Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Boys and Girls

Perhaps this has happened to you--you are in a store or at a playground or whatever and someone makes a comment about your family structure, however your structure is. For example, my friend Karen who has two boys followed by a girl, often gets comments like, "Oh--you finally got a girl!" as if "getting" a girl was the whole point of having children in the first place. I often get the opposite; I "finally" got a boy. Usually I can just smile and nod--there is no need to point out that my "finally got" was actually four years, one stillbirth and two miscarriages later. We didn't finally get a boy, we finally got a living, breathing, healthy baby to add to our family. There is a big difference! Now, of course, sometimes...just sometimes...when the person saying it is particularly irritating or being snide, I'll tell them the whole truth. "At least you finally got a boy this time," they'll say. "Actually, since our last baby died, we were simply hoping for living this time." I know, it is petty and mean, but it shuts them up and, like I said, I only use that line when someone has really ticked me off.

Anyway, now that I "finally have a boy" people are always asking me about the differences between the girls and Evan. To be honest, I think most of the differences I have noticed thus far are due to different personalities and birth order. Erin was also a very high energy, excited, climbing, little bundle of trouble...but the difference there was that when she was this age, she was an only child. One kid, two parents. We didn't realize how easy we had it! Evan, on the other hand, is often found in something, on something or up something--is this because he is a boy or because, frankly, we aren't always paying attention? Who knows.

He does have a strong affinity for Daddy's lawn mower. He likes to climb on it and sit at the wheel. When I can't find Evan, I always check the garage--he's probably on the tractor! Is it because he's a boy? Does the Y chromosome carry some kind of tractor magnet on it? I have no idea. But he loves that tractor...almost as much as he loves pushing dolls in the pink baby stroller.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What's In A Name?

As you can imagine, pregnancy is a time of great joy and anticipation for most families. Is it a boy? A girl? Will she have his eyes? Will he have her hair? Couples pick out color schemes for the perfect nursery, buy clothes and cloth diapers and probably even a toy or two. Can you remember that time? Can you remember all the things you wanted to give your baby?

When your baby dies, you get to give them one thing--a name. I will never forget the conversation I had with my dear friend, Carol, when we were talking about this very thing. Carol found out that her daughter was not alive a few hours before she was born. Between the time they found out and the time she was born, Carol admitted to her husband that she didn't want to "use up" the name they had picked out. It was her absolute favorite name and, in that void between being a mom, not really knowing what it is to be a mom and hold your baby, and the knowledge that her baby was not alive...well, she was understandably confused about using the name. But her husband stood firm and told her that this baby was the same baby they had named when she was alive, and that was who she was*. There was no doubt about it, the baby who was born was fully their daughter--their beautiful and perfect baby girl. Her name is Charlotte.

Sophie got her name in a different way--see, I have always wanted a little girl named Kathryn. Not sure why, but every time I got to name a girl, we never ended up on Kathryn. Chris wasn't into the "K" names for a while (they are/were so popular!) and the middle names we had picked out didn't seem to fit. But when I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I said to Chris, "If this is a girl, we will name her Kathryn." There was no doubt about it. But, of course, that isn't how things went. As things got worse that weekend, the last thing on our mind was what to name her--we were thinking more how to save her. And then it happened--all that emergency stuff I don't really like to talk about. It was during all that that I have this one memory--a memory so strong that when I close my eyes and think about it, I can remember the room, where everyone was, who was there, what it smelled like...but I was lying on the table and in front of me there was a little white baby. She was in profile, like you might see in an ultrasound picture, but she wasn't fuzzy or anything--she was perfectly clear. And very white, surrounded by a blackness that blocked out everything but her brightness. I won't say I was talking to her, but we were definitely communicating. As I'm writing this, I realize how crazy it sounds and how strange it all must seem to someone who didn't experience it first hand. So I'll skip it all and tell you that after our "communication" she floated away and under her profile, in the same bright light, were the words, Sophia Anne.

When I awoke some time later, I knew she was gone. My husband was there, holding my hand and I looked at him and said, "We are going to name her Sophia Anne." He just nodded (as if you would ever argue with a woman who has been unconscious!)

Months went by and I could not shake the guilt I felt for not naming her Kathryn. I mean, after all, what made her any less worthy of the name? If she had lived, that would have been her why could I not bring myself to use it in death? Carol, similarly, feels some sadness at not being able to really use the name Charlotte--I mean, she never gets to yell across a playground, "Come on Charlotte, let's get home for dinner." or "Charlotte! Clean your room!" So in her mind, she also didn't get to use it the way she wanted (no duh!) Friends of mine who are devout say that I didn't name Sophie, God did, in that "vision" I had. Maybe. Like I said, I know what I experienced and I know how crazy it all sounds...but maybe.

