Saturday, June 27, 2009

Truth...

"Until you make peace with who you are, you'll never be content with what you have." ~Doris Mortman

Friday, June 26, 2009

Our 60 Summer Fun Adventures

Ariana has started her summer vacation as of Tuesday. She has 75 short days of summer (if you can call the incessant rain 'summer') So her and I have devised a plan to get out and do 60 activities over 60 days. The only rule is that we leave the confines of our yard- it could be anything from a bike ride to trip to the water park. We perused my lists of things to do and have come up with a few preliminary ideas. I am going to chart our progress here so I can keep track of our adventures. And we're off...

Day 1: We attended a book swap at a friends house which was great fun. Not only did the girls get new books to read for the summer, but they were able to play with a gaggle of kids for a few hours. It was the first sunny day in weeks, thank goodness.
Day 2: It was a rainy day so we had a Movie Theater at home. We pulled the curtains, made some movie tickets and popcorn and then cuddled up for a movie. In the evening, they were able to go see Reptiles on the Move, where they could pet lots of snakes and lizards and other slithering animals.
Day 3: We started the day off early early with a trip to the farm to pick strawberries... they looked so good, we ended up with 9 pounds! We then moved to the park where they were able to make some new friends to play with. Later in the evening, Colby came home and took them to the pool, which they LOVE!
Day 4- Too rainy to do too much.
Day 5-11: We went on vacation to Rye Beach. Needless to say, there were activities every day. From bowling to the Children's Museum in Portsmouth to the beach. We played with Nana & Papa, Leilah, Jeff, Kelly, Zack & Jozie. It was quite a gteat vacation, despite all the rain.
Day 12: We went to Maine for the 4th of July to be with our extended family at Grammy & Grampy's house. We had a great time on the 4 wheeler, using sparklers and watching the fireworks.
Day 13: We went to Reid State Park in Georgetown, Maine. It was a summer favorite of mine as a kid. Not only are there amazing waves, there are great rock formations to climb around on (or 'go exploring' as Annika called it.)
Day 14: We really had to relax a little after the vacation, so we just had a mellow day and went to the park. It was great to finally soak up some rays.
Day 15: More rain!!! So, we got out early and took a bike ride. Colby extended his vacation a couple of days so he came along. Annika did pretty well at not getting too frustrated with the whole learning to ride thing.
Day 16: Guess what? Day 3,807 of rain! So, no outdoor fun, but Ariana and I went to Lesley's for Wednesday Spaghetti, which gave her a chance to play with friends.
Day 17: Rain.
Day 18: Robyn came over to play with the girls and then she slept over. They got to play outside all day.
Day 19: Colb took Ariana to a birthday party. I couldn't take Annika because we thought she might have pink eye. Instead, I took her and Cady to a Dan Zanes show in Freeport, Maine. They both had fun and then we even had an ice cream after.
Day 20: Colby took Ariana to Kaitlin's to play in the pool, she is staying for the next couple of days. Annika and Cady and I played outside in the 'pool' (an inflatable raft!)
Day 21: I took Cady and Annika to Whites Park for swimming and play time.
Day 22: Rolfe Park
Day 23: Well, we had a magician planned for today, but Annika and Ariana were so out of control, they both got grounded!
Day 24: It was yucky out, so we didn't go outside.
Day 25: Took Ariana to a hotel in Chelmsford, MA so we could spend the night for an early morning dance competition.
Day 26: Dance competition until noon. And then we had Jeff, Kelly and kids over. Kelly and I took Jozie and Ariana to Manchester to see a theater production of High School Musical in the park.
Day 27: I took all 3 girls in Mackworth Island in Maine to hike and build fairy houses.
Day 28: It was a day of recovery from a very long weekend.
Day 29: We played school for a long time today due to rain and then went to the library to enjoy some arts &crafts time.
Day 30:Angel came over to spend the night. There was lots of dress up, singing and dancing.
Day 31: Kaitlyn T. came over to spend the night. Lots of hide n' seek and tag. Kids are so easy to amuse (sometimes).
Day 32: Kelly L. brought her kids over and we had a nice play date. The kids really enjoyed it outside with the sprinklers and mini pool.
Day 33: I was away hiking in Camden, Maine so Colby took the ladies to Daisy Beach for some swimming.
Day 34: We had a family day at home.
Day 35: It was finally a nice day so I took the girls to the pool where they had a blast.
Ok, I finally lost track of the day- I knew this would happen. It all went awry when Ariana went away for a week to go to camp with friends. She got to swim at the lake, water ski and just soak up the sun. Annika, Cay and I spent a lot of that week at the park or pool. She is gone right now for a second week to the same camp with the same friends for more sun and sand.

We did go down to Boston and did the Freedom Trail, which th kids actually loved.
Colb also took Ariana and a friend to Water Country for Ariana's birthday on August 16. The had a blast, water parks are something that every family should try to get to every summer.
We took the girls up to camp to do some fishing and boating. They also got to go to South Pond with Nana and Papa while Mommy & Daddy hiked Mt. Waumbek.
Colby took the girls blueberry picking, which I think was a first for him.
He also took Ariana to Patriots training camp. Ariana came home with lots of great stories. I think we should make that a yearly tradition.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Her feet.

I love her feet. Her imperfect little, pudgy feet. I have loved them since they were itty bitty porcelain feet so very fragile. And now, they are strong. So strong she can run over gravel without even a wince. I love her always quasi-painted toes that are a reminder of our mommy daughter time. I love how she giggles endlessly when I tickle her feet. I love that she loves to be barefoot and feel every blade of grass, every mud puddle, every grain of sand. I love that I can kiss them whenever I want to and they are always so soft. I love her feet.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A mountaintop contemplation.


This weekend I was able to hike with one of my best friends in the world. I really had forgotten how much I love to hike... need to hike. It is one of the most exhilarating experiences that I know of. No matter how strenuous and exhausting the trip up the mountain is... the reward at the top can never be achieved otherwise.

In our 24 hours together, my wonderful friend and I spent the majority of the time discussing relationships: relationships with family, friends, lovers... everyone. When you get to a certain point in life, you must stop and reassess the relationships you have, the ones you don't have and the ones that you need. Her and I are both at this point in our thought processes.

As we grow, we acquire more relationships with more people. Geography, jobs, school, parenthood, etc. all provide opportunities for new relationships. But, at some point, the depth of relationships will suffer if you spread yourself too thin with too many. Do you really need to hold on to that friend from 3rd grade who you really have nothing in common with anymore? Relationships with family are a little more difficult to contemplate since society tells us that we need to sustain blood relationships regardless of how shitty they may be. Take my father: he would not even acknowledge me for the first 18 years of my life. And since then, I feel obligated to sustain whatever thread of a bond I can. But why? If I had to choose a person to be in my life now... someone who I would expose my children to, someone I would expend my emotional energy on... I would not choose this man. But, because he contributed a specimen to my mother, society makes me feel as though I need to continue to put myself through the mental anguish & develop some sort of connection.

The same holds true with friendships. We meet people at different points in our life and forge friendships. But, we might know someone since we were five who we really just don't like when we are 25. You could could have turned into people that are 180 degrees from each other. But you can't 'break up' with them. That is unheard of. If you stopped contact, you might be thought of as snotty, snobbish or something of that nature.

As we grow and mature, we have less time to cultivate relationships as we concentrate on our children, our homes, our lives. It is even more important to choose people to surround yourself with that are inspirational, joyful, kind and make you a better person. If you lost your memory today, who in your life would you chose as a person you wanted to surround yourself with? Would you choose your dad, your sister, your friend you've know since 1985? Or do you just keep them because... you are obligated? Is it ok to cut ties with a person because you know they drain the life from you at every interaction? Do you deserve better? Do you deserve to live your life out with only the most uplifting people so that you may enjoy each and every second of this short stay on Earth?

