Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What we're up to.

We're painting the kitchen cabinets this week, and the rest of the kitchen next week, which means total chaos, no cooking, lots of "reminding" children not to lean up against wet cabinets or try to "help" with the painting.  Someone else wants to be a part of the action too:
I also haven't run yet this week and I'll be getting my first chance at 8 pm tonight, which I will take.  I'm really looking forward to Thursday and Friday when I'm escaping the madness and hiking Katahdin with the girls.  Phew!

Finding Self in Place, part 3.

{continued from part 1 and part 2.}

And so a year later, after several months living in San Francisco together, and several months of long-distance love, we made it happen.  I packed up a Ryder truck and moved my life from California to Maine, accompanied on the road by my dear friend Adrienne, and Charlie watching the reverse trip out the window next to us.  When I arrived and joined Sam in our new home, I was slightly overwhelmed by the culture shock of going from city to small town.   I took photos of the fields of wild flowers and abandoned barns on my road and sent them to my city friends.  I couldn’t get over the lack of bus and garbage truck noise.  There were no pedestrians to watch, no cool coffee shops.

I felt a welcome and familiar satisfaction as the seasons began to change.  In the crisp first weeks of autumn I started my first teaching job and watched from my classroom window the glorious show of color in the leaves.  I got used to the humming quiet of living surrounded by woods, and the first time we had a fire in our wood stove, I nearly fainted from the rush of emotion.  If I closed my eyes and breathed, I was sitting around the fire deep in the woods of Kabeyun.  I loved the way time was defined by the weather, as the waist-deep ferns behind our house changed to waist-deep snow. 

After our first year here, Sam and I slowly started to carve out a life for ourselves.  But we weren’t totally convinced that Maine was home.  Friendships were slow in coming.    We didn’t live on a lake.  Instead, our town featured ubiquitous white churches and hand-painted “Bean Supper” signs.  We spent as much time as we could in the mountains or on the coast, but the reality of our day-to-day didn’t live up to our romanticized view of New England.

Our first April, tired of the never-ending gray and slow-melting snow, we drove to North Carolina for a week’s vacation.   Great friends, who had settled into the mountains of Asheville, thought we would love it so much we’d want to move there.  We had a lovely visit and found the rolling mountains and pink azaleas beautiful.   Midweek we did a long, hot, buggy hike through the woods in the Smokeys up a mountain trail and after several hours reached the summit, but at the summit, there was no view, just more trees and more rooty, pine-needled ground. 

Though we hadn’t articulated it to each other, both of us knew while we were in the south, that we were drawn back home to the north.   We drove back to Maine, and by the time we crossed the Piscataqua Bridge at the Maine border, the evening light had that Edward Hopper glow, the landscape infused with a golden honey color that made the edges of the green highway signs and weathered red barns cut a crisp edge against the sky.  I don’t think we said it to each other at that moment, but both of us reflected later that we felt something deep inside of us when we came back to Maine, a tremendous sigh of relief.  Maine had, while we were away, become home.

It has been seven years since we had the epiphanal Maine border crossing. And so we have settled into Maine, grown to love its rocky coasts and countless lakes, and accepted its quirks and cultural shortcomings.

While of course I am a different person now, better even, living in Maine helps me stay on nodding terms with my young Kabeyun self.  I have come to understand just what it is that helps me stay intimately connected to the best parts of myself, that self that emerged on the docks of Winnepesauke: fresh water lakes, tall pine trees, puffy clouds, heat with slight humidity in the summer, big nasty snow storms in the winter, a wall made of river rocks,  a screen door that slams when you shut it, mountains with bare granite tops and a long, clear view.   And Sam. 

Now, the landscape, and more essentially, the life we have in Maine has Kabeyun woven all through it: woods, teaching, lakes, books, the exchange of ideas, and the cycle of seasons.  And actually, I have come to understand that all of these things have become a part of my very essence; I don’t need to be on the docks of Kabeyun with my feet dangling in the water in order to know who I am.

