Monday, September 29, 2008

Introducing Mr. Tung-Wup Whipper

Isn't he ... um, something?

Bear's assignment was to make a mask from a culture of her choosing and write an essay detailing the construction process and how it was significant to the culture. Right off, she knew she wanted to make a kachina mask. Both kids are very proud of their Native American heritage and love to show it off.

When Bug's class was studying Indian tribes a couple of weeks ago, she made me write down the name of her tribe and the family Indian name on a Post-It note for her. She took it to school in the pocket of her jeans, so she could tell the class at their morning circle time.

Bear remembered seeing photographs of kachinas in a book of Arizona photograpy. She knew they'd be perfect for this assignment.

It took awhile looking through Google images of kachinas to settle on one, but once she saw the Tung-Wup Whipper, she was hooked. I mean, what's not to love?

He is a Hopi kachina. During the dance ceremonies, he whips naughty children with a yucca vine. Can't you just picture Hopi moms threatening their kids to behave so the Tung-Wup Whipper doesn't come after them? Could be handy. Forget behaving so Santa will bring you presents, this dude's going to WHIP YOU WITH A VINE if you're bad. Genius.
And, yes, Maisy did notice the fuzzy feathers on top of his head. And, yes, she tried to get them.
When I came in from a walk this morning, I caught her with the bag of leftover feathers (still sealed) in her mouth. She froze and stared at me like a drug addict in rehab caught with a baggie of crack.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Bug's Eye View of Last Night's Debate

Bug wandered into the room toward the end of last night's presidential debate. She studied the screen.

"So, that one's McCain?" she asked, watching him speak. We nodded affirmatively.

The camera switched to Obama.

"Oh! Obama's CUTE!" she exclaimed, "I bet people who work in fashion will TOTALLY vote for him."

And she sashayed out of the room.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Anatomy of a Sleepover

Purchased at the grocery store today:

1. gummy worms
2. sour gummy worms
3. Hawaiian Punch
4. microwave popcorn

The plan is to let Bug, Bear, and Bear's friend watch a movie (or two) downstairs, put bowls of sweet & salty treats in front of them, then slip away and watch the Presidential debates upstairs in peace.

I'm Confused. We Moved to MAINE, Right?

Not Florida or South Carolina? I ask because today, tomorrow, and, oh what the heck, probably Sunday, too, we're going to be in the throes of a tropical storm. Complete with monsoon-y rain (2 -4 inches) and unseasonably warm temperatures. Yippee.

If that weren't bad enough, Hurricane Kyle, currently swirling ominously around the Bahamas, is tentatively scheduled to make landfall in Maine or Nova Scotia.

You read that correctly. A hurricane may be making landfall in Maine.


Land o' blizzards and ice storms.

And apparently hurricanes.

I'm not sure whether to be alarmed or amused.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Volunteering Is Its Own Reward

This morning I volunteered for an hour in Bug's class to help the kids make fruit kabobs for their snack.

Cutting up ninety squijillion cubes of various fruits ... boring and sticky.

Overseeing the little buggers as they each made their own fruit kabob ... fun.

Overhearing one kid tell Bug, "Your mom is the BEST cook." ... PRICELESS.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can You Say Overachiever?

Bug came home with a project assignment from her 3rd grade teacher last night. As part of their unit in nutrition, they had to design a balanced meal, then create it artistically using a paper plate as the background. As Bug solemnly explained to me, it was acceptable to just draw on the plate, but her teacher said that the more unique it was, the better the grade would be. Oh, and she needed to turn it in tomorrow. Plus she had math homework.


The timing could not have been worse. I was smack in the middle of preparing for a book club meeting that evening. I already had the tablecloth ready to go on the table, the nice serving dishes out ready to be filled with appetizers, and I was frosting a cake.

We swept all of that aside and gathered glue, paper, markers, and the stapler. For an hour and a half, we cut curls of paper for spaghetti, wadded little strips of green paper into peas, cut out chicken nuggets, and watermelon, and rolled paper into a cylinder to make a glass of milk. Then Bug painstakingly glued everything to the plate and decorated the edge with markers. It was lovely, time-consuming, but lovely.

I swept the bits of paper off the kitchen floor and scrubbed the table free of glue, with barely enough time to get ready for book club.

This morning, as she carefully laid her project in a plastic bag, Bug said to me, "Mrs. M. will be so proud of me for getting this in early!"

Wait. What?

"I thought you told me it was due today," I said slowly.

"No, it's due in a week, but Mrs. M. said she'd really appreciate it if we could get it in during the week," Bug said casually, "I bet I'm the first one to turn it in!"

Type A, anyone?

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Banner Year for Apples

Sunday after breakfast, we drove out to Lemieux's (pronounced "LEM-yerz", I kid you not) Apple Orchard. They have 3,300 apple trees in their orchards. We had heard that our favorite variety of apple, the Macoun, was ripe for picking. Have you ever seen trees loaded with apples like this? It's a bumper year for apples in Maine.
Bug loved using the apple picker. She just wanted someone else to carry it for her when she wasn't using it. She wasn't too keen on carrying her bag of apples either. Or her sweatshirt.
Bear in a crate:
Hands down, the best part of picking your own apples is that you're allowed to eat all you want while you're picking. And NOTHING tastes better than a Macoun apple straight off the tree. Even Daddy Shortbread (Mr. Fruit Textural Issues) ate one.
This is a "Wolf River" apple. Note that it is approximately the size of Daddy Shortbread's head. A bit scary, no? I'm thinking two of these babies would probably fill a pie crust.
The girls were delighted to round the corner on one of the rows of apple trees and discover a pen of cows. The cows were pretty interested in them, too, and came right up to the fence to check them out.
We bought several of these pretty gourds they had for sale and two 5 lb. bags of apples. Total price = $5.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Life Fact #214: Burning Stuff Is FUN

For about two years now, we've been chucking all manner of fallen branches, rosebush trimmings, and whole young trees we've cut down into a brush pile out back. We intended to burn them last summer, but it never happened, and subsequently the pile continued to grow. I began to feel that the pile was in danger of going from genteel brush pile to white trash crap pile, so yesterday Daddy Shortbread obligingly fetched a burn permit.
He was, however, NOT very receptive to my ideas that we haul the brush out into the middle of the old vegetable garden and really torch the sucker. He had very stodgy ideas about burning it a little at a time, with garden hose at the ready, and not moving the pile from the edge of the grass where it sat. The kids and I went out to watch anyway, though it didn't sound like it would be the dramatic bonfire I had envisioned.
None of us had really considered the fact that this brush has been sitting for two years. It was, shall we say, tinder dry? My back was turned when Daddy Shortbread touched a match to it, but it was with delight that I heard the unmistakable WHOOOOMP of conflagration. Delight that turned to holy-crap-what-have-we-done? when I turned and saw this:
Let's just say that in the first ten minutes or so, that garden hose came in darn handy. Also, that we FRIED the leaves on the branches unlucky enough to be above the fire site. Not to worry, we kept it under control, and it quickly became a manageable size once the smaller pieces of brush burnt off.
The peanut gallery was impressed. And by impressed I mean that Bear squeaked and ran to hide in the playhouse, while Bug whooped it up from the safety of the picnic blanket.
And in the time-honored tradition of children everywhere, they eventually started the chucking of everything they could find into the fire. Grass clumps: not so exciting. Fallen apples: satisfactory high-pitched whining, followed by a pop when they explode.
When that was no longer fun, they began dragging chunks of oak out of the woods, left there last fall by the tree-cutters.
Once the sun went down, the air quickly became chilly and Daddy Shortbread selfishly curtailed the further adding of fuel to the fire, saying he didn't want to be tending it until 11:00.
We hauled the picnic table out back and ate dinner by the glow of the fire as it burned down.

(Followed by showers all around, since we REEKED of woodsmoke).


Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Wifely Art of Nagging

Me: Tomorrow is going to be gorgeous. We'll be able to rehang the shutters in the morning.

Daddy Shortbread: If it's going to be nice, we need to finish painting the garage.

Me (sweetly): You mean after we hang the shutters?

Daddy Shortbread: *grumble*

Thursday, September 18, 2008


As much as I love fall, it does bring with it that sense that it's all downhill from here. As a season, it's glorious and dramatic but all too short. You wait impatiently for the peak leaf color ... waiting, waiting, waiting ... until one day you realize that it's past, most of the leaves are falling, and you won't be seeing leaves for SIX MONTHS. Then you think about how much that sucks, put on comfy pants, and go eat something chocolate. Really? Just me? Huh.
This is a typical Maine fall morning. Daddy Shortbread has trouble getting up without the sun to prod him out of bed. I know this because every single morning from mid-September until April, the alarm clock goes off and he snarls, ""I hate getting up when it's dark outside." And then he does a performance piece called Hugely Exaggerated Sighing and Moaning While Stomping to the Bathroom. You should see it sometime.
The fog is especially thick along the creekbed and down by the river. It will burn off by mid-morning and give way to such warm, blue-skied afternoons that you don't even need a jacket.
These foggy mornings are both eerie and cozy. I like the contrast of the bright flowers enshrouded by mist. Even though the gardens are going by at this point in the season, I enjoy them all the more because I know that any morning now I'll wake up and find wilted black flowers dangling from frost-frozed stems. And let me tell you, that SUCKS. Within two weeks, I'll be paging through seed catalogs and planning next year's gardens.
The wild New England asters in my backyard and along the roadsides will persist for a while still. I've been seeing a lot of Monarch butterflies around them, fueling up on them for their migration to Mexico this week.
I'd kind of like to fly down to Mexico, too, and catch just a few more days of summer. As long as I'm not required to, you know, wear a bathing suit in public.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saturday Was Work Day

We awoke early-ish (for us) and felt industrious, so we tackled some long-overdue projects. I painted the shutters green, which I've been meaning to do since last summer when I painted the garage door green, but it was too cold, then too wet, then too hot, then I really didn't feel like it anymore. It was a seize the moment kind of thing when I felt the urge to get it done. It was surprisingly zen, and they turned out well. Now I need to figure out how often and at what decibel level to whine to get Daddy Shortbread to rehang them.
Bug was looking to earn some extra money, so she volunteered to haul all the toys out of the garage, weed out the broken ones, and put the keepers back into the garage in a more organized fashion than the Towering Pile of Plastic Crap that has served as the toy corner for most of this summer. I figured that even if she did a half-assed job of it, it would be an improvement over the TPPC.
What I did not anticipate, but would have if I hadn't already been sucking in paint fumes for an hour, was that she would drag all the toys out of the garage, sort through about half of them, get bored and wander away. She meandered back to say that she guessed she was done and how much money had she earned? I pointed out that by taking everything out of the garage and strewing it around the driveway she had actually created more work for me than if she had left the TPPC. Therefore, I felt she should pay me. We didn't see eye to eye on this, and eventually she condescended to haul the toys back into the garage, albeit in a Very Crabby Manner.
Daddy Shortbread decided to sweep the side of the garage. Apparently.
No, really. He's a nutter that one. Officially, he was "getting ready to paint," but this looks like a made-up job if I've ever seen one. Slacker. Next week I'm going to exfoliate the cats or something as my job.

Bear played the hormonal cranky preteen card and escaped a work assignment. She acted as photojournalist and took all the photos in this post.

I think she knew exactly what she was doing, don't you?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bug's Picture Day (less angst, more goof)

Bug is a somewhat easier kid to prepare for picture day. Actually, it's just different hassles. She, for example, is more concerned with what color backdrop I circle on the order sheet than what shirt I make her wear. She was hell-bent on a purple backdrop this year. I was informed that I always circle blue. I agreed to purple, if she would agree to whatever shirt I pick. Deal. (Ha! I didn't care about the backdrop, but I really wanted her in this shirt. See how tricky and manipulative I am?)We went with braids for the hairstyle. Bug wanted her hair straightened a la older sister, but I was firm. I can only handle one kid growing up at a time. Despite what she thinks, she's still a little girl and I want her to look like one in her third grade picture. I gave her braids a fair shellacking with hairspray since this is also her gym day. Bug sniffed and said, "Ahhhh....that reminds me of the dance recital!"

Last year, Bug told me, a little boy in her class went into the bathroom just before the class walked down for pictures. He dunked his hair in the sink and used his fingers to rake it into a mohawk. I was dubious that any teacher would let him get away with that, but I just dug out her class photo from second grade, and there he is in all his dripping mohawk glory. Can you imagine his mother's reaction when she saw that picture? I would have cheerfully throttled the little monkey.
"Show me how not to smile for your school picture," I told her. Prepped, primped, and ready to go...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Bear's Picture Day!

The school picture outfit is always an act of negotiation. When she was little, I could pretty much dictate what she would wear. Now she has opinions. Luckily, this year I was in favor of the first shirt she chose.
She wanted her hair straightened. Fine. But I told her that if she has her hair swooped over one eye in the picture, as she is wont to do, there will be Trouble.
I insisted on earrings. Cause I'm mean that way.
And a smile. This after passing the bathroom and noticing that she was practicing moody, serious faces in the mirror. For $45, I want a smile. Preferably with teeth.God knows how the school picture will turn out, but I did send her out the door looking presentable. Last year, despite my efforts, I pulled the school picture out of the envelope to discover that she'd stuck a hair elastic on her wrist at the second, and it was featured in the picture. It looked bracelet-ish, so I let it slide. Don't ever tell Bear, but the mere thought of hassling with Picture Re-Take Day is enough for me to let quite a bit slide.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Bear is slowly discovering that junior high is a different cup of tea, with increased independence and expectations. She is in love with having her own locker, with changing classes, and the increased choices in the lunchroom, but some of the luster is wearing off now that the teachers are assigning regular homework. Unfortunately, our Bear inclines toward the ditzier end of the organizational spectrum, and she is already finding the juggling act a challenge.

Daddy Shortbread and I are working with her to develop checklists to help her remember what she needs to accomplish before and after school. We've already had numerous instances of forgetting, and this is the second week of school. Just yesterday, after "checking" her backpack and asserting that she was all set, she walked out the door without both homework planner and gym clothes.

Judge me if you will, but I don't intend to be the mother who fetches and carries all over town to save my kids the consequences of their forgetfulness. Oh, sure, I ran the planner and clothes over to the junior high yesterday, but I let it be known that next time she'll have to take the consequences of not having her planner or being able to dress out for gym.

She's a smart kid, we tell her, but unfortunately you don't get credit for that alone. Things like remembering to bring your homework home, complete it, and then actually turn it in, is what will make or break your school career. Smart is just a bonus. Organization is a solid 50%, and frequently more.

She knows I'll be checking her homework planner every night, and going over her checklists with her, morning and evening. Hopefully a month or two of following this routine will help her to develop some better habits. Or I may just take up drinking. One or the other.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Opening the Floor

If you have any questions for Bear or Bug about school, popular culture, their political opinions, or thoughts on any other topic you can think of, please leave them in the comments.

I'm going to do an interview post with each of them, and I'll post their answers verbatim, so this is your big chance to get a kid's perspective on all your most pressing questions and concerns.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Give me SOME credit

Friday Bug asked me to help her with her Stretch math homework. Since it was a pretty lengthy logic problem, I sat down beside her at the table and began to read it. She gave me a couple of seconds, then said gently, "It's OK, Mom. I can just call Papa."

Friday, September 5, 2008


School has my kids WHUPPED this week. They've been going to bed sans complaint a little earlier each night this week and arising a little crabbier each morning. They've both had quite a bit of homework right out of the gate, and I've been proud of how hard they're working to do a good job. I feel like I should meet their school buses this afternoon with the kiddie equivalent of a martini in hand as a reward for a tough week, but I'm not sure what that would be (Kool-Aid? Popsicle? Twinkie and milk?).

Anyway, we are all looking forward to Family Night tonight: movie and hot fudge sundaes, followed by sleeping in till whenever we darn well please tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Kids Are a Little Weird

I know this isn't exactly news to many of you, especially given the gene pool that produced Bug and Bear. For the most part, I'm pretty immune to the weirdness. I mean, come on, I live with Daddy Shortbread, who is practically a fount of insanity on his better days. But once in awhile, Bug and Bear step beyond the bounds of what I like to think of as acceptable weirdness.

This weekend, Bug and Bear managed to catch a grasshopper. After dithering back and forth about what to do with this good-sized and slightly rowdy specimen, they popped him into an empty water bottle. Bear tossed some grass in for him to munch and poked holes in the cap.

Pretty normal kid stuff so far, right?

Next they produced a plastic boat, in which they carefully propped the bottle. This they took into the pool with them. For a few minutes, they were content to just push the boat placidly around the pool, like a Grasshopper Yacht. Awww, you're sweet. Just wait.

Finally, Bug jumped up and down with her floatie to produce waves. The Grasshopper Yacht was tossed hither and yon on the violent sea like... a little plastic boat. Periodically Bear would check to see if the grasshopper had thrown up. Nice.
They named him George. Then they demanded that I take their picture with him.
Once George was humanely released out in the yard (to warn the other grasshoppers to take cover), we proceeded to Kids Doing Pool Tricks and Yelling for Mom to Watch Them. Entertaining at the beginning of the summer, this now ranks right alongside scrubbing baseboards on the list of things I enjoy. Here is Bear showing me how she can do a complete somersault with her floatie for the eleventy billionth time this summer.
"Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, MOM!" Bug yells, waving arms and jumping.
"Bug, I'm taking your picture. Do you really think I'm not watching?" I ask.
"I just wanted to make sure you have your zoom lens on for this trick," she replies.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jaunt to the Coast

Yesterday we made a quick little trip over to Rockland to visit the Farnsworth Museum, noted for its collection of Andrew Wyeth paintings.

Side note: I know a lot of Wyeth paintings, and since the subject matter is Maine, Maine harbors, Maine fishermen, Maine people, etc., I knew the girls would find them interesting. Had I known that one of their most prominently displayed (enormous) paintings is a FULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY, I would have scouted that one out in the gallery & detoured smoothly around it such that the girls wouldn't have even noticed missing it. As it was, though, our happy little art appreciation party came around the corner and to a screeching halt in front of it as Bear's mouth dropped open and Bug's eyes, well, bugged out. I scrambled for something educational to say, but "Holy Hell" was all that came to mind, so I just shoved them along to the next painting.

Don't get me wrong, they've seen plenty of nudity (usually female or in the Greek statuary) at other museums, but this was so unexpected and, um, accurate, that I hadn't had the chance to either prepare them or opt out of it.

The highlight for both girls was the Farnsworth house right next to the museum. Built in 1850, it is exactly as the last occupant left it in 1932 when she died. All of the furniture, drapes, and decor were original, since Lucy Farnsworth left the house and all its contents to the museum. It has been meticulously maintained and was a real glimpse into life in the early part of the century. Patent medicines sat on a bedside table, sheet music on the piano, calling cards on a salver in the entryway, and a neatly folded apron on the bed in the maid's room. Bear was surprised by how low all of the doorways were, while Bug was most interested in ascertaining whether there was a chamber pot under each bed. Naturally.