Monday, July 28, 2008

Quilt Show With Grandma

Grandma, the girls, and I spent most of Saturday visiting a quilt show. There was an impressive array of talent displayed there, some to my taste and others not.
This quilt was amazing. It was done as a replica of an old painting, and the level of detail was awesome. Tiny crystal beads served as dewdrops on the ribbon leaves of the plants and gossamer silver thread spiderwebs. The baby's quilt was an entire miniature quilt, sewed in folds onto the cradle.

Here's a closer look at one of the small details, a mouse located on the branch at the bottom left of the quilt. Isn't he incredible?
And leading the contenders for the So Not My Taste Award is this wall-hanging made out of... trash. Yup, look closely. The bird is a Wal-Mart bag, the "border" is pop-tops from soda cans, and everything else is salvaged pieces of paper and plastic. While I do award the quilter points for ingenuity and vision, I just can't imagine what you do with a piece like this after exhibiting it. Is this really something you want hanging on your wall? And you can't exactly give it to someone and say, "I made this and thought of you!"
Definitely more to my taste is this Hawaiian quilt:

Grandma had so much fun sharing her hobby with Bear and Bug!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Flavor

Bear (reading mailer from ice-cream shop) : UGH!

Me: What?

Bear: This is disgusting. Their new flavor is Fuzzy Navel Frappe.

Me: A fuzzy navel is a drink made with peach liqueur.

Bear: Ohhhhh. (quiet for a moment) I thought they meant, like, you know, a hairy bellybutton.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Little Pitchers

Scene: at a picnic table outside of Smiley's Ice-Cream

Bug: Hey, Mom, look! That little girl has the same dress as me.

Me: (glancing around and not seeing a little girl) Where?

Bug: (in loud clear voice, while pointing) RIGHT THERE. NEXT TO THE WOMAN WITH THE FAKE TAN.

Me: (trying to shush her) Bug!

Bug: What? That's what Daddy said!

Prepare to Be Amazed

After weeding the flowerbeds in 200% humidity this weekend, I decided to join the girls in the pool. BIG MISTAKE. No leisurely floating for me. Parent in the pool = human jungle gym.

I decided to turn things to my advantage and train the little buggers. We practiced aquatic circus tricks for Daddy Shortbread's amusement.

The human totem pole:

Feats of strength:
And our grand finale, where they each balance on one of my legs. Bug was so impressed with our mastery of this particular trick that she had to sketch a picture of it in her summer journal. The best part is that right after Daddy Shortbread snapped a picture, I got to dump them both off into the water. They liked that part as much as the trick.

Pool tricks can be fun, if they don't kill you first.

I hope you've been doing your strength training, Grandma and Grandpa. When you get here later this week, Bug and Bear are all yours!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Benefits of Neglect

Since our yard has the potential to be a GINORMOUS time-sucking black hole of yard work, and I don't like to sweat on purpose, I've mainly focused my gardening efforts on the front yard. This has the three-pronged effect of a. looking nice from the street, b. locating most of my gardening work in close proximity to the kids' pool, and c. creating a woodsy backyard that I don't have to stress over. Yesterday, I discovered another major plus. The slope along the side of our house that I've allowed to go all to hell (goldenrod, wild bramble roses, bee balm, and impossible-to-extinguish yucca) has become a treasure trove of blackberry vines!
To most gardeners, blackberry is an invasive weed. And while I don't want it showing up in my flowerbeds, it happens to be my favorite berry on the face of the earth. Bear and I stood and chowed all of the ripe berries right off the vine, and plenty more will be ripening in the next few days.
Score! Chalk one up for neglect.

A Study in Contrasts

Which would you say is the more accurate picture of Daddy Shortbread?

a. genial, smiling dude
b. Dr. Evil

What about Bear?
a. introspective, quiet preteen
b. introspective, quiet preteen being forced to smile by her younger sister?

Now this one of Bug is
a little more difficult.

You might want to take a minute to consider and then get back to me.
a. sweet, shy little girl
b. cheeseball camera hog

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not Your Typical Family Outing

The Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor has been on my list of places to see for a few reasons. It's the second oldest garden cemetery in the country, anyone can be buried there regardless of creed or color, and it dates back to the early 1800's. Cool, huh?

