Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Endlessly Picky Bear

Bear announced this morning that she doesn't like SYRUP anymore, and is really tired of cereal. Excuse me, Pod People? Could I have my kid back now? You know, the one that's basically survived on cereal since she was three?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Is This April Fools Day?

Yesterday evening:

Me: Hey, Daddy Shortbread. I found a really big snake skin by the refrigerator in the garage.

Daddy Shortbread: NEAT!

This morning:

Bear: I hope I get homework tomorrow. I really miss homework.

Me (speechless):

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Bug got home first this afternoon, pleased as punch with her new teacher, whom she describes as "awesome." She was pretty impressed by the Hershey's Hug and Kiss the teacher gave each of them. Candy! On the first day!

We chatted for awhile about what kids are in her class, etc., when Bug suddenly said darkly, "There's one thing I bet will happen again this year." She sighed, "Every year the boys don't ... you know, aim so well? in the bathroom? ... and the janitor has to come in and talk to them and explain how to do it. The girls have to wait in the hall, and it's boring." This is her biggest concern about third grade, so I'm thinking it will be a pretty good year.

Bear arrived home about a half hour later, happy and relieved to be through her first day. She rates her day a 9/10, subtracting one point for when she forgot her schedule in her locker and had to go back to get it.

She is excited by all her teachers except her English teacher, whom she describes as "a little too sweet and happy." (Is this my kid, or what? I'll take sarcasm over sunniness any day.)

Her schedule of classes is:

Homeroom (10 minutes)
Per. 1 - Math
Per. 2 - Social Studies
Per. 3 - Reading (literature portion of English requirement)
Per. 4 - Gym (1st quarter only, then Music Appreciation, French, and Technology for a quarter each).
Per. 5 - Excel Science (accelerated, reading-intensive science class)
Per. 6 - Math Lab (all 6th graders have a math lab, where they do their math homework under the guidance of a math resource teacher)
Per. 7 - Study Hall (2 days per week) alternated with Band (3 days per week)
Per. 8 - English (spelling, grammar, and composition portion of English requirement)

Starting Monday, all sixth graders will be assigned BRAND NEW MACBOOKS, which they'll take to all classes and be able to bring home later in the year. I just want to point out that when I was in sixth grade, I got to work on an Apple IIC once a week for thirty minutes. Most of Bear's textbooks will be loaded onto her laptop, so she won't even need to bring her books home.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a veritable mountain of paperwork to fill out that has to be returned to their teachers tomorrow pledging that we live in Winslow, will follow school rules, are OK with the kids going on field trips, are OK with the kids being videotaped for assesments, will encourage our kids to follow bus rules, are not migrant workers, do not need reduced price lunch, and will pay to replace the laptop if Bear trashes it. This may call for a glass of wine. Or a bottle and a straw.

Houston, We're Ready for Launch.

Our morning started at 6:00 am today. Nobody was very happy about that. Well, except for the cats, who aren't used to getting fed until more like 9:00 am. They're big fans of school mornings.

Bear and Bug got up without intervention this morning, probably due to first day nerves. "I have butterflies in my tummy," Bug informed me seriously, "The bad kind."

Chocolate chip scones helped.

Here's the new junior high school student, resplendent in her new school clothes, new backpack, new Trapper Keeper, and ratty pink flip-flops from the summer that she insisted were the perfect complement to her outfit. Some battles are not worth the fight, so I said nothing. An eyebrow might have gone up, but she held firm.Her new haircut makes her look so much older. Holy cow.

Yesterday she fell apart for a few minutes, worrying about getting a tardy or not being able to find her locker. I talked her down, and by this morning she was cool and confident, ready for this new challenge.

Six years ago, Daddy Shortbread took Bear to her first day of kindergarten. She had to reach UP to hold his hand.
Bug is wearing her new teal polo shirt, capris, and brand spankin' new brown Skechers. She is also sporting a new necklace, sparkle lotion, and lip gloss. She has approximately thirty glittery pencils in that bookbag.
She acted all flippant when I asked if she wanted to be dropped off or walked to her new classroom, but after a few minutes she said, "I guess I want you to walk me in," in a little voice. By the time we reached her classroom, she spotted a few friends and dashed off excitedly after a quick hug.
Another year - here we go...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Lagoon & Even More Beach Pix

This is the saltwater lagoon at Reid State Park. It's popular with the kids because the water is calm, deep enough to swim in, and has a sand beach. It's less popular with the parents because it tends to be somewhat, ah, stenchy at low tide and has a plethora of mosquitoes, all of whom immediately hone in on me (The Original Mosquito Magnet, as Daddy Shortbread calls me). We put up with it for forty-five minutes or so while the kids swim and dig canals in the sand, then we haul our gear back to the beach side where the ocean breezes keep the bloodsuckers away.

