud during mandatory quiet time. Of course I’m hoping for the former but given that they failed that with our at-home test earlier this month, I’m just not sure.

We’ve got more fun coming up in July, with Meg’s All Star softball tournament (so proud the coaches selected her as the catcher!) and a trip back to the camp we visited last summer. There will be trips to the library to get more and more books and more beach trips with friends. There will be more school and more room cleaning. So far, summer has been pretty easy on us and I’m hoping for less fighting and more fun.

How is your summer going so far?

Summer Staycation: State Park Number Two

It’s technically not summer here in Maine yet. I think we may have experienced summer in March when it was 80 degrees for several days. We’ve had a full week of cool, rainy, disgusting weather and I’m quite ready for summer to arrive and warm us all up.

Over Memorial Weekend we hit up another one of Maine’s State Parks: Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth. Having grown up in Maine, I’ve visited Two Lights many, many times. We were fortunate that it was quiet that day and one of the park rangers took us all into the World War II era bunker (the site was never used during the war he told us; the war ended before the site was finished) and let the kids practice their echoes. We also visited the fire control tower, a place Doug and I had never seen in all our years of living in the area and visiting the park. I took up residence on the walking path when everyone ventured down onto the rocks as I’m a big ol’ chicken. I was pretty sure Izzie was going to pitch over the edge of the rocks and into the Atlantic when she was running back and forth like a lunatic. We’re glad she’s still with us.

It clearly looks like I told my kids to dress in rainbow colors, doesn’t it?

Just Write {12}

“Mom, how do you catch a tiger, give him a hug and then let him go?” “I think he’s singing about a real tiger, not a stuffed animal.”

Some days she’s 5 going on 15, and others she’s 5 going on 1. She spins and twists, runs and jumps, hugs, kisses and runs away again, only to fall to pieces when something doesn’t go quite her way. She knows lyrics to so many of today’s popular songs and jumps for joy when The Wanted comes on the radio. She has a hard time writing a lower case “z” and it frustrates her that her sister, only older by 11 minutes, can write upper and lower case letters and they aren’t even in kindergarten yet. She still sucks her thumb when she has her lamb “Shakes” in her hands, but likes to look at chapter books and tells me what she thinks is happening. She wants to only wear what she wants to wear (no jeans, no socks with too much white) and eat what she wants to eat (sausage, cucumbers, goldfish crackers) and stay up as late as her big, big sister. She looks for worms under the bases at t-ball and hugs her friends tight, whispers plans both good and bad with her twin, and will tear apart her room if you make her angry. She is frustrating and funny and loving and maddening and my baby. She’ll start kindergarten in 3 short months and it’s going to be hard, yet so easy, to put this little ball of energy on the bus with her sister and brother on that first day. She’s a swirl of contradictions, just like life, and I love her to pieces.

Linking up again with the fabulous Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary. Because it’s Tuesday and it’s time to Just Write.

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.