So what does it come down to? Basically that neither Carol or I got what we wanted (obviously) and we both wrestle with this. But we both had these baby girls and we both got to give them one thing--a name. Charlotte Amelia and Sophia Anne. Beautiful names for two beautiful girls.

Imagine my surprise today when Erin came home from her first day at Theater Camp and said she had two new best friends--Charlotte and Sophia. So I ask you--what's in a name?

* Carol, forgive me if I'm paraphrasing in a way that isn't exactly true to your story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Table Manners

We have always suggested to the kids that "No Elbows On The Table" is good manners, but not sure how to break the news to Evan. Though I'm thinking in a few years he won't be able to bend like that.....and in fairness, those aren't his elbows.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Lists

Today the girls and I made a list--each day this summer we need to do:

Something Fun: This is self-explanatory

Something Kind: like to keep the house going--tidy a room, set the table, vacuum, put clothes away...things like that

Something Quiet: I said I put this on the list for Evan, but let's face it, it's for me too!

Something "Educational": which has a VERY broad definition, so that will be fun too, probably!

Anyway, today Erin was making our check-list, to make sure we hit everything. Something fun? We went to the playground. Something quiet? Erin read, Megan colored, I read and Evan napped. Something Educational? Erin wrote our list, Megan read a National Geographic Kids and the book I'm reading is very educational. Evan is always learning, so he kind of gets a free square here. We got to the part about something kind and Erin said, "I helped with the diapers." (This is true.) Megan said, "I'm helping make dinner!" (Also very true.) Evan was very cute, which we decided was kind to all of us. "Mom," Erin says, "what have you done kind today?" "Well, I washed the diapers, vacuumed the floor, made dinner, folded clothes, arranged a playdate for you two, filled up the pool...." "MOM!" she interrupted, "I'm only willing to write ONE thing, so pick ONE!"

Does this mean for the rest of the summer I can make the bed and call it good? I wonder.....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some pics

I wanted to put in some pictures of our trip--this one shows pretty well where we were--edge of the bay in the land of Thirty Thousand Islands. You can see why it is named that! Near as I can figure out, we were there looking at the interface between the pink rocks and the black rocks (see the bands on the island behind her?). We spent a lot of time sampling those two kinds of rocks....

Evan, of course, took careful notes!

Erin was ready to swim at all times!

Hey...a man has to eat, right?? Here is a picture of the black rocks we were looking at, with a nursing mom for scale (geologists like to have things for scale in their pictures!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Has this ever happened to you? (UPDATED--I forgot one part)

So today Chris needed to go back to one island he didn't get to yesterday because of the wind and rain (the "seas" were too high to land the boat). We loaded everyone up in the boat for one last adventure out here and headed out. The sun was shining, the winds were light and everyone had gotten a good amount of sleep the night before (except me, but let's face it, it would take a miracle for a Mama to get enough sleep, right?). Positive vibes were everywhere and it was going to be a beautiful day!

We get onto the island and begin exploring when BLAM--Erin falls on a rock and skins her knee pretty well. While Chris is running back to get the first aid kit, he nearly falls into the water on a loose rock. As I fix Erin up (this process involved duct tape even!), Chris begins to get his samples--then Megan yells, "I have to go poop!" (we are on an island of ROCK here). Chris puts down his hammer and helps her to a place that would do the least ecological damage (there was just enough soil to bury it--and no, I don't want to get into a debate about burying vs. carrying...we've researched this issue thoroughly and make our choices based on our surroundings). Erin decides her knee hurts too much so she goes back to the boat to wait while Chris begins to pound again on the sample. I'm in a small rock pool with Evan when both Chris and I hear, "HELP!" Chris drops his hammer and races to the boat on the other side of the island. I race to find Megan who was hanging from a rock, unable to get up or down. I help her and Chris comes back with Erin who has decided to come help. He goes to get his sample. As the girls are coming to join me, Chris is yelling at Chester because, you guessed it, he's over eating Megan's poop. Suddenly Megan yells, "MOM! EVAN!" I turn around and less than 5 feet from me is my toddler, face down in the knee-deep puddle, slipping and sputtering, unable to get his footing (don't call DHS, folks, I had turned my back for a millisecond--he wasn't really in danger of drowning). I jump over a rock and pull him out (he's fine!) while Megan falls and gets her ankle wedged between some rocks. Now Evan is crying because he is saturated and cold, Megan is crying because her ankle hurts, Erin is limping over rocks with duct tape on her knee and Chris STILL hasn't gotten his samples. I took Evan's clothes off and dried him off. While I'm attending to Megan, Erin is labeling samples for Chris (see? We ARE helpful!) and I turn to look at Evan and guess what? Yup...he's back in the big puddle, totally naked and happy as a clam. Guess what else? Yup, he pooped in it.