While not as garden-y as I had pictured, it is still a beautiful cemetery set into a lightly wooded landscape. The paved paths wind around ponds dotted with lilypads, over gently rolling hills, past modest headstones and elaborate mausoleums. We spent a pleasant couple of hours walking the paths with the girls, stopping to read headstones along the way. We noted many names commonly seen in Maine today, like Hallowell and Bean.
Frost heave must wreak havoc with the headstones, as many of the older ones were tipping precariously or laying on the ground.
As with any older cemetery there were a lot of children's graves, reflecting one of the many hardships of life in an earlier era. One headstone marked the joint grave of newborn twins who died in 1817 "in their mother's arms." This one I saw just as we were beginning our walk broke my heart:
We found many graves of Civil War veterans. Every veteran's headstone, no matter which war he had served in, was decorated with an American Flag. We saw the side-by-side graves of brothers who died two years apart in World War II, flanked on either side by their parents.
This was one of the most elaborate mausoleums we found. Notice how the roof is covered in turf. You can't really tell in this photograph, but the tomb is set seamlessly into a hillside.
There wasn't a lot of statuary, like you see in some cemeteries, but I thought that this little angel was especially beautiful, with such a childlike sweetness in his expression.


We had a whopper of a thunderstorm yesterday evening. Bug hustled right to her room and grabbed her battery-powered lantern. When Daddy Shortbread came into the living room, she informed him that she was "keeping her finger right on the 'on' button just in case the power goes out."

I found it very sweet that he didn't point out to her that, being only 5:45 pm, it was still daylight outside.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things My Kids Asked Me To Buy Today (but didn't get)

1. Lucky Charms
2. a 32 ounce milkshake
3. lip gloss
4. smellable magic markers
5. a sweater
6. the latest Bop magazine
7. cat toys

When I told them they were welcome to use their own money (except for the milkshake because 32 ounces is roughly the size of their head), they declined.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not Exactly the Analogy I Would Have Chosen...

Bug was anxious to pet a friend's cat while we were visiting their pool today. Understand that Bug is used to toting around, romping with, and dressing up our up-for-anything cat Mittens, and Munchkin is an older cat not accustomed to being around children. And we all know that Bug's affections tend to be on the enthusiastic side.

I told her that Munchkin would come to Bug if she was interested in being petted but that Bug was NOT to go hunt her down wherever she was resting because she was an old lady cat.

"Yeah, Bug," Bear said disgustedly, "That would be like just going up to some old lady on the street and doing her hair!"

Captive Audience

As anyone with children knows, the official phrase of summer is, "Moooooom! Watch me! Watch me!" You will be commanded to watch trick after seemingly identical trick until your eyeballs rot and fall out of your head. It was a big treat for Bug when I took her to a friend's pool this past week while Bear was at dance camp. She proceeded to perform her one-woman, Esther Williamsesque show for me.
And my basic feeling is that, in lieu of anything more exciting to post about, if I had to sit through it so do you. No, no, thank me later.

Swimming underwater like a mermaid...

Jumping in (while holding onto facemask, a very tricky maneuver)...

The very rare, underwater handstand with legs in a diamond shape...very difficult to do, ladies and gentlemen...

Uh...hmm. Not really sure here. I'm thinking this was Bug's version of a water cartwheel. But note the intensity of concentration on her face. She takes her one-woman shows very seriously.
Ta-daaaaaaa! (Please ignore disturbing nose disfiguration due to face mask)...

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We spent all day Saturday down at Pemaquid Beach, scoring a sunshiney day with warm ocean breezes. Daddy Shortbread got to do one of his favorite activities, poking around in tide pools looking for critters. He hunkers down silently and waits patiently, watching for movement. This method would probably pay off more often if the girls weren't tromping through the same tide pool with all the subtlety of bison.

Still, he turned up this little dude, a hermit crab that Bear professed her instant love for and named "Fred". She even managed to rustle up a companion hermit crab ("Shirley"). Fred and Shirley lived in her sand bucket for the rest of the day until I heartlessly made her leave them at the water's edge.
Bug was CONVINCED that we would be able to locate the exact same sea worm that we found on her field trip to Pemaquid. She wanted to show him to Bear. "I think he was right around here, right Mom? Or was it more over there? Why can't you remember?" No amount of lecturing her about tides and the transient nature of sea worms could convince her that we wouldn't find him. (We didn't).
Daddy Shortbread bought Bug an ice-cream cone at the concession stand, which she promptly dropped in the sand. This seagull was flummoxed as to how to fly off with a scoop of ice-cream. See the white speck falling from his beak? Mint chocolate chip. He'd scoop it up efficiently, fly about two feet before it started to melt and fall apart, then land and try to gather it back together. There was ice-cream all over the beach, thanks to us, and it had the unfortunate coincidence of looking exactly like another substance that commonly falls from seagulls.