Daddy Shortbread was pretty happy to be doing this on a Friday afternoon instead of working:

Buggy, after the requisite jumping over waves and shrieking, likes to lay on her tummy on the picnic cloth and doze.
Do you all appreciate that this water is positively GLACIAL and Bear here (she of zero body fat) just lays around in it for kicks? Anyone else see anything odd about that? Or just me?
We stayed until 6:00 pm, when there were only three or four other families left on the beach. The late afternoon sun on the sand and water is absolutely beautiful. I could have lingered much longer, but the newest Cheetah Girls movie was premiering on TV that night, and Bug and Bear were about to come un-fricking-glued if we didn't start heading for home. You know, it's not like it's going to be shown on the Disney Channel eight gazillion more times over the next few weeks or anything. And just so you can appreciate what truly wretched parents Daddy Shortbread and I are, look - we make the kids carry their own sand toys back to the car! Awful, aren't we?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dante Got It Wrong

...because shoe shopping with Bug is actually the third circle of hell. We've been to four different shoe departments in the past two weeks. She has tried on at least thirty pairs of shoes, in sizes ranging from 3.5 kids to 5.5 womens. NONE of them fit. Among her reasons for rejecting shoes:

1. too squeezy
2. my heel slips out
3. too tight in the toes
4. the heel isn't made right for my foot
5. a weird bump in it
6. too squeezy, yet too big
7. not right, but I can't tell you why
8. can't get my heel in
9. WHOA - slips right off
10. so. tight. can't. breathe.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Last Beach Day of Summer

Leaving the beach for the last time each summer is bittersweet. The Bitter: not hearing the waves crash, not feeling sand between your toes, not watching the kids jumping gleefully into the surf. The Sweet: not wearing a swimsuit in public for another year (can I get an amen on that?) or having to vacuum sand out of the minivan.

We went to Reid State Park yesterday instead of Popham, just to mix things up a little. We haven't been there since our first summer in Maine, when Bear was four and Bug was 18 months old. That last visit there was a huge ordeal involving two fractious small children, a looooong walk from the parking area, navigating a stroller on sand, and the worst sand-in-the-diaper incident you can possibly imagine. No, worse. Really. Ask Daddy Shortbread if you don't believe me.

Reid differs quite a bit from Popham, although it's located on the next penninsula north. For one thing, it has a tidal saltwater lagoon, which is nice for kids to swim and play in without having to contend with the surf. Once you cross the dunes over to the ocean side, you notice that the waves are rougher than Popham's, since the shore faces the open ocean without the long shallows that Popham has. Here is Bear discovering that the Reid's waves are also quite a bit colder:
If there were an Olympic event for Running From and Jumping Over Waves, my kids would be gold medal contenders. Not that I'm biased.
Bug's style tends to be laid-back and lighthearted. She doesn't really risk much and mostly enjoys just galloping away and squealing.
It's all in the style for Bug. Occasionally she throws in a dance leap or pirouette.
Bear's style is more aggressive, employing a delicate balance between brinksmanship and fleet-footedness. She likes to wait until the wave is practically breaking against the backs of her legs and then RUN.
This doesn't always work out for her.
As you can see here:Not to worry, though. She popped right back up laughing and soon moved on to this:
Bug joined right in. 'Bye, ocean. See you next summer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beaching It

It was cool and breezy at Popham Beach yesterday, which didn't faze the kids one whit when it came to jumping right into the surf. "It's warm!" Bear called out to me from neck-deep water, which I correctly interpreted as "over 40 degrees." I stuck to wading.

We went with my friend Jen (yep, another one) and her two kids C. and M., who are the same age as my two. They've known each other since Bear and M. were in first grade together.
Bear tried out C.'s skim board. Her technique involved chucking the board into the water and flinging herself after it. About 12% of the time, this actually worked. The rest of the time, it provided outstanding entertainment for those of us watching.
I took the little digital camera instead of My Precious (Canon Eos xti) this time, since I knew I'd be playing the role of pack mule for this expedition. I can usually count on the girls to carry their own beach toys and the bag of towels, but that still leaves the food bag (with enough food to feed Uganda for a week - I have issues), cooler, picnic blanket, and a bag of miscellaneous necessities.
My point being that if you think that the photos are slightly more craptastic than normal, why yes, yes they are. And thank you for noticing.

Bug worked diligently on a sand castle, while C. and his cousins (not pictured, but just to the left of Bug) dug a hole to China. I mean to tell you, these kids can DIG. The littlest cousin, J., actually looked up from the bottom of the hole he was working on and realized that he couldn't get out.
Bear and her friend M. had a great time together. They're at that age where they're all sophisticated and teenagery one minute and the next they're rolling in the sand giggling like preschoolers.
Summer's winding down around here, but we've decided to squeeze in one last beach day tomorrow when Daddy Shortbread has the day off. I'm determined to eke all we can out of this week of good weather after all of the rain we've seen this summer.
School starts one week from today. (Not that I'm counting or anything).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Late Summer in Maine

Here are some shots I took yesterday while hiking with the kids. The landscape is showing signs of imminent fall: drying grass, goldenrod, tiny apples dangling from branches, and ripe chokecherries and blackberries on the bushes. While I hate to say goodbye to summer just yet (because this summer? COMPLETE RIPOFF), autumn is my favorite season here. I just wish it lasted for three months instead of six weeks.

Selective Endurance

These kids can run, jump, swim, and frolic for HOURS at the beach in blazing sun. So why is it that when I take them on a hike, this is what I get after the first half mile?Bear is dramatically collapsed on the grass. (Until I mused thoughtfully that I sure hoped she wouldn't get a tick. Then she jumped up with alacrity). Bug and their friend C. are clustered, panting with imagined dehydration in the shade, while asking, "Are we done? Can we go back now?"

Miraculously, they were able to soldier through 18-holes of mini-golf after hiking, despite their sheer and utter exhaustion. The little troopers.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arachnophobia, Self-Prescribed

Bug has decided that she is terrified of spiders. Weensy daddy longlegs elicit a piercing shriek if she spies one. A week ago, she passed right by them without a second glance. Today, on a family hike, she refused to cross a bridge on the trail because a dead (DEAD!) spider was laying in front of it.

Note: this is the same child that plucks cucumber beetles off of the birch tree and takes them into the pool to "swim" with her. So I'm really not buying the whole spiders-scare-me stance.

Me? I think she's bored, and this entertains her. Time for school, folks!

T-11 Days and Counting

We've hit the final countdown until the first day of school, so we're going to try to cram as much fun as we can into this last week and a half. The weather looks great (unless I just jinxed it), so the girls and I are planning to fit in at least one beach day, one lake day, and maybe even Aquaboggan.

I'll try to update pretty frequently to show you what we're up to. This has been a fairly lame week for posts due to weather, etc. We've done a lot of reading, but that doesn't translate very well into photographs or amusing anecdotes. I also mowed the grass, but I'm thinking you probably don't want to see pictures of that either. I certainly don't.

Bug and Bear used the last of their Christmas Barnes & Noble gift cards this week (we stretched them over 9 months by just getting a book or two at a time), and Bug picked up the next book in a series she's been enjoying. She read the entire 340 page book in 24 hours!! Devoured it like a locust. Not bad for eight-years-old, eh?

(Footnote: For those of you already asking for Christmas ideas, Barnes & Noble gift cards are always a great idea for Bug and Bear. They LOVE going there and picking out books.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fall Fashion Preview

Here are Bug and Bear modelling some of their favorite new school clothes for you. They are both totally jazzed about school starting, anxious to see their friends and check out their new teachers.
Bear has her entire first week of outfits planned. She told me that she read in a magazine to save your coolest new outfit for the fourth day of school. By than everyone else will have already debuted their best outfits and you will be the spotlight fashionista. Apparently getting dressed for school now requires a strategy.
Bug and Bear each got one of these gray, baby-doll style hoodies. Bug is modelling it AND the disc swing from her new swingset:
Bear insisted on bare feet for this photo because "this outfit is such a casual look." I pointed out that she will still have to wear shoes with it to school. "Well, duh." was her response.
Bug is pretty freaking attached to this hat. We even had to ask the cashier at Target to clip the tags off so she could wear it out of the store.
I'm pretty thrilled that I got Bear to branch out a little from her standard t-shirt, hoodie, and jeans. I literally had to force her to try on some more stylish tops. She loved them. Ha.
Bug is angry at me in this next photo. She wanted to wear a spaghetti strap tank only here despite the fact that I had bought it just to wear UNDER the sweater. Kindly disregard her expression and look at the outfit. Little bugger.
This shirt/sweater combo was Bear's favorite purchase from our school shopping trip:
I couldn't resist this shirt for Bug despite the inadvisability of doing what it says:
Can't you just see the teenager peeking through in this one? She wanted a "not smiling" photo. Here she is, angst and all:

Bug and Bear would like your opinion: Which of their new outfits do you like best? (Pick one per kid). They are awaiting your feedback.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Calgon, Take Me Away

There are five kids positively ROARING "Bohemian Rhapsody" in my living room as they play American Idol on the Wii.

Thanks again for the Wii, Uncle Awesome & Aunt Fab! And have I mentioned how I can't wait until you have kids, so I can shower every noisemaking toy on earth on them?

Summer Girls

We're clinging to the vestiges of summer around here like grim death. We ignore the tell-tale tips of renegade maple branches who are already flushing with fall color. "Diseased," we improvise when someone them points out. "Sometimes trees do that when they're stressed," Tom told a dubious tourist couple in Bar Harbor. Early fall? No. Definitely not.
And yet... yesterday the pool water was 68 degrees. This morning the air was decidedly crisp. Crap.
The girls and I will continue to wear our tank tops and flip-flops with heads held high, until someone forces us into jeans and fleeces or until we lose feeling in our extremities. Whichever one comes first.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Scene: Yesterday afternoon at lunch.

Me: Hey, I thought it would be fun if we did a fashion shoot with you guys dressed up in your favorite new school clothes. You could pretend to be models, and then I can post the pictures on my blog.

Bug: Sure. That would be fun.

Bear: OH! COOL!! I've been practicing poses in my mirror for YEARS!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Muffin Mania!

Blatantly stealing an idea I had read online somewhere, the girls and I embarked on a muffin baking extravaganza today. Our goal? To freeze scads of muffins for quick-n-easy school morning breakfasts or lunchbox snacks. We're not what you might call morning people around these parts. Our school morning breakfasts tend to be heavy on the snarling and whining and light on the homemade baked goods.

After lunch Bear and Bug swung right into assembly line action with me: mixing dries, creaming butter and sugar, snitching chocolate chips, and spraying enough Pam on the muffin tins to asphyxiate a cat. (Come to think of it, I haven't seen Maisy in awhile...).

We made twenty each of plain, chocolate chip, and cinnamon streusel muffins. They are frozen and awaiting two crabby early morning schoolgirls' breakfast whims.

Beach Fix

Yesterday afternoon we drove down to Popham Beach. Easily our favorite beach in Maine, Popham rarely disappoints. We were especially curious to see it this year since the Sheepscot River, which feeds into the ocean here, had mysteriously changed course during the winter. It now flows parallel to the shore in one spot, cutting a ledge into the sand and preventing us from walking out to the island as we had in years past. Huh. Weird.

Further down the beach, we found some nice crashy waves as the tide began to roll in. Daddy Shortbread and Bug are mostly of the Stand and Let the Waves Smack Into You school of thought. That's fine. If you're a WUSS.
What you may or may not know about me is that I have all the self-restraint of a lemming at the ocean. Good-sized waves mean only one thing: BODY SURFING!
I should also mention that, before you scroll down to the next photo, you would do well to remember that I have the photographic goods on most of you, so to speak. Whether you know it or not. Meaning, don't get any wise ideas about using this picture for future sabotage if you don't want equally flattering pictures of thineself showing up on this blog. Or on a billboard.
Bear and I even convinced Bug to try a few waves. She was pretty game until she scratched her foot on a shell. Then she went back to Daddy Shortbread and their Wussy Standing Method. Bear and I continued hurling ourselves at waves willy-nilly, despite the resultant wardrobe malfunctions and pulled muscles. We had a blast and wound up with sand in many interesting places.

I had to enlarge this one for you (hence the blur). Bear kept saying, "I think I'm done getting wet. I'm going to dry off now." Two minutes later, she was right back in the surf.
Body Surfing: It Ain't Always Pretty, But Dang It's Fun.