27 August 2011

Harpswell Part 2 and Dinner Shenanigans.

Yesterday, G and I finished out the week by heading back to a new favorite spot---the cove at Mitchell Field in Harpswell Neck.  I call it a cove because I don't really know how else to describe it.  It's not really a beach, per se...or if it is, it's more the rocky, gravelly kind that is not comfortable to lay out on.  The water is Middle Bay, a sort of brackish cross between ocean and a really huge lake.  It's calm, beautiful, a perfect spot for dogs and toddlers.  Yesterday afternoon in particular was hard to imagine that a raging hurricane would soon be sweeping through our coastal land.  The late afternoon sunlight cast such a magical golden glow on the water, making it shimmer like tiny little jewels bobbing up and down in the waves.

At first, G had what I called cement feet.  He stood in one spot for about 10 minutes, refusing to move, yet delighted with all the rocks he could pick up and  hurl out into the water.  Soon enough he realized that he could have a little more fun while sitting down and moving around, so there he sat and played for an hour or so.  Deftly picking up those rocks, turning them over in his tiny hands before tossing them as far as he could.

After just over an hour, I could tell hunger was setting in and it was time to leave.  We reluctantly packed up our stuff and headed back to the car.  When we got home, I quickly began to make his dinner.  This is when things got fun.  For some reason, he cracks up if I try to take food from his proffered fingers and then at the last second, make a chomping sound before turning away.  I don't think there's any sound I love more than hearing that deep belly gutteral laugh of his. 

25 August 2011

Fairy Houses and Blue Angels.

I’ve had a bit of Blogger’s Block.  It’s not that there haven’t been things to write about, just the lack of motivation to do so.  I’ve been spending my work days on an intense project that requires me to sit at the computer all day, every day.  By 5pm, my eyes are ready to pop out of their sockets, and every part of me is cramped because I’ve been focused and determined.  So the last thing I feel like doing at night is, of course, sitting in front of the computer to bang out an entry.

With daycare on vacation this week, Terry and I have had to get creative with our schedules.  He’s been going in later and I’ve been coming home earlier.   On Tuesday, G spent the day with Auntie A and buddy N, and today I took the day off.  

I started out the morning a bit bummed due to the low hanging frothy clouds and clingy dampness in the air. By late morning, the sun was starting to poke through.  We were getting out of the house.  I loaded the two G’s into the car, and off we went, my eyes constantly to the sky wondering how far we’d get before the rain would come.  Arriving at my favorite local hike in Harpswell, it was blustery, cloudy, and almost downright chilly.  We were still in August?   But again, I was determined.  I released Gabs while I got G situated comfortably in the backpack carrier.  You would think that the heart-stopping cardio would start sometime halfway through the 2 ½ mile hike, as I’m climbing what feels like straight up hill with this 25 lb kid on my back.   Actually it started the second I stepped out of the car, when the popular Naval dare devil pilots known as “Blue Angels” went soaring by, perilously close, mind-boggling fast, and disturbingly loud.  I seriously considered diving back into the safety of my car and hightailing it back home, but I had already driven this far and was determined to do this hike.   Then I look at G, amazed that I hadn’t yet heard a wail of protest, and find him staring wide-eyed at the sky, showing that goofy gap-toothed grin, and practically cheering them on.  

Off we go.  One of the things I love about this hike is that Gabby can be off-leash and sniff to her hearts content.  She’s always been a good hiking companion.  She stays behind, sniff, snort, snuff, waiting til we’re almost out of view, then comes barreling at us, only to do it all over again.  Midway through the hike, she starts to get ahead of me….and won’t let us get out of sight.  She leads the way, guiding the path, and waits for us if we’re lagging behind.

Despite the four or five cars that were parked at the entrance, we encountered no one except a teenage boy who frantically came running around a corner.  He had a vulnerable panic etched on his face and immediately asked if I knew what those noises were.  By noises, he meant the thundering, bomb-like sounds that made us feel like the forest was going to explode any second.  I reassured him it was just the air-show practicing, he nodded in relief and kept running.  We kept going.