                                        That's me swimming in Thoreau's Walden Pond:


                                     And two years later (note the hair changes):  July 28, 2001

                       After the toast-to-end-all-wedding-toasts by Sean, our fellow NELP staffer:
                         Group shot of all the NELP staff and students in attendance at our wedding:

And pretty much, you know the rest of the story!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finding Self in Place, part 2.

 {continued from part 1}

I flew from San Francisco to New Hampshire (with Charlie) and arrived at Camp Kabeyun early, a day before the rest of the staff, and had a private reunion with the land.  My first cold April night, I bundled up and felt my way along the rooty lake shore out to the far dock where I sat in the blue moonlight and marveled at where I was, the light of the moon strong enough to show me the  sun-bleached wood of the docks and the new green of the trees.  I had never felt a stronger sense of homecoming that didn't involve people.  This was all about me and my love for a place, and of course, all that this place had come to represent for me.

During that first week before the students arrived, the leaves of the trees had a lightness that matched the wistfulness I felt.  I moved comfortably through the woods and rediscovered the perfect spot to ease into the lake.  I was insane for the smells of pine and lake water and wind, for the subtleties of the landscape, the age and wisdom of the land. 

                              My short-haired, 25-year old self with fellow NELP staffers Samaine and Deborah.

My return to Kabeyun was certainly intended to be an independent experience, but it didn’t take me long to narrow in on Sam, a fellow teacher, the tall, strong poet with a lumberjack’s beard.  I sat on the steps of the dining hall early one morning and watched him splitting wood with ease and grace.  It was obvious that Sam was equally comfortable in his skin here at Kabeyun.

Love happened quickly.   In order to carve out some time alone, we spent our first dates floating in a canoe on the lake, Sam semi-paddling in the stern while I sat backwards in the bow, facing him, and Charlie sitting in the middle.   We spent our nights in his small cabin, so close to the lake that the sound of the waves lapping against the rocks never quieted.  We fell asleep feeling as though we were floating on a raft.  By the end of the program, we were in deep, and we had a decision to make.  Sam was moving to Maine to start a Masters program.  I lived in San Francisco.  I pictured the city street where I lived, the flowering trees everywhere, the steady flow of pedestrians, the endless warm weather.  “Maine?” my friends and family asked.  “Seriously?  So far away? ”  Well, not only was I in love in a big way, but the promise of a landscape close to Kabeyun’s thrilled me.  If I could live in New England, I thought, I’d always feel this alive.

                         Batch of bread, NELP style.  I made the challah.  Sam made the french bread:

                                           Sam contradancing with the NELP director, Jackie:

                                            NELPers saying goodbye at the end of the program:

{--to be continued}

Monday, June 28, 2010

Finding Self in Place, part 1.

A few years ago, I participated in a one week writing workshop called The Northeast Writer's Institute (NEWI) at the University of Maine.  For that week, my only job was to choose something I wanted to write, and to write all day, except for the time spent in workshops with other writers or one-on-one time with two of my favorite professors, Harvey Kail and Rich Kent.  The piece I chose to work on was a personal essay about my connection to a particular landscape.  It answers some questions about the New England Literature Program (NELP) which I often refer to, as well as how I met Sam and why we moved to Maine.  I decided to post it (with photos!), but I'm going to give it to you in three sections because it's on the long side.

Kabeyun:  Finding Self in Place.

Very often people ask me how I, a Michigan girl, ended up living in Maine.  The answer, quite simply, is because of New Hampshire.  I fell deeply in love with New England at Camp Kabeyun, a charming old boys’ camp on Lake Winnepesauke in New Hampshire where I spent a spring semester of college studying New England Literature with forty other students from the University of Michigan.

