Monday, August 29, 2011

Meal Planning: I can do this.

Ironically, I don't cook as much in the summer when I have more time.  I just feel like we are always coming and going, so I don't get organized to get a week's groceries at a time.  Instead, I shop a little here, a little there, we order pizza, we eat sandwiches, it's anarchy.

Going back to work this week means getting back into a routine.  In order to survive, I have to plan my meals and shopping, have enough supplies for school lunches, stock the kitchen with quick, healthy breakfasts for the kids, and aim for ONE trip to the grocery store, and one farm share pick up per week.

I am determined to get back on a meal plan, which means mapping out a week's worth of dinners before I head to the store.  I try to stick with this during the school year, but I inevitably have weeks when I fall off the wagon.  But I am invigorated and determined and ready to go! 

We start today!

Monday:  Turkey, apple and brie sandwiches.
Tuesday:  Sauteed plantains and black beans
Wednesday:  Zucchini fritters and spinach salad
Thursday:  Chicken sausages with Spinach, nectarine and pecan salad.
Weekend:  A big pot of White Bean Chili (if it's good, I'll post the recipe).

Sam and Reed were back to school today while I took Skyler for a back-to-school haircut, some new clothes and (my all time favorite) school supplies!  That is a dream day, right there.

Happy Back-to-School, everyone!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

grand finale.

We are currently riding out Hurricane Irene, which, by the time it got to Maine, had become Tropical Storm Irene. It is basically a very dark and rainy day with some interspersed crazy-hard down pours and high winds. We are hoping not to lose any trees around us and hoping to keep power through the evening when the winds are supposed to be the highest. The kids are working on shrinky dinks. It's a nice stay-at-home kind of day.

We got the most out of our last weekend, and sent off SUMMER 2011 with a bang. 

Friday, Sand Beach.

Remember when I rode the Park Loop Road on my bike in July?  This was one of the most beautiful points along that ride, at which point I shouted out:  "I can't believe I live here!"  I feel that way each and every time we visit this part of Maine.  Amazing.
I also took the kids to Thunder Hole, where you walk down some steps along the rocky coast and stand above a cave.  When the waves crash in, it makes a loud thunder sound.  It was slightly terrifying to stand there with the kids that close to the pounding surf, especially because Reed kept saying how much fun it would be to surf.  Yikes.

Saturday morning, we drove to Rockland, Maine for Sam's longest race of the year.  It was a 3.2 mile ocean swim that goes along this break wall with a beautiful lighthouse at the end of it.  It was a bit foggy, but got more clear as the morning went on.  We walked to the end of the wall and got to see Sam on his way back from his first loop.
We made it to the end and climbed to the top of the lighthouse.  It was beautiful up there.
Right on cue, Sam showed up at the turn-around for his 2nd loop while we were up top (look between the black bars and you'll see Sam's orange cap).  We could see just how much he was in the lead. 
Looking back to shore from the lighthouse:
The lighthouse keeper even turned on the light for the kids, and the fog horn was VERY LOUD from right in this very spot.  They were thrilled.

Sam is right in the middle, making the V formation in the water:
On his way to the finish line, we had to jog along the wall to keep up with him.  We heard many onlookers saying things like:  "That guy is unstoppable!"  "Do you know him?"

Crossing the final buoy, breaking the course record by 3 minutes. 

We don't get to go to many of Sam's races, and it was an honor to be there to see him win and get his awards. 

After Sam's race, I got in a bike ride and then we switched gears to head down to the American Folk Festival for the night.  I left Sam passed out on the couch, and braved the festival on my own with 2 (excited and over-tired) children.  Thank goodness we had just walked in when we spotted Sandi, Suzanne, Ange and Matt and all of their kids.  We quickly became one large group and had a total blast all together.

As we walked through the very crowded festival with 6 kids, I could hear all of the adults, every 2 minutes, doing a head count.  "1-2-3-4-5-6.  Okay, phew."    Or, more often, "1-2-3-4-5.... where's Reed?"

Free milk and cookies from the Stonyfield Milk Man.  He kindly "didn't notice" when we walked past again and had seconds.

Suzanne and Sandi borrowed baby Beckett for some giggles:

 Sklyer dancing with Suzanne's mom Jan.  Adorable.
If you spy some band aids on Skyler's legs, that would be the outcome of running the Breakwater trying to keep up with Sam.