This hike reminds me a lot of the scenery from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The forest has a quiet serenity, dotted with clever fairy houses, but it’s almost too quiet.  There’s also a point where you’re walking high along the water, and it reminds me of the scene in Fellowship of the Ring when they’re in canoes, cutting through the river, and Legolas keeps listening and searching the forest that lies parallel, and is riddled with Orcs within.  I think of that every time I get to this particular spot.

Gabs and I push our way through.  G and I are chatting.  I’m pointing out everything around us, singing “The Ants Go Marching One by One” and “99 Bottles of Juice on the Wall, 99 bottles of Juice…” and he’s squealing in various octaves that seem to pierce the silence of the forest floor.  We haven’t escaped the sounds of the massive planes, but the deeper we go into the hike, the less I seem to focus on them.  I realize how out of shape I am when we get to that point where I have to hike straight up and hope I don’t tip backwards with the weight of this kid on my back.  Gabs looks back at me to make sure we’re all right, though I’m not sure what she’d do if we weren’t.   She hasn’t yet mastered the skill of dialing 911.

Just before getting to the spot that I’ve been waiting for, the apex of the hike, where I thought we’d really be seeing the faces of those pilots, G loses it.  It’s like he all of a sudden realized that he did NOT want to be strapped in this pack any longer and that it was past his nap time.  If I thought his squeals disturbed the forest calm, his shrieks and cries seemed to echo. Loudly. Gabs sensed it was time to go, and we veered off the trail, hitting one that would take us reluctantly back to the parking lot.  He was no longer interested in chatting, singing, or having things pointed out to him.  He was interested in the wagon wheel snacks I smartly packed in anticipation. 

Back at the car, I loaded them in, and took off toward home.  Timing was everything.  No sooner did we get ½  a mile down the road when a heavy sprinkle started.  By the time we got home, it was a full-fledge pour and I found myself almost grateful for the meltdown.   Maybe he was like the National Zoo animals that foreshadowed the earthquake.  Maybe he knew the rain was a’comin’ and it was his way of letting me know we had to leave.  Pretty smart. 

Terry came home, and the two relaxed while I made dinner.  It was a clam chowder, grilled cheese and brownie kind of night.  Now the day is winding down, G happily in dreamland, and me mentally preparing to spend Friday glued to my computer and the mind-numbing project.  It can’t be Saturday soon enough.

One of the impressive Fairy Houses we came across.

Chillaxing with daddy, post-nap.

12 August 2011

Made for You and Me.

Have you ever read a book that touched you so deeply, you can't even pinpoint or intelligently articulate what it is about it that resonates or stays with you?  Back in May, I wrote about the magical experience of having Maine author Caitlin Shetterly attend a home gathering of those who had read her book "Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Coming Home".  Last evening, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing her do a reading of said book at Kennebooks, a charming bookshop in the lower village of Kennebunkport. 

When I wrote of the experience in May, I remember likening it to a really good first date. That sense of connectedness, coupled with excitement, promise, and hope for a future of good.  I remember describing the evening to friends, family, coworkers (anyone who'd listen, really), and getting goosebumps every time, because that's how amazing it was.  This time it was different--no less magical, but I found myself overcome with an emotion that I hadn't felt for a long time, if ever. 

My friend Becky and I made the trek down to Kennebunkport, about an hour away from home, to hear the reading, and of course, catch up with Caitlin again.  After working all day, I was so excited to have my first real evening out in a very long time, and of course for me, what could be better than having it revolve around a book and a friend?  (I admit, 10+ years ago, my idea of an evening out would have been an entirely different scenario.  Have I actually become a grown up?)

Becky and I were practically giddy. We both have toddlers (17 and 15 months old respectively) and while it was hard to leave them for the night with their dads, there was something gratifying about the impending evening ahead. We arrived at the bookshop just shy of 6:30, heading upstairs to the quaint, low ceiling room where Caitlin would begin her talk.  There were six others there, plus the bookshop owner (?).  Caitlin greeted Becky and I like we were old friends, enveloping us into a hug, and immediately asking about our children.  Finally, the bookshop owner sternly got her attention, indicating the need to start.  We sat in the back, a decision I was later grateful for.  She began...