Are you waiting for answers to these questions? Sorry, I don't have the answers. This is a part of what we discussed on our wonderful trip up the mountain and I do not think there is a concrete answer for anyone. I'd love to hear feedback on any experiences with this subject, since I struggle with it continually...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

19 More Summer Fun Activities


I am excited to recently have some of my travel ideas published on Best Kid Friendly Travel and it led me to seriously plan our summer calendar. I have already posted 11 Cheap Family Thrills in New England This Summer and quickly reviewed 15 other New England activities. I had to come up with a few more activities to fill our days, so I thought I'd share...

In New Hampshire:
• Summer Concert Series: Concord, NH. What's better than live music outside on a nice summer night? Let the kids shake their tushies. Check with your local recreation department for concert series in your town.
• Concord Library Summer Reading Program, which starts off with a free Reptiles on the Move show on June 24. Keep the kids reading all summer plus give them some activites and prizes.
• Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting Competition: June 13-38. Just go check out the amazing sand sculptures.
• Somersworth has some great summer activities, starting with the 29th Annual Somersworth International Children's Festival. They also have concerts, magicians and various entertainers throughout the summer.
• Cathedral of the Pines: Rindge, NH. Explore the extraordinary sanctuary grounds, meditate in outdoor chapels and gardens, and learn the history.
• Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater: $17 for 2 adults and 2 children to see TWO movies. Way better than sitting in a cramped theater and the kids will love it. Be warned, they only accept cash.
• Milford Drive-In Theater: $20 per car.
• New Hampshire has a lot of gorgeous waterfalls. Some of them require no hiking and some offer a quick dip in some crystal clear water. Kids really love to watch waterfalls and play around in the water.
• Pick your own fruits and vegetables. This site has a great, comprehensive list of a lot of pick-your-own farms. My kids love to do this, we can go from June through October and pick everything from berries to apples to pumpkins. And most farms usually have a nice playground to amuse the kids for even longer. Our favorite here in Concord is Apple Hill Farm.
• Swimming: Try either Echo lake. The Echo Lake in Franconia Notch is our favorite. We have taken Ariana there since she was 2 years old and she loves it. The great part is that is so near great hikes. Colby's favorite is to hike up to Artists Bluff and then swim in the lake for awhile. The hike offers great views yet is easy enough for a toddler to complete.
The Echo Lake State Park in North Conway can get busy with tourists, but it is a nice, refreshing dip which also offers some hikes up to ledges above.


In Maine:
• Portland Observatory Tours: Guided tours of the only remaining historic maritime signal tower in the United States offer spectacular views of Portland, Casco Bay, Back Cove and Mt. Washington.
• The Wiggly Bridge Footpath: Route 103, York Harbor. This bridge is the smallest suspension bridge in the world. This is a nice site that is not overrun by tourists and offers a nice easy stroll through the woods.
• Acadia National Park: (Yes, this is Acadia's namesake.) I think the is possibly the nicest park in New England. It offers great hiking, biking, horseback riding, a Naturalist Program, a lake for canoeing or swimming and sooo much more. I really recommend Acadia to any family looking to enjoy the great outdoors.

In Massachusetts:
• Boston Freedom Trail: The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites, every one an authentic American treasure.
Boston Common Frog Pond: Oldest park in the US. Free spray pool to cool off and a great area for a family picnic. Great way to start off the Freedom Trail.
• Free Friday Flicks at the Boston Hatch Shell: See everything from The Tales of Despereaux
to Star Wars: The Clone Wars to Kung Fu Panda for free. Just show up at sundown with your blanket or chair and enjoy.
Fisher Cats Baseball: What a great family activity that is inexpensive yet the kids love it. July 5th is the Atlas Fireworks show which adds a whole new excitement to the game.
• Franklin Park Zoo: First Saturday of each month 1/2 off admission. Our family of 5 could get in for $20. Although, we have not yet visited, so I cannot give an accurate review of the zoo.
• Walden Pond State Reservation: Concord, MA. See what moved Henry David Thoreau and have a nice picnic and dip in the pond. The cost is just a $5 parking fee.
• The Butterfly Place: Westford, MA. We've never been, but my girls really want to go.
• Forest Park & Zoo: Springfield, MA. Take a train ride through and enjoy the wildlife.




Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NH Dream Vacation Scavenger Hunt

I have come across a super fun thing to do with the girls throughout the summer... and we have a chance to win a NH dream vacation while doing it. NH Division of Travel and Tourism is sponsoring a photo scavenger hunt where you make your way around the state with a sign saying 'I love it here' and photograph your family in front of different things. Here are some of the photo ops...


At the entrance gate of any family attraction
In front of the tugboats in Portsmouth
On the deck of the M/V Granite State
At a drive-in movie theater
Fishing NH waters
Zip-lining
Visiting a museum
Pulling in the catch of the day in Seabrook
Teeing off on a NH golf course
Horseback riding on NH trails
Looking for moose in the Great North Woods
At a college or university sporting event


With a sand sculpture at the Hampton Beach
With livestock at an agricultural fair
At a lilac or lupine festival
Attending a meeting or conference
Getting married in NH

In front of the Capitol Building, Concord
Inside the Keene gazebo
Standing on an historic covered bridge
At Manchester-Boston Regional Airport
In front of a general store
On the porch or deck of an inn, hotel or B&B
On the steps of a fire tower
Next to the Pollyanna statue in Littleton
1st in the Nation Ballot room, Dixville Notch

With the Atlantic Ocean in the background
Endicott Rock, Laconia
With Mount Washington in the background

In front of a State Park entry sign
Daniel Webster Birthplace, Franklin
Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site
On steps of Tip Top House, Mt. Washington SP
At the tower at John Wingate Weeks HS
Anchor at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion HS

At a winery or vineyard
At an orchard or pick-your-own location
Sitting at a diner counter
Sampling the fare at a NH grower's dinner
With a farmer at a farm stand or farmers' market
Shopping at an outlet mall
Standing in front of your favorite restaurant
Licking your favorite flavor at an ice cream stand

I can't wait to start and we have until August 16th to finish, so it should make for a fun summer. You only need 3 photos per entry, so we should be able to get a lot of entries together.

Let the games begin...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things


Me: You can not go outside by yourself, Annika. You lost that privilege when you ran into the road.
Annika: Ohhh... Well, can we go to the store and buy a new privilege since I lost my old one?

Monday, June 15, 2009

More on Addiction

I am not sure what brings me back to this topic, but I always seem to arrive here. Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite girl's blog and she had a rant on addiction. Although, as a social worker, she is clearly more educated on the topic than I am, I have that wonderful real life indoctrination.

As I have previously discussed here and here, I have my own personal issues with addicts. In my life, I have had the most interactions with alcoholics, but I know the addiction there is just like that with crack, pills or any other addiction.

I also came across another post that I found very interesting yesterday on Parenting Toolbox that related to children of addicts which, to me, is the biggest issue with addiction... when it somehow affects innocent children. From the article:

Common characteristics of caretakers and parents that accompany alcoholism-such as denial, dishonesty, selfishness, fear, and lack of consideration-have profound and direct effects on children. In this environment, self-esteem is not able to develop normally, and the emotional energy required to live with an alcoholic parent steals from the magic of childhood.


I have had a few candid conversations recently with a friend who is struggling with the same addiction issues that I have. They have addiction in their family and in their blood and have a daily battle with it. But they know that they must take responsibility for their life, their children and their fate and not give in.

So, I guess that is all I needed to say while I was on this soap box: take responsibility for yourself. Don't lay blame, be a coward or play victim. And don't even bother leaving me some anonymous comment, I won't waste my time with you.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Extraordinary love.

This Andre Jordan artwork was posted on Wednesday Spaghetti by R.C. yesterday and I loved it. I am reading a book Me to We, which has really caused me to pause. And then when I read this, it just seems as though something is just trying to beat me over the head.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Photo Friday Tutorial


Here is my gorgeous Annika. Where did those eyes come from? We may never know. But I love to highlight them in photos. Here I played around with Photoshop action that The Pioneer Woman is so kind to offer free on her website. If you have Photoshop, just download the actions and start playing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Annika is the biggest daddy's girl. Ariana has always been close to me, she will still get into bed with me and cuddle if I invite her. But Annika truly prefers her Dad in most any circumstance. Whenever I tell her "I love you," she always says "I love Daddy." I know she's only 3, but it still breaks my heart.

Finally, the other day, she came around. I told her I loved her and she said, "Well, when I am 8 like sissy I will love you too."

At least we are getting somewhere.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dance Mom Extraordinaire


So, as I have touched on before here and here, I have fallen into a mom category the last few years... that of a dance mom. If you are not familiar, a dance mom falls somewhere between a soccer mom and a pageant mom. The soccer mom in me is carting Ariana around to dance competitions in a minivan (wait, wait, wait I do NOT drive a minivan. I have my lovely friend, Lesley who I carpool with in her lovely minvan, therefore letting her have all the glory of being the true soccer mom) The pageant mom is the part where we put our poor little girls in makeup at a ridiculously young age before they get up on stage.

Friends from my youth really get a kick out of my dance mom moniker as I was as far from a dancer or a mom as you could have imagined. I had a period of life where I had a shaved head, wore flannel shirts and made a fake ID so that I could get a tattoo while under age, if that gives you any idea of my youth. Ironically, at my first meeting of Ariana's competition team, her teacher proudly proclaimed, "Our girls are not the type of girls who will turn out tattooed and pierced." Sweet, God forbid my daughters turn out like me!

Ariana is now completing her 5th year of dance and I am struggling whether we can continue on. She loves dancing and does pretty well. She has great dedication and really loves her fellow dancers. But there are downfalls. It is a huge drain on time, she only got to play one other sport this year since she had so much time consumed with dance (and we refuse to be a family that is carting our kids around to 6 different activities every day.) It is also very expensive. We now have 2 other children that would like to participate in activities, so we need to budget our money accordingly.

I also struggle with the body issues and self esteem issues that dancing seems to beget. Although I do firmly believe it is a sport and should not be blown off a some princess party in motion, there is a portion of the activity dedicated to appearance and presentation.

At one of Ariana's competitions this year, the host was very full of himself and talked endlessly, trying to be far more philosophical than could ever by justified at an 8-year-old's dance meet. He made a comment that the girls were all winners and that the need not take their worth as a dancer from this one competition. And for that matter they need not take any of their 'human worth' from the outcome. Really? If my daughter's human worth is any way affected by the UltraExtremePlatinumPlusSuperDuperUltimateSupreme gold metal she gets from her dance class, then I have some serious deficits in my parenting. This further added to my "What the hell am I doing here?" mentality that I have been having in her competitions. But that has to be tempered with her needs and what she enjoys...

I am still struggling. Any other dance moms out there? Any thoughts?

Friday, June 5, 2009

The love of my life.

A great friend recently commented to me "Oh, I didn't know you were into photography." Seriously, how long have we known eachother? Which lead me to wonder if my blog followers are as nosy as I am, and how many have clicked on my 'Photoblog' link at the right.

Photography is my passion and what I dream of as a career someday when the girls are a little older. Right now, I do not have the time for proper schooling, but I do practice my photography on a daily basis to keep my vision fresh and ideas flowing.

So today, please hop on over to my photoblog and get to know me just a little better...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: My Symphony


To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich;
to listen to stars and birds,
babes and sages,
with open heart;
to study hard;
to think quietly,
act frankly,
talk gently,
await occasions,
hurry never; in a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common -
this is my symphony.
-William Henry Channing

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eating Well (and Cheap) at Shaws


A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend a media summit with other local bloggers for Shaw's. We had the ear of Shaw's Senior VP Bill Nasshan. He was a great guy and took time to explain to us some great ways to save while shopping at Shaw's. Unfortunately, I did not learn a lot since I have perfected my savings strategy having 5 mouths to feed on 1.25 incomes. (How else would make it on CNN Money?)