After about four hours of lazing on the beach and strolling around looking for sea glass, we packed up and headed to Fort William Henry, also on the Pemaquid Penninsula. It was an interestly little fort, with a modest museum display of artifacts dug up on the site (phleem holder, anyone?). Once we climbed to the top of the tower, we hung out for awhile in the golden late afternoon light, watching the boats in the harbor. The water was liberally dotted with colorful lobster traps, and we saw a couple of lobster boats steaming around hauling traps.

After the fort, we checked out the underwhelming Colonial Pemaquid, which amounted to three or four taciturn guys in colonial dress sitting around in tents. Nearby, though, was an eighteenth century graveyard that we explored despite Bear being "creeped out". Reading the old headstones was fascinating.
Once we started to head toward Wiscasset, where we planned to eat dinner, Bug conked out in the backseat. In a stunning tactical maneuver, due in part to Daddy Shortbread's policy of never reading road signs while driving and the other part to my nearsightedness which allowed me to glimpse only part of a sign (the wrong part) as we barreled past, we took a wrong turn and got lost. Waaaay lost. On a meandering country road that seemed implausibly long, given the length of the penninsula we knew we were on. Forty-five minutes and some intense map-consultation later, when Bug awoke and asked sleepily where we were, Daddy Shortbread replied grimly, "We are exactly where we were when you fell asleep." Wisely, she asked no further questions.
After a leisurely dinner overlooking the water in Wiscassett, we made our way home peacefully. Except for the hooligans in the backseat who engaged in a twelve minute argument over whose lollipop wrapper was touching whom. But still, a great day overall.

Friday, July 11, 2008

From Barnyard to Barre

In contrast to their week at Farm Camp spent romping in the hayloft, collecting newly-laid eggs, and grooming calves, this week Bear and Bug have been at Dance Camp. The same children who tromped out the door a week ago in their oldest, grubbiest clothes with knee-high rubber boots have suddenly transformed into leotard-clad ballerinas.

Bummer for them, though, that this has been our hottest week so far this summer. The studio felt like a giant commercial oven set to "broil." I cannot fathom how the kids were able to dance in that heat. Chalk it up to youthful resilience and a dance bag well-stocked with water bottles. Evenings were spent blissfully floating in the pool.

Last night the parents were invited to the studio to watch the routines the kids had worked on all week. This involved sitting for three and a half hours on a metal folding chair in a rather warm studio. (Blessedly, the worst of the humidity had broken that morning). You really have no idea the things you will do in the name of love when they hand you that swaddled bundle of joy in the hospital. Let's just say that I had lost all feeling in my butt by the time I stood to leave the studio, was queasy with hunger, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

This was Bug's first taste of jazz choreography, and she ate it up. As her daddy noted, the kid can really SELL a routine. It's slightly worrying, though, how naturally some of those funk moves come to her. While some girls look somewhat stiff and self-conscious as they're learning the looser jazz moves, Bug was a hip-hopping, leaping, wiggling blur.

Bear was most proud of the fact that she has graduated to HIGH-HEELED tap shoes. After watching her dance in them, I'm thinking her blog name should really be "Legs". Her legs are nearly as long as some of the other girls were tall. Despite being one of the youngest girls in her group and dancing for the first time in heels, she blended right in with the more experienced dancers.

Next week: NO CAMP! It's time for a week of true summer...sleeping in, no schedules, spontaneous day trips, and bumming around. Can't wait!

Did You Hear That Giant Sucking Sound?

Yeah, that would be my week. It was a bit topsy-turvy here at Casa Jenn this week. Our past week has featured....

1. Infected tooth needing root canal! (yours truly the Dental Wonder, of course)

2. Heinous heat and humidity!

3. Cranky children! (see above)

4. Infected bug bite! (also moi)

6. Cranky Jenn! (see above)

7. Carpenter ants!

6. Cranky Daddy Shortbread! (see above)

Several vats of penicillin, insecticide, and full nights of sleep for the offspring later, we are en route to normal. Tomorrow we're taking a family trip to the beach as Tonic for a Sucky Week. There's nothing like breathing ocean air and sinking your toes in the sand to restore your inner calm. Also, Bug would like to catch a hermit crab.