Unlike our gathering at Becky's home, where we drove the conversation with our questions, and the atmosphere was informal, this reading was different.  Becky and I were definitely the youngest attendees, except for one British man whose age I couldn't determine, and who came with his mother.  The others had at least a couple, if not several, decades on us.  We were also the only ones who had actually read her book.  There was a tangible dichotomy between Becky and me, and the others, which could just be generational but likely also social and political.  I couldn't help but wonder throughout what they were thinking, especially one rather crusty gentleman up front, who watched and listened rather stoically to Caitlin, and remained emotionless throughout.

Soon enough however, I was lost in my own reverie.  Despite the fact that I had read and absorbed this book, and participated in what was a robust and thorough discussion, to sit there among the strangers and listen to parts being read was like experiencing it for the first time.  

I can't really describe what it is about this book or Caitlin that evokes such an emotional reaction in me.  It's not that I relate to her upbringing, in rural Gouldsboro, Maine, where her family basically lived off the grid for several years, without the common creature comforts most of us take for granted.  It's not that I relate to her desire to 'go west' like so many pioneers before us, to seek some fortune or attain a little piece of the American dream.  And it's not even that I agree with everything she says or how she views the world and our place in it.  

It's more that I find her poignancy in describing all these things so real and so true to how I think I would want to live in this world, if I wasn't too afraid or unsure in how to begin doing so.  Simply put, her story inspires and makes me feel like being a better person, not only for myself, but for my partner and my child.

I was grateful for sitting in the back last night because there were times when I could just barely keep from welling up, and at times, felt like I could have burst into full blown sobs. Out of the corner of my teary eye, I saw Becky discreetly wiping her eyes too, so I know she felt the same.  At the end of the reading, as she does with all her groups, Caitlin passed out the words to the song that inspired the title of her book--Woody Gutherie's "This Land Was Made for You and Me" or as we know it from childhood as "This Land is Your Land".  With unabashed enthusiasm, Caitlin leads her group to sing the song out loud in its entirety.  Have you ever listened to the words? I mean really listened?  I could barely get through the second stanza.

When it was over, we hung back, waiting for the small crowd to disperse. Becky had her book signed, and we meandered our way to the exit. We hugged her goodbye, wished her luck, and made our way out into the starry summer night.  It was almost 8:45pm.  As much as we wanted to discuss, dinner was on our minds.

Kennebunkport is familiar territory for me--my folks live in the next town over, and some of my most cherished childhood memories have been here during salty summers and at times, glacial winters.  Thursday night in August at 9pm meant that the streets were bustling, lights glittering off the still docks, and pedestrians weaving through the village square, looking for a late night meal as in our case, or to patron one of the many shops.  My heart sank a little as I looked up to see what used to be a familiar spot---sitting atop a candle shop, there used to be my favorite store. Can you guess? A bookshop. It used to be called The Bookport. During the Christmas Prelude, that was one of our first stops to sample the cookies and punch, and view the majestic tree adorned with lobster buoys and traps, that sat center stage in the square.  A few years ago, it closed, was another less inspiring shop for awhile, and now, a glaringly tacky sign boasts "Psychic Tarot Card Readings."    My father's old adage of "Nothing stays the same" couldn't possibly ring more true.
The Bookport is pictured to the right, with the lit tree in its window.

One of my favorite restaurants from years past is appropriately named, Alisson's. (Yet quite obviously spelled incorrectly.) Fortunately for the most part, they have remained the same and I was able to get my fried clam fix that I'd been hankering for since knowing we'd be coming to Kport.  Despite the fact that it was a Thursday night, getting later by the minute, and we both had to work early the next morning, we ordered our food and sat talking about the evening, dissecting what the attendees might have been thinking, and then inserting our own thoughts and feelings about the night.  A little before ten or maybe just slightly after, we packed it in.  The hour ride flew by as we did what new moms do best: compared pregnancies, boasted about our children, and griped about there not being enough time during the day to see our babes when working a full time job.

After dropping Becky off, I made my way the 12 or so minutes to my house, pulling in to see the light left on for me, and a dog eagerly awaiting me to let her out.  The air was sweet and clear, whispering the slightest hint of crispness that comes early this time of year to warn of fall.  It was 11:20.  Back inside, I crept upstairs, ready to drop into bed, knowing that in a few short hours the alarm would be irritatingly beeping me awake.  I paused to peek in on G, who slept soundly.   In sleep, he reached out for Giraffe, as usual seeking out its tail, before settling back into deep slumber.  Humming softly, I looked down at his sweet face, relaxed and dreaming. No cares, no worries.  

This land was made for you and me.

06 August 2011

Just an ordinary Saturday.

G and I had such a fun day together. It's days like this that *almost* make being apart from him all day during the week ok. So for this entry, the pictures will tell the story.
I like to start my morning with cheerios and a puzzle.

Then I went a little crazy.

And I catch mommy watching me go a little crazy.

I am soothed by the presence of Elmo on Sesame Street.

We went to the library today. Of all the books, I choose Moo Baa La La La...my fave at home.

Interested in everything around me.

I made a friend.

Next I checked out the book rack.

Then I explored all the buckets of goodies

Then I just...explored.

Then I played with this thing, still holding onto my friend.

And then I found this comfy chair to sit in.

Then onto the trains!

Then I did a puzzle.

Ahh back to my friend.

Can I take him home, Mama?
Time for lunch. I had ravioli and sauce.

ALOT of sauce.

Looks like I had a pretty good day too.
After a dip in the pool and a nap, I'm refreshed and enjoying quality time with Mama.

01 August 2011

Monstrous Zucchini, Junior Rangers, and a Boy turned Fish.

I love the Food Network.  It's one of those channels that can always be playing in the background while you're doing other things--cleaning, laundry, and of course, cooking.  So when I am looking for a recipe, Food Network is always my first stop.

Last week, my coworker shared a bounty of foot long zucchini from her garden.  Seriously. They were literally a foot long. I wish I had thought to take a picture of it before I cut into it.  So in grappling with what to make, I naturally searched the Food Network site.  I didn't have to search long because when I came across Paula Deen's recipe for succulent Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, I was hooked. Enjoy!

3 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teasp baking powder
1 teasp salt
1/2 teasp ground cinnamon
1/2 teasp ground nutmeg
1 teasp baking soda
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teasps vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon orange zest**

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 9x5 loaf pans. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and baking soda.  In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and continue beating until well blended.  Stir in oil, vanilla, zucchini, chocolate chips, and orange zest.  Stir in sifted ingredients.  Pour into prepared loaf pans.

Bake 50 minutes, or until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean.  Remove from pans and cool. 

**I didn't have orange zest, but a few dashes of lemon juice worked great too!

Meanwhile, this weekend was yet another busy fun one.  Saturday, Terry's sister and husband were in town, after having spent a lovely week up in Bar Harbor.   The last time they'd seen G was back in October. Needless to say, he's changed alot! He was all too happy to show off his walking moves, and looked adorable in the Acadia National Park Junior Ranger park vest and hat they brought him. What a rascal he was.  Later in the day, G's good buddy M came by for a splash in the giraffe pool.  Another set of rascals. It's so fun to watch these boys now be able to play and interact with each other.  If we could just freeze these moments...!

Sunday brought a beautiful Maine day, and off to the beach we went.  We heard about this great local beach with a fresh water pond, and it was the perfect choice for our family day off together.  What did we discover? G LOVES water.  Like to the point of never wanting to get out.  Almost immediately when we set up, off he went, his chubby baby feet maneuvering among the rocky sand, heading straight toward the water.  He had no fear.
On my 37th trip down to the water.

He plopped down into the clear waves, and soon was surrounded by three other little ones who were exploring the waters treasures. G wasn't impressed.  While I'm usually not into ponds, having grown up getting numb in the icy Atlantic, I have to admit, this one was delightful.  It was warm enough to be able to immerse in while not feeling like there were slimey creepy crawlies tangling at our feet.  I floated G around and twirled him to his delight while we watched ambitious beachers swim to a floatable dock to dive from.  Back to the blanket we go to attempt some lunch, but G would have none of it.  He got right back up and toddled down to the waters edge.  This went on for about an hour, T and I taking turns bringing him out.  It was joyful to see him be so happy in the water and show no fear. Soon, exhaustion set in for all of us and home we went.  I think I barely got G out of his wet swimsuit before he was fast asleep for a good 2 1/2 hours.  Lazy Sundays are the best.