I feel a wild, greedy possessiveness over the landscape of Kabeyun, the wide lake and rocky shore, the birch trees, the docks, the cabins, the remnants of old rock foundations hiding in the woods.  I can still hear the water of the lake lapping onto the rocks and slapping the bottom of the wooden docks, smell the sweetness of the pine cabins mixed with the cold lake air. My attachment to the camp is not just because it is so pretty or scenic, but rather because the life I led there was so rich.  Every day was packed full. Classes on Thoreau, Emerson, Dickenson, Frost were all taught outside, small groups of us sitting cross-legged in circles, journals and books splayed out on our laps. I ate well and laughed easily.  We climbed the granite mountains scattered around the lake and spent hours sitting in groups at the top, the view spread out before us.

Friendships formed easily and quickly.  We all cooked together, baked bread together, learned to contra dance, chopped wood, and read piles of books.  As the semester went on, the temperatures slowly rose and we shed our layers of fleece, let the wood stoves die out, and started swimming every day, walking barefoot on the soft, dusty trails that wove around the camp. We watched spring unfurl and summer ease in.

                                                             NELP is where I learned to bake bread.
                                               This is  20 loaves of challah rising in the bread room.

I love how I felt there, who I was there, what I learned there, how the cold water felt on my naked body.  I spent hours lying on my back on the dock looking up at the canopy of leaves.   I came to understand how I learn, read life-defining texts, and decided to become a teacher during my time at Kabeyun.  And because we were basically living outside, because the lake and the surrounding forest were my home, the shape and feel of the land was an integral part of these self-discoveries.

When I left New Hampshire at the end of that spring, I was 21 years old. I was brave, daring, and ready for whatever life had in store.  I knew that my body felt strong and my spirit undiluted in Kabeyun’s landscape. And I knew I’d be back.
But first, having officially graduated from Michigan with these last English credits that I earned in New Hampshire, I was free to go west, as I had planned to for years.   I had my sights set on San Francisco.  I packed my red Volkswagen full of my most important stuff and headed west with my black lab Charlie riding shotgun.

                                          I took this photo on my way:

Writing this, I realize that my four years in San Francisco remain a blur of images of myself, steep hills, the market up the street, a brown paper bag overfilled with groceries, a baguette and some vine-ripened tomatoes sticking out the top; days at the beach digging my heels into the sand with a book in my lap; walks through the misty tropical gardens of Golden Gate Park; hours on the phone to Michigan friends on the back porch, laughter rising into the mild air.

A few weeks after moving to SF:


From this place in my life, I can’t quite get my bearings on my memories of San Francisco because the seasons there have little distinction from one another.  It is warm and sunny in fall and spring, just slightly cooler with strings of rainy days in the winter, and stubborn fog in the summer that burns off to reveal a warming sun.  The temperature is basically consistent.  There is no snow, no leaves falling or crunching underfoot, no thunderstorms.  It is instead chronic loveliness.  Cala lilies with big, open, white blooms fill the parks all year round, flowering trees at every street corner, every day a perfect one for a bike ride across the bridge.  And though it was lovely -- trust me, it was --  I did nothing to earn the warm sunshine. After a while, it felt cheap and easy.  No long stretches of mornings scraping ice off of my windshield, no muddy March days, no black flies, no suffering.  My years there have melded into one long mostly sunny afternoon.  In some ways, living in that climate kept me at an arm’s reach from myself.  Without the cycle of seasons and weather to anchor my memories, my sense of who I was in California is much less clear from my current vantage point.   I now know that I was just waiting to get back to Kabeyun.

                                          Me with a jumping Charlie on a San Francisco Beach.

Our sunny SF kitchen.


My red VW with my friends Cassie and Lidia,  whom I met at NELP and who moved to SF a few months after me.

During my fourth year in San Francisco I applied for and was accepted to return to New Hampshire to teach at the same literature program on Lake Winnepesauke where I had been a student.  I could barely contain my excitement to get back to the lake, the cabins, the books in the woods.  But I feared that my memories had mythologized themselves after four years of nostalgia for the camp.  I would undoubtedly be disappointed when I returned.  Could it really be that beautiful, that poignant, that sweet smelling?  Maybe more importantly, could I feel the way I had felt four years earlier?  Would I be that same person again?