And last but not least, here is Reed breakdancing to the Irish Fiddlers.

And with that, I dragged them both back to the car.  It was a wonderful weekend indeed.

Since I started writing this post, the wind has really picked up.  All of our trees are going crazy out there.  Let's hope we don't have any dramatic crashing sounds!

Hope everyone else braved the storm without incident.  Happy Sunday and end-of-summer to you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

he's a winnah.

I have a bunch of more photos from our weekend, but just wanted to put this up for now.  Sam swam in the Rockland Breakwater 3.2 mile Swim this morning and he came in first overall (1:08!) and smashed the course record by 3 minutes.  It was really fun to be there to cheer for him and watch him come in so far ahead of anyone else.  We are kinda proud.

Friday, August 26, 2011

life lessons.

I spent eight mornings this summer teaching creative writing to adults with severe physical disabilities.  It was my second summer teaching at this program, and I have hesitated to write about it, for several reasons.

I can't really share much about these students.  I can't tell you the incredible stories I've learned about the kind of lives they have led.  I can't share their names.   But also, all the things I want to say about my experiences with them feel so incredibly cliche.  I mean, seriously. 

It was my pleasure to teach these students.  

I have learned to see their abilities, not their disabilities. 

They taught me more than I taught them.

I'm a better person because of the time I spent with them.

See what I mean?  And yet, those statements are all true.

I'm embarrassed to tell you how nervous I was when I first started.  There were seven students, most of whom have cerebral palsy.  Five of them have very slurred speech and are hard to understand.  One of them has extremely slurred and labored speech and is almost impossible to understand.  One doesn't speak at all.   I had never taught, let alone spent any time, with people so disabled. 

They each had a one-on-one aide during classes (an incredibly talented and caring staff).  I wasn't sure if I was supposed to address the aides, or just look at the students.  I wasn't sure what the students could understand, what kind of prompts I should give them, how to go about sharing and workshopping poetry.  What should I do if one of them said something to me, and I didn't understand it?  What if they couldn't do what I asked?  Well, luckily for me, they gave me the time to figure it all out, and I trusted my instincts, and hoped for the best.

It will come as no surprise that what I learned is that I should give them the same kinds of prompts and ideas that I give my high school students.  I learned that they like to hear ideas, to brainstorm together, and hear examples of poems before they are sent off to write, just like my high school students.  They laugh with each other, and laugh with me, and make fun of me, just like my high school students.

Over the course of my time there, they started to trust me.  They started to see themselves as writers. We developed inside jokes.  They shared their fears, their dreams, their hopes for their futures.  They wrote about loved ones who had died, people who make them angry, pet peeves, favorite foods.  In so many ways, they were similar to all of my students.  I actually remember a moment half-way through the first summer when I realized that I wasn't seeing them as disabled people anymore, just people. 

These students also surprised me, and made me much more aware of sensitivities I should have already had.  They are frustrated that many people don't treat them like adults.  They are sad that children are often afraid of them.  At night when they sleep, they all (unanimously) dream that they can walk, run, and dance, even though none of them has ever taken one step.   It makes them mad when passersby look at the person pushing their wheelchair, and not directly at them.  They just want to be seen as normal, to be seen as people, not people in wheelchairs.

They love writing, and loved becoming poets.  They truly started to see themselves as poets over the months we worked together, and they crafted some amazing work.  On Wednesday night, they each read 2 poems to an audience of 40 people.  At the reading, they surprised me with two poems they wrote about me.  I cried.

They did great, and the audience was appropriately awed by their work. 

This is the student with whom I worked one-on-one for 2 summers, and I helped him to read his poems at the reading.  I don't have a lot of photos of me teaching, but this one would have to be my all-time favorite.  Such a kind, gentle, gracious soul.  And funny, too!

I truly cannot think of a non-cliche way to summarize all that I learned in order to end this post, so I'll just say this.  I hope they have me back next summer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Today might have been the last day of summer.

The temperatures have started to dip a little bit, the air feels more crisp, and I am ready (excited, even!) for school to start.  For most of the summer, I feel that this freedom plan could never be long enough, but inevitably each year, I start to feel ready to go back to school by mid August.  Don't get me wrong, I have so much to do to actually get ready, but I look forward to a classroom full of new kids, brand new school supplies, and stacks of books.  I'm ready for some routine again.  And I am totally thankful that I have a job that gives me an opportunity to RESET every single summer. 

This morning Susan and I ran with a bunch of former students; we love to make the college kids wake up early.  They are all leaving for college in the next week so we said goodbye for now.  What a great crew.  See you all on Thanksgiving morning at the Turkey Trek, if not sooner!

After a 3 mile trail run with these guys, I tacked on 2 more on my own afterward.

I am going to work tomorrow and Thursday, and then the following week is basically a full week, so today was kind of the last day when we found ourselves thinking:  "what should we do today?"  That's not going to happen again for a while.

We decided on a drive to Sandy Point beach.  It was so beautiful and cool, and we had the place to ourselves!  Jackson ran 5 miles with me this morning and then ran and swam himself silly at the beach, so he is currently snoring on the couch.

Here are some pics from today.

Back to reality! I am super busy organizing an evening reading this week for the creative writing students I've been teaching all summer, and Sparrow Magazine is one week away from launch. I've had a lot of late nights in the last few weeks working on pulling this all together, not to mention getting ready for the school year.

My business partner (and life-long friend) Kelly and I cannot wait to show you Sparrow Magazine's first issue.   It is full of such good stuff, and we will be very proud to share it on September 1st.

Beach day is over, now it's work, work, work time.   Hope you're having a good week!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


 For several summers in a row now, we've celebrated our friend Suzanne's birthday at their camp on Schoodic Lake. Last year, our friend Matt dubbed it "Suzapalooza" and it stuck.  Suzapalooza always involves great people, great food, and the bittersweet realization that summer is on its way out.  But what a gorgeous day we had.

This year also included a very spirited round of frisbee catching off the dock.  We laughed and laughed and had lots of not-so-graceful jumps and misses. 

 This one makes me laugh because neither of us caught the frisbee.

Reed tried probably 25 times and never made the catch, but he flung his body off that dock with such spirit and abandon;  it was a joy to watch.  Next year, Reedo, next year.

the shot of the day!
 After all of Suzanne's jumps, she finally caught the frisbee.  I don't have any good mid-air shots of her, but this one takes the cake.  This photo totally captures Suzanne.  A happy birthday indeed.
With Ange, Suz and Sandi.  Great, great friends on a beautiful summer day.

And Ange with baby Beckett.
 Skyler was not feeling great after having been sick on Friday.  She took it easy for the day, but totally perked up with Sandi's sister Kristy painted her nails.  I see that little smile!

We ended the night with a local firework show and the kids were up until 10:00 pm.  I got up early and ran 8 miles with Susan and her husband Liam, and when I got home at 8:45, the kids were still asleep.  Miraculous!

This is officially my last week of summer.  I'm off to make a batch of blueberry waffles.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's for Dinner?

While in Michigan, my sister-in-law Lisa and I cooked up a Mexican feast for the family.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer with this very summery meal!

Start with these frozen Mojitos, the taste of which pretty much defines summer for me.

In a blender, combine 1 cup rum, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, and 12 mint leaves with 4-5 cups of ice.  Blend, and pour into a sugar-rimmed glass and garnish with lime and mint.  Cold, sweet, slushy goodness.

For dinner, Lisa and I made Black Bean and Corn Salad, Lime Cabbage Salad, and Chicken Fajitas.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
Combine 2 cans of black beans, rinsed
Corn, cut off from 3 cobs (cooked)
1 red pepper, diced
5 scallions, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
a handful of cilantro, rough chopped

make the dressing with:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together.
just before serving, add 2 small tomatoes, diced and 1 avocado, cubed.

The fajitas and the cabbage salad recipe we got over here.  I also made a batch of guacamole by mixing 2 avocados with lime juice, salt and pepper, fresh salsa, and some dashes of Tabasco.

We warmed up some whole wheat tortillas and piled the chicken, onions, and peppers inside with a dollop of salsa and guacamole.  You can also put the cabbage salad right in the tortilla.

This really is a perfect summer meal, and I think I need to make it again this week.  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Westside Boards Winner!

#6 is:

Congrats, Erica!  Email me and I'll hook you up with the folks at Westside Boards.