I have several significantly more fun and less whiny posts under construction. At least one should be up later today, providing the Universe has run out of practical jokes for the week.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Man, Now I Feel OLD

While talking with Bug this morning I made some reference to stunts like Indiana Jones does.

Bug: What? You mean the old guy with the hat?


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Farm Camp, Day Five...Saying Goodbye

The last day of camp is bittersweet. The parents are invited to come out at 3:30, so the campers can demonstrate what they've been working on all week. We got there extra-early, so I could take pictures (duh). I'm pretty sure that Linda, the camp director, privately refers to me as the Farm Camp Paparazzo.

When we arrived, Bug and Bear were wrangling their calves into halters and trying to get them to stand up in order to groom them. The calves were pretty sleepy in the hot midafternoon sun, and Bear's especially preferred to sink back down onto the ground to snooze instead of standing patiently. Bug's succumbed to being brushed, but balked when she tried to lead it out of the calf pen.

Bear's calf has a sweet habit of nuzzling her face when Bear lays her cheek against the calf's. You can tell there's a mutual fondness.

All the campers demonstrated for us how to walk their animals by a lead, how to turn them, and make them stop. Some were definitely more cooperative than others. As Linda pointed out, it's important to teach the cows this skill when they're young rather than when you're trying to lead a solid ton of heifer across the barnyard.

After the demo, the kids took a private moment to say goodbye to their animals. They've really built up quite a relationship over the week.

Bear had a hard time saying goodbye to Astro, just like she did with Sierra last year. "I can't belive she'll be a big cow the next time I see her," she told me with teary eyes. Then she asked me if I was sure we couldn't get a cow. Yup, pretty sure!

Refreshments included a salad, picked from the garden and prepared by the campers with a yummy parmesan vinaigrette. Mmm...

Linda also taught them to bake Irish Soda Bread with raisins, prepared with yogurt the campers made themselves! It was AMAZING. Especially when spread with the homemade butter that the campers shook from the cow's cream while we watched. If you're interested, here's the bread recipe. I plan to make a batch later this week, since all four of us loved it.
And so, another summer of Farm Camp ends. This is really one of the coolest experiences my kids have ever had, and will give them memories to last a lifetime. How many kids of their generation get to participate in life on a working farm?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Farm Camp, Day Four

Here is Bingo, the newest baby bull on the farm. He's still figuring things out, like how to run and how to moo. He had the mooing down pretty well by the end of his first day of life.
Other things he's taking a little longer to catch on to. Like the fact that he can't get milk from the other calves in his pen. This little Jersey looks pretty long-suffering on that point, doesn't she? Bingo just charges right over to butt his head up against them, hunting for something to suckle. No luck so far, but he's not giving up easily.

And the girls? By the end of Day Four, they are WHUPPED. 8:30 to 4:00 all week is taking its toll on my delicate little city flowers. These were the faces that greeted me when I arrived to pick them up. Bug didn't even have the energy to talk her usual blue streak on the way home. A long hot shower, a big spaghetti dinner, and these two were in bed fast asleep a solid hour before their usual bedtime.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Farm Camp, Day Three

Wednesday was a momentous day at Farm Camp. When the kids arrived at the farm, they discovered that a baby bull had been born only three hours before. He was able to stand but somewhat tottery on his skinny little black legs. Linda, the farmer, let the campers name him. They dubbed the little guy "Bingo." They loaded him into a wagon to transport him from the barn to the calf pen outside. By afternoon he was awkwardly trying to run and bellowing his displeasure when he couldn't find his mama. No pictures of Bingo yet, since a friend drove the kids both ways yesterday.

In other big news, Manda Panda, the sweet black and white lamb has figured out how to baa. And ye gods, can she BAAAAAAAA. It took me a moment to reconcile the small black and white fluffy lamb trotting to the fence with the unearthly loud bleat coming out of her mouth.

Here's Pip the Goat. The goats are a wily bunch, and on the girls' first day of camp the goats staged a jail break from their pen. Bear said it was chaos...goats running wild and campers trying to catch them.

Bug encourages Miracle the Calf to walk:

Bear on the rope swing: