Friday, June 26, 2009


I figured it all out when I was nine. In your twenties, you're a Grown-Up. In your thirties and forties, you're Middle-Aged. Ages fifty and above are Elderly.

I have since re-thought that.

Now I believe that in your twenties, you're a Baby. Your thirties, forties, and fifties are the Prime of Life. Sixty and above is Mature. Elderly is a state of mind.I just turned 38. I do NOT consider myself middle-aged. I just consider myself very, very grateful for hair-dye and unlikely to wear a bikini. And we're not going to discuss that gray eyebrow hair I found the other day. That was obviously an anomaly.

When Tom asked what I'd like to do on my birthday, I told him that I wanted to bike the carriage roads at Acadia National Park. Only two hours drive from us, it's something I've always wanted to do.
The carriage roads wind through the heart of Acadia National Park and are open only to hikers, bikers, and horses. No motor vehicles allowed. It's one of the most lovely and serene places I've been.

Twice Bear and I rounded a corner and suprised a white-tailed deer on the road, then braked to watch them delicately pick their way through the ferns and disappear back into the forest. We also passed a turkey strolling unhurriedly along the side of the road. "Delicate" is not a word I'd use to describe him. Maybe "ungainly." Or "butt ugly." And BIG. Wow. We cycled through woods and past gorgeous, unspoiled lakes. And past a cute young couple hiking with their even cuter, fat little dachsund. When I complimented them on the dog, the woman said dourly, "Yeah, he's mean as hell, though." Oh. Well. OK, then. Bug and Bear are becoming pros at this whole cycling thing. Although Bug does reserve the right to heave a few pointed sighs when she feels that the uphill parts are becoming tiresome. She has also mastered a certain technique of drinking from her water bottle that suggests to passers-by that she has, perhaps, just been allowed a beverage after three days of dehydration.

Poor Buggy later fell head-over-teakettle right off her bike as we were finishing our ride that day (no injuries). Oddly, when confronted with an actual excuse to be dramatic, she only cried briefly, dusted herself off, and climbed right back on the bike.
We made frequent stops. You can't just pedal by a scene like this. And the granite rocks set strategically along the roadside just beg for you to sit down and enjoy the lake for awhile. So we did.
Tom and Bug discussing important what kind of snacks might be in my bike bag, probably.

The carriage roads have several of these great stone bridges, each one completely unique. I made them ride under this one twice, so I could get a picture.
Taken by Bug. I apologize for the sweaty helmet hair, but even with that, it's one the better recent pictures of me. Probably because it doesn't feature my butt.
For my thirty-eighth birthday, I am grateful that I am exactly where I want to be in my life: in Maine, with a great husband, and two wonderful, occasionally cantankerous, kids. And the damn cats.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Definitely My Kid

Scene: Last night, while watching "So You Think You Can Dance", a McDonald's commercial advertising "Ice Age" Happy Meals comes on.

Bug (emphatically): That commercial drives me nuts!

Me: Why?

Bug: Well, Scrat the squirrel abandons his acorn to chase the Happy Meal. He's obsessed with that acorn. He would never break character like that.

Me: You know, you're right.

Bug: You'd think they'd consider these things before making the commercial.


Now I ask you, is that the child of a former theater teacher, or what?

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Do Whatever You Want Day

The facts:

-It has been raining nonstop for two weeks. TWO. WEEKS.

-We've been passing around a chest cold like it's February, not June.

-No sun. Two weeks. I'm being considered for the Seasonal Affective Disorder poster child, but they want me to tone down the crazy in my eyes before the photo shoot. Not sure if that's possible.

-We've been crazy-busy with end-of-school obligations for the past week. Concerts! BBQs! Field Trips! Ice-Cream Socials! All very lovely, but holy crap! Bug, a child who flourishes on routine, has not had a regular bedtime for quite some time. She has been (oh, how to put it delicately?) cranky as a warthog with appendicitis.

-Did I mention the rain? I feel like the dude in "The Tell-Tale Heart", except instead of being driven mad by the sound of a beating heart, it's the patter of the rain. (Normally a pleasant sound, I agree. NOT FOR TWO NONSTOP WEEKS). Go ahead, argue with me. I will fight you.


Today, I told the kids, is Do Whatever You Want Day. Want to play Wii? Watch a movie? Run around in the rain?




Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who IS Daddy Shortbread?

Well, for starters, his name is Tom. "Daddy Shortbread" was born from an old family joke, riotously funny at the time, but completely inexplicaple to anyone who wasn't there. It seemed like a good monniker for him when I first began blogging, but the more times I type it, the more aware I am of exactly how many more letters there are in "Daddy Shortbread" than in "Tom" (twelve).

Also it makes us sound like that creepy couple that calls each other "Mother" and "Daddy." We are so not that couple.

I'd like to introduce my husband Tom.He's not just your average husband and father. I stood perusing the Father's Day cards last week, completely perplexed by the assortment of cards aimed at Sports Lover Dad, Fisherman Dad, Incompetent Repairman Dad, Macho Dad, and Beer-Drinking Couch Potato Dad.

He is none of these things. (Thank God).

We scrapped our grander Father's Day plans due to weather, (hi, June? March called, and it wants its weather back.) but left it to Tom to pick our replacement activity. He decided we would hike down to a nearby dam. The woods are lush and damp after the constant soaking rains we've had this June, and the stream was bound to be roaring.

We were not disappointed. The stream was a torrent.

Tom is endlessly fascinated by water. He will happily deviate from any route for the chance to see a lake, river, or ocean. Even when there's no guarantee about the "seeing" part. Like the time we rambled aimlessly for a REALLY long time around a random penninsula because damn it, there has to be a road that goes down to the ocean. (There was not. Of this I can guarantee you).

He is passionate about our adopted home-state of Maine. He loves learning the long, rich history of the countryside around us. His penchant for exploring has taken us to sites that many locals have never ever seen.

He has the ability to see great beauty in nature.
He loves his daughters fiercely. He encourages their interests, and gives unselfishly of his time. He's way better than I am at playing certain mindless boardgames (*cough* Candlyland *cough*). He once went back to work with a little butterfly clip in his hair because he let his four-year-old play beauty shop on him while he ate his lunch. And he was amused, not embarrassed, when a co-worker pointed it out. That's a great daddy. Tom: lover of music, history, art, nature, literature, and the stock market; persecutor of red squirrels; Daddy to Bear and Bug; husband of mine.

I love you exactly as you are.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Churro the WonderSquirrel

Bear was innocently reading a book on the front porch glider, when suddenly...she felt something zip by her foot.
This little red squirrel was determined to scoop up every last seed that the birds had dropped from the feeder.
And he wasn't going to let the fact that we were already using the porch stand in his way. He wasn't the least bit bashful. The girls and I were enchanted by his cute little furry self. Bear decided that his name is "Churro."

Now he just needs to win over Daddy Shortbread or risk being deported via the Hav-a-Hart trap. Daddy Shortbread is notsomuch a fan of red squirrels, who in the past, have been cheeky enough to do things like move into the garage or chew the kids' vinyl pool into tiny, tiny bits.
I'm thinking Churro's days with us are definitely numbered since Daddy Shortbread just walked by while I was photo-editing this shot and said, "Huh. That looks like Satan in a red fur suit."
Maybe if we make him feel guilty enough, we can talk him into another kitten?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Men Just Don't Get It

Scene: Saturday afternoon, biking the carriage roads at Acadia National Park. Bear and I had ridden ahead. We finally stopped to sit on some rocks by the road to wait for Daddy Shortbread and Bug. A few minutes later, they pedalled up the hill to join us.

DS (smiling and shaking his head): You know, it's we were coming up the rise, I could see you up ahead...

Me (waiting for a compliment): ...

DS: And at first I could only see the top half of you...

Me (still waiting for the compliment): ...

DS (grinning): ...and I thought you were taking a squat right by the path.

Me (disgusted): Are you KIDDING me? Have we MET? Like I would do that! I thought you were going to tell me how pretty I looked...don't you men know the mileage you could get out of telling us things like that? Jesus...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fair Warning

Instead of charming, face-front photos of Bear, you're going to be seeing a whole lot more of this style:
Because now that we've entered the stage of Constantly Self-Aware Preteen, she has hit upon the carefully-cultivated blank face for photos. And when you try to snap a quick candid shot of her eating a granola bar during a rest stop on our bike ride? You get THIS:
Adorable. Exactly what I was going for.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Guess What We Did on Sunday?

Despite having bought the bike rack for our van last summer, this was the first time we actually loaded up the bikes and took the kids on a mountain bike trail. Daddy Shortbread had heard of a bike trail up in Carabassett Valley that ran along the bed of an old narrow gauge railway. The trail is thirteen miles long, which we thought the girls could easily handle, since the loop we often ride through our neighborhood is four miles long. We didn't mention to them that the first 6.5 miles are uphill.

They figured it out pretty quickly, though. It was a very gentle but steady uphill grade. At times it got slightly steeper, but was easily ride-able if you geared down. Bear loved it right from the get-go and shot easily to the front of the pack. We kept having to holler to her to SLOW DOWN FOR GOD'S SAKE, as she'd round a corner and go out of sight and every child abduction movie plot I'd every seen would begin to replay itself in my head.

Bug tended to lag behind, having inherited her mother's aversion to exercising on purpose. She did pretty well for the first mile or so. Then she began to take exception to the continued uphill riding.
I've mentioned, perhaps, Bug's tendency toward the dramatic? She required several wedgie-adjustment stops, numerous water stops, a something's-in-my-eye stop, and a bug spray stop (seen here).
As the path continued to climb, despite our "Yay, Bug! You're doing it!" encouragement and taking turns riding beside her, she began to droop and get teary.

We stopped beside the rushing brook to rest at a picnic table. I passed around granola bars, and she revived slightly. Until she realized that we were getting back on our bikes and continuing up the trail.
Around the four mile mark, Bug was getting increasingly cranky and beginning to look at me with enormous tear-filled brown eyes and quivering lip. She wasn't winded or incapable of finishing the trail, just irritated. I got off my bike and told her we'd walk a few yards, then I pulled out the big parenting guns, and shifted gears from ra-ra encouragement to Flat-Out Bribery.

"I'll tell you what, Bug," I said.

"What?" she asked, adding an exhausted sigh, probably hoping that I'd offer to sit with her while the others rode on.

"If you can finish the ride without any more complaining, I'll let you swim when we get home no matter what time it is."

I could see right away that she was intrigued. The lip quivering stopped as she considered. I had told them no swimming that day, since we'd be getting home in the evening.

"What if it's bedtime when we get home?" she asked.

"Even then. But you have to suck it up and finish the trail without complaining. Do we have a deal?"

She agreed. We solemnly fist-bumped to seal it, then got back on our bikes.

She mustered her strength and plugged along to the top. When she started to lag, I'd remind her of our deal, and she'd grit her teeth and continue. I was really proud of her.

Near the top of the trail, we passed this cool beaver pond and had to stop to investigate. The beaver's dam easily ran forty feet along the edge of the pond, and there were gnawed stumps everywhere alongside the trail. No sign of the beaver himself, though.
We were completely giddy when we reached the top of the trail. It was a happy, happy feeling knowing that the next six miles were going to be downhill.

Notice how Bear had to pull her trendy bangs out from under her bike helmet? This parenting a preteen thing is going to KILL me. On the other hand, my hair looks like a stringy/frizzy/helmet-y mess, so maybe she has a point. Through the trees, we got a peep at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort:
Here's Bug at the tippy-top of the trail, looking excessively proud, and rightly so. We knew she could do it. It took us an hour and forty minutes to pedal up the trail, and only thirty minutes to coast back down. Riding down was a giddy experience, tempered only by the number of bugs that committed suicide on my forehead as I zipped along. After awhile, I gave up being grossed out and began to take a perverse pride in it.

And, after all the fuss, Bug decided she didn't want to swim after all when we got home. Sometimes just the pride of accomplishment is enough after all.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Jenn: Not a Friend to Nature

Local wildlife may want to take note and vacate the premises. My track record has been less than stellar lately:

1. While mowing the lawn a few days ago, I spontaneously stop the tractor to yank the weeds from around a sand cherry shrub.

Yes, I hear urgent peeping while doing this.

No, it does not occur to me that the peeping is coming from the the weeds I'm pulling. Until I glance down and notice the teeny baby bird hopping frantically around in an equally teeny nest. Still downy and fluffy, he obviously is not old enough to fly. Crap.

I carefully arrange the weeds back over the nest and pray that I haven't just doomed the nestling to discovery by predators.

2. Last night we finally caught the groundhog that moved in under the woodshed in a Hav-a-Hart trap. She unleashed a stream of profanity-laced chitters and squeals at me when I went back to check the trap. I seriously had no idea that groundhogs could be that loud.

Girlfriend was NOT PLEASED, and managed to convey her displeasure by peeing inside Daddy Shortbread's trunk when he loaded her in for deportation. (Luckily, he had anticipated this and placed a plastic tray under the cage. Even so, the stank was such that he had to leave the trunk open the rest of the evening).

She was humanely released across the river in an open field. She is now free to go dig under someone else's woodshed and pee in their car.

3. Today I was zipping around on my tractor mowing the lawn, when I vaguely noticed movement in the grass ahead of me.

(Side note: the backyard grass was abnormally high this week since I ran out of gas in the tractor before I got to mow the backyard. Rather than drive to the gas station and fill up the gas can, I decided the backyard could wait until the next mowing. Mostly because I'm afraid of filling up the gas can at the gas station.

Like, abnormally afraid. It's not like I had a bad experience filling a gas can, but I have a strong gut feeling that Something Bad could happen while I'm filling a gas can. So I make Daddy Shortbread do it, and he didn't feel like doing it right then.

Possibly because I forgot to mention it until 9:00 that night.

Is it still a side-note if it's longer than the narrative? I must remember to check).

Anyhoo. Mowing. Movement in tall grass. SNAKE. Little black stripey snake right in front of me!

I guess I could have swerved to avoid him, and I didn't. But I did squinch my eyes shut at the last second, though, and I think that would convince a jury that I was remorseful and they'd probably just give me manslaughter. (Snakeslaughter?)

The way I rationalized it while I finished mowing is that since the snake was on the same side of the house as the bird's nest I disturbed, and since the snake might have killed the baby bird, and it was my fault if it had found the baby bird, then it was total karma for me to kill the snake.

I'm hopeful that my Unintentional Reign of Terror is at an end.

Monday, June 1, 2009

May Showers

Daddy Shortbread and I were clumsily fitting together the metal framework of our above-ground pool, when the girls appeared hopefully in bathing suits.

"There is NO WAY you'll be swimming today," I told them, "We're nowhere near finished, and don't you remember that the pool takes twelve hours to fill?" I didn't bother mentioning that the pool water is about the same temperature as a barely-melted glacier when we first fill it. It takes a week or two of sitting under the solar cover to warm up despite Bug trying to convince me on a daily basis that "it's pretty warm now" when the thermometer clearly says 50 degrees Farenheit.

Undaunted, they decided to squirt each other with the hose, while Daddy Shortbread and I tried to locate all the twiddly little bolts and fasteners that we'd no doubt stored in a Very Safe Place at the end of last summer. So safe, in fact, that he wound up trekking to the hardware store to purchase new ones.

I sat on the porch with a Diet Vanilla Pepsi and watched the girls soak each other, running and squealing.

Then it began to do this:
I was enjoying the cool drops on my bare legs, when the swim-suited, already soaking girls came running across the yard, squealing, "It's raining! It's raining!" You know, to stand under the porch awning. So they wouldn't get wet.
"You get that you were just spraying each other with the hose, right? And that might want to sit down for also water?" I asked them. They had clearly not considered this. It put a different spin on things.

Bear plopped herself onto the glider to enjoy the drops, still inexplicably wrapped in a towel.
Bug, never one to be outdone, carefully swaddled herself in both a towel AND a picnic cloth before sitting out in the rain.

Logic doesn't always enter into the equation with these two. But they do have fun. Our Pond in a Pot seemed to enjoy the rain, too. We've added water hyacinth, some duckweed, and glazed ceramic floaters. We're still waiting on the nighttime temperatures before we add goldfish. I've already decided that we (*cough* Daddy Shortbread *cough*) should dig a real pond next year. I think I'll wait until the memory of setting up the pool has faded before I mention this to Daddy Shortbread.