{--to be continued}

gone, daddy, gone

Sam went off to his annual Vermont long-course swim meet for 4 days.  Adding Jackson to the mix made for a very long 4 days for us.  And now you know why I was so overwhelmed with the bedtime dilemma.  Being up until 10 o'clock with an unhappy child and then waking up early to a dog that needed to go to the bathroom left little time for me to collect myself.

Our main mission each day was to find something to do that would exhaust the dog and occupy the children.  On top of that, Reed is in time out a lot for various misdemeanors and every time he gets in trouble he cries for his daddy.

Day One:  the kids were in school until 3:00, but still, this was a long afternoon.  Jackson chews everything and needs constant monitoring.  Both kids had a ridiculously hard time going to bed.  I almost surrendered. 

Day Two:  took everyone hiking in City Forest.  The kids only last about a mile of walking, but it was a lovely morning.  The afternoon, which you already know, was spent strawberry picking, goat feeding, and ice-cream eating.

Day Three:  went over to Jason's to let the kids play with Killian, Beckett and Roz.  I ended up staying for 2 hours because they have a big fenced in yard that kept Jackson occupied. 

Next, we decided (because why not?) to drive 45 minutes to Belfast where I had read they had a great dog park.  Remember, we were operating on the idea that a tired dog = a happier family.

Great work.  Jackson was beat after about an hour of non-stop action in the dog park.  We grabbed lunch to eat in the car and head for home.  I told everyone:  "Mommy is  going to watch the soccer game while all 3 of you sit quietly.  Got it?"

I watched the game while the kids played with legos.  Jackson did not eat any, which tells you that he was actually tired. Phew.

Then, our babysitter Marlee came over to relieve me for a much needed run.  I ended up at the gym on the treadmill while the US played the 30 minutes of overtime against Ghana.  I thought that if I ran really fast that maybe the US would win, but they lost.  It was a heart breaker, but I felt much better after a good workout.

Day Four:  Church in the morning, out to lunch with my friend April and her kids:

And then the afternoon was spent at Jen's for a playdate.  Jackson played too rough with her dogs, so I tied him up after he romped for a while, but the kids had a blast playing on their play set and with their pool and hose.

Reed and Skyler drool over their John Deere tractor.  And when the battery dies?

Jen will push them laps around the yard.  Now that is a good friend.

It takes a village of friends to keep me going when I'm a single mom.  And I kind of like the challenge of it doing it all on my own, but I was very excited to have Sam back.

3 hours earlier than we anticipated, Daddy pulled into the driveway and there was a melee of kisses and hugs.

I said to Sam:  "Hi!  How are you?!"  He said:  "I'm tired."  And I laughed all the way to the couch where I sat down and took a deep breath.

This morning, the kids were thrilled to find Daddy still home!  And it was raining, so everyone watched Mary Poppins while I drank coffee and took some more deep breaths.

My proudest accomplishment from Sam's absence is that I worked really hard with Skyler about bed time, and the last 2 nights she went to bed without one tear or any pleading for me.  And last night, the plan continued to work with Sam home, and she fell asleep on her own (music playing) as if it was the easiest thing in the world.  I know better than to think  that we won't have our bumps in the road, but I've learned that consistency is the best thing for her.  Sam and I are a calm, self-reliant, united team of bedtime success, and we're hoping for a summer full of watching Red Sox games while the children are sleeping. 

home, daddy, home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strawberries a la mode.

We spent the afternoon at the strawberry farm.

Reed is kind of Zen about berry picking. 

Suzanne, Maya and Ella took us out there.        We were joined by Amy and her boys Nick and Tim.

And Jen with Kaitlin and Tyler (who is somewhere out there).

There was a little bit of running talk and marathon planning amidst the berries.

We filled 6 quarts pretty quickly, and now we have our hands full!  Apparently the growing season was perfect for strawberries this year.  These guys are almost twice as big as last year's, and super sweet. 

"Is this enough, Mom?"

What summer activity does not go well with ice cream?  We moved on to Treworgy farm to eat ice cream and feed the goats.  Can you tell I'm on the exhaust-the-children plan too?
(look at Reed going for my cone).

Suzanne took a bunch of these photos and was very amused with herself for catching me in the act of saving Reed's ice cream drips.  So there, Suzanne, I posted one.

And here are all the kiddos after a day's worth of fun and dirt.  

In other news, thank you so much for all the support, advice, and empathy about Skyler and the bedtime thing.  I am currently lying in the hall outside of her room as she sniffles her way to sleep.  This too shall pass.  Thank you for the perspective. 

World Cup Fever

Did you watch the soccer game this week? The US had to score one goal against Algeria to advance in the World Cup. The game is 90 minutes long. After 90 excruciating minutes, the score was still 0-0. There were 4 minutes added onto the end for injury time. Skyler and Reed and Jackson and I were on the edge of our seats.

I love the whole feel of World Cup soccer, the noisy horns and the international feel, and I love how the announcers totally milk all the emotion out of the suspense. They were saying things like: "The hopes and dreams of an entire nation rests in the next 4 minutes." "Can these boys make it happen? Do you believe that dreams can come true?"

And then Landon Donovan scored a goal. Here at the Manhart house, we were all jumping around and hooting and hollering and Jackson started howling. But after watching this video, I really wished were in a crowded bar somewhere when it happened. But my favorite parts, actually,  are the two snippets of the two guys who were watching the game alone in their homes. I love seeing our country go nuts for soccer.

Saturday at 2:30! US vs. Ghana! We'll be watching!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Skyler Manhart:  Superstar by day, Nervous Nellie by night.

Here is the situation.  {I'm telling you this in hopes that if you have young children, you won't make the same mistakes that we've made.}

Skyler has always been on the difficult side at bedtime.  We had to let her cry it out when she was a baby because we somehow found ourselves rocking her to sleep (which sometimes took hours).  That worked great for a while.  When she was 2, we had to do the Super-Nanny tactic of putting her back into her bed over and over when she'd get up (one night it was 49 times) so she would learn that we were in charge at bedtime.  Since that time, we have had some stretches when bedtime is easy, but most of the time, she is needy, clingy, and difficult at bedtime.  We've gone back and forth with sticker charts, reward systems, straight-up bribery, every strategy I could think of to get her to go to bed well.  What she wants is for someone to stay with her until she falls asleep.  And I'd love to tell you that we have refused to do it,  except for the nights when we haven't.

So now, Skyler is afraid to be alone at night.

We have a great routine in theory.  7:30, she gets 2 stories from me and 2 stories from Sam and then she looks at books for a while until she falls asleep.  And that works sometimes.  But often, she cries at night becasue she doesn't want to be left alone.  Everything seems fine until the last second when it's time for us to go, and she panics.  And I'm sure from your perspective that seems like she is just maniuplating us and we need to be firm, but I'm telling you, and hoping you aren't judging me, that bedtime is the hardest thing about parenting her. 

About 10 days ago, it was really bad and we couldn't get her to stop crying.  The kind of crying where she tries to keep it together but her mouth contorts and her eyes fill with tears and she holds it in as best she can.  So, in an attempt to redeem my evenings with Sam, my hope at having any kind of quiet time at night, I made a deal with her that I would stay outside of her room until she was asleep for 3 nights, and then for the next 5 nights, I would stay upstairs and work in my room or fold laundry until she was asleep. My plan is to kind of wean her away needing me to be close by.   And she did manage to do it, but I can't say that anything is that different than it was 10 days ago.  Last night was night 5 of the mom-is-upstairs plan and she kind of fell apart again.  She was in my room, still awake at 10 pm.  I was sick over it.  I did not want to give in and go into her room, but I also needed her to be asleep.  I asked her:  "What are we going to do?"  I honestly didn't know.  She just cried on my chest.

I was really proud of both us.  I told her that if I had to come into her room to help her go to sleep, then she wouldn't get her reward that I had promised her.  Did she want that?  No.  She wanted to be able to be alone without crying. I could tell she was trying really hard to do it.   I told her that she should just go lie down on her bed for 10 minutes just to see what would happen, and if she couldn't do it, she could come back.  And she did, and she fell right asleep.  But it was 10 pm.  Victory?

And this is the curse of the working parent.  We created this mess because we don't see our kids for very many hours when we are working.  We wanted bedtime to be pleasant.  We enjoyed the time lying in the bed talking to her and going over the details of her day.  Sam, with the very best of intentions, often cuddled up with Skyler in her bed after stories and they would both fall asleep together.  And now when he doesn't stay with her until she's asleep, her little world comes crashing down.  If we knew then what we know now, we would have never let her fall asleep with one of us in the room. 

I talked to my friend Doug this morning, a children's behavioral psychologist (yes!) and he gave me some great advice, to talk to Skyler about this at a time when she's not feeling afraid, and develop a plan of steps she can take (that she comes up with) to help her self-soothe at bedtime.  He also reminded me that if I feel bad about hearing her cry at night, to remember that I'm teaching her to be self-sufficient.  Yes.  Right.  One of the most important things to me.  But damn.  This is so hard.

Together, Skyler and I talked about what she can think about when she's feeling lonely.  I asked her what is something that makes her happy that she can think about.  She said:  "picking flowers with mom."  I asked her what she could say to herself to make her feel better, and she said:  "We are always together."  I couldn't have done better myself.

Tonight, we taped her happy thoughts to the side of her dresser right near her pillow.
We also taped up the card that came in the mail today from her beloved Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Grindle.  And I burned her a CD of lullabies that she can listen to until she's asleep.   

Maybe I'll add this to the side of her dresser:
"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself."  Ralph Waldo Emerson
In fact, maybe I'll start reading from Emerson's "Self Reliance" to put her to sleep at night.

I think maybe I'm taking this too hard and need to remember that this too shall pass.  It's just that seeing your child have any kind of emotional turmoil is the hardest part of parenting {call me captain obvious}.  I want her to be happy by herself.  I want her to be confident, unafraid, and for Pete's sake!  I want her to go to bed so I can sit down for a minute. 

I'll let you know how things progress.
Any advice for a heart-sick Mommy? 
Anything I'm not thinking of to make this easier?

What's for Dinner? And Dessert!?

I know I should be more ambitious than this since it is summer, and I will have some more interesting dinners coming soon.  In the meantime, this is actually my very favorite kind of meal:  Baked sweet potato, baked beans, and a huge pile of crispy kale.*  Holy fiber.  Delicious and easy.  (Scroll to the bottom of this post where there is more info about the power of kale).

 I have never actually made Strawberry Shortcake before.  Not sure why.  But after we picked up these babies at the farm, plus the fact that we are going strawberry picking on Friday so there are many more on the way, I wanted to try it out. 

Reed wanted to help, but I wanted to get the dough done without him and then have him help me cut out the biscuits (I used a glass which worked fine).  I told him I had to look up the recipe and to come back in a few minutes.  He offered to write out the directions for me, and went off to find a marker.

Thanks, bud!  That looks very complex!

After dinner last night, I gave each kid a plate that looked like this:

Skyler said she wanted me to "scrape the whipped cream off" and Reed just wanted a biscuit beause the whole thing was "too messy."  Oh brother.  Well, I enjoyed every bite.  The super sweet strawberries and the warm biscuit and the fresh whipped cream?  Seconds, please. 

I used this recipe from Bon Appetit, but added 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger and 1 tsp. lemon zest to the dough, which I recommend. 

*If you forgot how to make crispy kale, or are ready to try, just rough chop some kale, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.  Sam doesn't like kale (darn!) so when we get some, I eat the whole head in one sitting.  It's so good. 

If you are still not conivinced, read this:
"Kale absolutely rich and abundant in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in Vitamin C not to mention the much needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans. The "Icing on the Kale" are the natural occurring all important phytochemicals sulforaphane and indoles which research suggests may protect against cancer. Let's not forget the all important antioxidant Vitamin E.

The naturally rich sulfur content of kale deserves a bit more discussion. Science has discovered that sulforaphane, helps boost the body's detoxification enzymes, possibly by altering gene expression. This is turn is purported to help clear carcinogenic substances in a timely manner. Sulforaphane is formed when cruciferous vegetables like kale are chopped or chewed. This somehow triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer causing chemicals, of which we all are exposed on daily basis. A recently new study in the Journal of Nutrition (2004) demonstrates that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer cell proliferation."  (source)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

projects, paint chips, pickles and pizza.

Today was a school day for the kiddos and I did not disappoint myself with all that was accomplished.  I promise I won't publish my to-do list ever again, but here is what I did while the kids were at school.  By the way, while I'm happily busy doing all this, you know what I'm thinking?  I miss my kids. 

run 4 miles
buy new filing system
go grocery shopping
pick up paint chips at home depot
file all the random papers in the kitchen
clean kitchen
clean refrigerator
mop floors
create the summer calendar
buy flowers for blue pots
plant the flowers
make pickles
make iced tea
vacuum out the car
get the car washed

 Here are some paint chips that we are considering for our kitchen.  I told Sam that my inspiration for the colors was walnuts and sage, which he thought was hysterical, and I was like:  "what? shut up."

And here is another decision we have to make.  What color to stain the decks?  We have 3 very small decks, front, side, and back.  I'm We're leaning toward a dark brown.

Today I bought a bunch of files and that little black filing box at Target and I transformed this area.  I didn't take a before picture, but I had piles of papers everywhere.  Now, a place for everything and everything in its place.  Ah.

Next I had these two blue pots that Sam got me for mother's day.  I went to our local nursery/ farm stand guy and he helped me pick out some plants.  I said I wanted there to be "hangy downy things" in the front, and he said:  "right this way."  I had to channel my inner Lila, my mother in law, who is the best gardener/ potted plant arranger that I know.  I think they look pretty cute.

Moving on!  "Making pickles" is stretching the truth a little.  We get a ton of cukes from our farm share, and I am determined to not let them go to waste this year.  Farmer Beth from Fisher Farm told me that if you just save the pickle juice from a jar of pickles that you've bought and eaten, you can just slice the cukes and shove them in there.  I'm very excited about this, and I'll let you know how they taste after a few days.

After some planning and chatting with Sam on the patio, it was time to fetch the children.  When I picked up the kids, everyone was happy and full of stories of a great day.  Reed's teacher said:
"He's so easy and laid back!"


I asked how he did at nap time.

She said:  "Great.  He never fell asleep but he just lay there quietly and looked at books for the whole 2 hours."


Reed's report was that for lunch they had "salad and ketchup" and the best part of the day was "the beach."  Once again, ?????

Next we went to Fisher Farm for this week's bounty, including...

...these beauties.  I am going to try a new strawberry shortcake recipe that I will write about soon.

For dinner, it was make-your-own-pizza night.  Mine was like a salad on a pizza

Have you ever had corn on a pizza before?  Yeah, me neither.  But it was good!

Skyler wanted me to show you her bandage.  She learned to go all the way across the monkey bars with no one holding her legs this week, and she got a little over-zealous in showing us, going back and forth, and got herself a nasty quarter-sized blister on her palm.  It is a very dramatic situation because she cannot color and needs to talk about it a lot.  So there, I showed you.

And just to continue with the randomness that is this post, here is a photo that was inadvertently left off of the post about Jackson swimming.  It is a photo of, well, Jackson swimming.

I love my dog.