Just yesterday I had $144 worth of groceries at Shaw's that I paid $56 for. That's a 61% savings. And with that I got every thing from meat to fresh produce. I know there is a lot of debate over whether eating healthy can be done on a budget, and I am here to tell you: It Can! I buy fresh produce, meats, organic foods, fish... all on a very small budget and the vast majority from Shaw's.

A lot of people ask me how I do it and why don't I put it on my blog. Really, I do not want to reinvent the wheel and give you all of my shopping strategies with so many blogs out there that do it so well. But I will give you their addresses so that you can see how it's possible.

Coupon Mom has a spreadsheet out Friday morning every week which lines up the current coupons with Shaw's sale for that week.
Hot Coupon World has a great forum for Shaw's shoppers where they discuss great deals at local Shaw's.
Bargain Becky is a local mom who also lines the Shaw's deals up for you and is on a crusade to spend less than $100 per week on her groceries.
The Shaw's website is also a great way to plan your grocery list ahead since they have their own printable coupons and they have the flyer available so that you can create a shopping list right online and then print it out, take your coupons and only get the items you need.

It is seriously unnecessary these days to spend hundreds of dollars per week on groceries. I only have to commit 1-2 hours per week to planning, organizing and cutting coupons to save at least 50%. And I won't even shop at Walmart where you can save even more with groceries. I also do not shop many different grocery stores as it would take me too much time and aggravation with 3 children, but if you chose to you could save 60-70% on your grocery bill. I do also go to Hannaford since it is only across the street and they usually offset Shaw's with their produce and meat sales. But I like that I can also get money off my gas purchases when I use my Shaw's card. It is a small added bonus, but it all adds up.

It is these saving strategies that allow me to be home with my children all day and still be vigilant about eating healthy. Please, check out the sites I've listed here and you will be amazed at the savings to be had.

UPDATE: Check out the Wicked Cool Deals post about how she saves money at Shaw's, it's pretty detailed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Random Thoughts Roundup


I haven't posted for a few days, so it is time for a round up of random thoughts...

For those of you who were wondering, I did win the Horne Family Fitness Challenge. If you recall, we had $350 up for grabs. But, after listening to Colby whine about losing, I agreed to take $175 and leave $175 in the pot to continue the challenge for another month. It has been working great to motivate us (with the exception of this last hectic week). I did not even spend the $175, but I was able to get the dress in the photo above, which is gorgeous! I can't wait to wear it all summer long.

Today I listened to a news story about Colorado making it legal to collect rain water... off your own roof. Yup, before now, it was considered stealing since that water did not belong to you and it would otherwise travel through the ground to other sources. There could be a $500 per day fine! I can't even wrap my head around this. There are still states where it is illegal. I recognize that water law in the west is far different from the east, but it still beyond my comprehension.

This website is freakin' hilarious. Don't go there unless you have a few minutes to waste.

Do you have a long commute and like listening to audio books? Barnes & Noble is offering some free downloads... and they aren't lame books either. There's Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Munro and others. I am not sure how long this lasts, but go to the site and get yours now.

Here are a few blogs that I stalk and love:
Crafting a Green World: Fantastic green craft ideas with great photos.
Tip Junkie: Another fantastic creative blog but they come from a variety of sources and people.
Parent Hacks: Gives you unique ideas to hack every day objects into tools for a parenting dilemma.

I am going to try the old "make your own ice-cream" project with Annika tomorrow. I have found 2 different ways to do it here and here. We are going to try the ice cream in a bag, which is a great idea since it only makes 1/2 cup of ice cream and that is plenty for her. I will take photos and post my project, but does anyone have helpful tips before I try it?

Please go back and check out my Random Acts of Kindness post. I'd like to see lots of my friends passing on the good karma.

I am going to do a list on my sidebar of New England blogs to share the wealth with all of my local lovelies, please let me know if you'd like to be included.
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