So THEN, Chris finished getting his samples (after, of course, cleaning the poop out of the water), we all went back to the boat, and we all lived happily ever after .

Until dinner time when the kids all started to whine. This was followed by packing time because we are headed home tomorrow...and, of course, packing means the arrival of Packing Man (who looks a lot like my husband, but he's focused on one thing and one thing ONLY)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Island Update


Megan is Explorer Girl, sitting in the bow of the boat with her face in the wind and her blond curls blowing around. Landing on an island, she is first to jump out and point out the shapes of the rocks and find the best swimming hole.

Erin is Cautious Girl, sitting low in the boat so it won't rock too much, making sure the anchor is tightly wedged in the rocks before setting off and then laughing as she leaps from rock to rock, finding just the right place to collect treasures.

Evan is Daddy's Little Geologist, following him with "Dada, Dada, DADA!" and of course, his new favorite, "boatboat" (said as one word).

All are enjoying life on the island! I'll try to supplement this post tonight with pictures.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Geologists

So it turns out we have a weak internet signal from the "boathouse" which, near as I can figure out, is the red roofed building across the channel there. It is actually only a boathouse, with the main house being hidden behind some trees. It appears to be the only house on that island and their boathouse is bigger than our I'm also guessing they have more money than we do. But thank you for the internet anyway!

The drive worked out. The first part went just as planned--Evan slept and the girls watched a video. The second part went very well too, except the brakes on the car began to fail and make a horrid grinding sound. I was driving and I'm not a very good driver with a trailer on the car, so I was getting nervous. After two hours, when we had to do a detour through a city because of an accident on the highway, I stopped and Chris had to take over again. He down-shifted his way through red lights and back onto the highway. We were a bit late stopping for dinner because of the detour, but the kids were fine. The traffic in Montreal was at a standstill, so we got off and went to a grocery store with a large yard on the side and had some dinner. The kids ran around in the grass and we changed them into pjs. By 9pm, all were asleep (despite the girls' desire to "for once in their lives" stay up until midnight--didn't happen, go figure!) We stopped at a hotel for the night.

Yesterday we got up and drove for a few hours with the brakes getting worse. We stopped for lunch and then went to a grocery in Parry Sound to get food for the week while Chris went and bought brake pads. Not sure when he'll go back into the marina to put those on, but it has to be done before we head home. Anyway, when we stopped for lunch, Evan had his first mishap of the trip, falling from a play structure onto some gravel. He's got a good case of "road rash" on his face...poor guy! We got here about 4pm yesterday and Chris went back for the second trip while the kids played happily out on the deck which overlooks the water. By 6:30 we were all fed and by 7:30 everyone was asleep--even Evan which is practically a miracle in itself.

Today we were honorary geologists and "helped" Chris with his work. Of course by help I usually mean things like asking a million questions while following close behind, stopping him to beg (over and over again) if someone could jump into the water from this rock or maybe this one, pointing out (over and over again) that maybe this rock is the kind he is looking for, or no, maybe this one, or no, this one, "over here, Daddy!!" "NO! Over here!" "No, wait, over HERE!" and, of course, finally, "Daddy, are we done yet??" (This is clearly the most helpful, so the girls did this one a lot!) Me? I kept the toddler from falling into the water. And yes, that is pretty much all I did and no, you cannot comment unless you have actually ever attempted this on islands that are sheer, algae-covered, rock faces down into the frigid water.

Of course, at one point while Chris changed Evan's diaper, because I am VERY helpful, I took the hammer and, in only a few minutes, got nearly twice as many rock samples as he had gotten all day! I even wrote random numbers on them with the sharpie marker (just like he does--though perhaps his numbers aren't random), drew arrows on them (just like he does--I'm not sure why he does this) and packed 'em all in the bucket with his other samples. See? I'm really a good geologist.

Now the kids are with him, walking on the other side of the island and I'm getting the house ready for bed. (Okay, I'm actually writing this blog post, but that is what he thinks I'm doing...well, he knows me pretty well and he probably doesn't think that at all!)

Seriously though, if this (island-hopping in a boat on bright sunny days on a beautiful lake while staying in a cute little cottage) is what my husband has been getting paid to do for the past three summers, I urge you all to get a job as a's pretty cushy!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We're Off

Tomorrow I'm getting in the car with a husband, a dog, and three kids and driving to Parry Sound, Ontario...14 hours away. Should be interesting! Chris has wanted to take us out to do field work with him for years, but it has been one thing or another every time. 2007...well, that was obvious why we didn't go. 2008 he went early, when Megan and Erin were still in school. He was actually in Ontario when I found out in June of 2008 that I was pregnant with Evan (which, after all our losses, was news that definitely brought about a bit of anxiety). Last year, with our trip to VA, we just couldn't swing much more time in the car with the kids, so he went without us again. Now here we are, our 4th summer here and finally, finally, we are all heading out there to "help".

14 hours.... Here's how we hope to break it all down: Tomorrow at noon, Megan will get out of school and we'll all head off. Evan will sleep for a good chunk and the girls can watch a video. Three hours later, we'll stop for bit and walk around, maybe play in a stream or something. The next three hours, everyone will need some entertainment. Grammy sent a box of cool things to do, so we'll probably break that out. I'll sit in the back and read to Evan, maybe play some card games with the girls, that kind of thing. At 6:30 or so, we'll stop for a late dinner (late for us, anyway) and put the kids in their pjs after a run around at a playground or something. After that, Chris and I can drive until we just can't drive anymore and then we'll stop at a hotel at 11 or 12 or even 1 if we can. Then the next morning we'll only have 3 or so hours to go!

That's the plan anyway...but as anyone traveling with kids knows...what will happen will happen. And we'll get there eventually, hopefully still happy and loving towards each other! And then we have a week on a beautiful lake with a boat and a rock hammer. Is there anything better than having a boat and a rock hammer? Really?

Yes, folks, this is why I married a geologist. I'll see you in a week!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do you really reap what you sow?

I hope sow (threw that in for my Father-in-law)! There has been a LOT of sowing around here lately! We have a new back garden, complete with bean "hideouts" for the kids (obviously not very useful as hideouts just yet). Also squash, tomatoes, bush beans, some herbs and brussel sprouts (which I just learned is supposed to be brussels sprout...but that would mean there should be an apostrophe, wouldn't it??) Oh, and we started some raspberries too...but that will be a year or so before they get going. We'll put in a few more plants every year until we have two rows behind this garden.

We moved all the strawberries out of Sophie's garden and have a TON of peas coming up in our front garden (plus carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash and green garlic). We also put an asparagus patch in that center part this year. I've wanted to do this for years but kept putting it off due to my lack of patience and annoyance that it takes so long to get one established. (You don't have to tell me that if I had put one in three years ago when we moved here, I'd have an established patch by now...I already know this!)

And we replanted our side garden with basil. This garden is a cold frame in the winter and it has been giving us spinach and carrots since March! Now we have tomatoes, peas, beans and basil in there! Oh, and that far side is another asparagus patch...we like asparagus around here!

Hopefully we'll have a good crop this year. This, combined with our CSA delivery, should make for a very local summer and fall. We are also now members of a buying club that is helping us get local flour, crackers, and a few other things we often end up buying "from away." I think our dairy habit will be the only thing keeping us at our neighborhood grocery store. We drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of cheese. We are going to contact a local cheese maker we know and check out the price--if we can decrease how much cheese we eat, we might be able to afford getting that locally as well. Of course that is the other part of all this--I'm feeding a family of 5 on $80-$100 a week. As much as we want to get ourselves of the horrid, disastrous, industrial food chain that this country has created, the bottom line is that it is a LOT cheaper...orders of magnitude cheaper. I know, I know, it is subsidized and not "cheaper" when you put together all the costs of our tax dollars, the costs to our health, shipping costs and environmental costs...but at the cash register, when it is all added up, it is cheaper. And that is a major problem! (but a topic for a different blog...)

Sunday, June 6, 2010


People ask me all the time why we are homeschooling. Of course I have a ton of reasons that I could get into in great detail, but the simple reason is that homeschooling is the best fit for my family right now. I love what we are doing and I wouldn't have it any other way. Of course the bonus is that my child gets to do things that most schools would never allow her to do (probably with good reason!) Here is my 7-year-old using a power sander. Hey, you gotta learn some time, right?? I love this shot and I love that she is wearing her homeschooling shirt. Wake up, start learning--that's what homeschooling is all about.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Karen To The Rescue!

I know I've written about her before, but I have this friend, Karen. In addition to being my bestest parenting friend and confidant, she is also a Master Gardener--very useful for someone like me, with the absolute opposite of a "green thumb." Anyway, when Sophie died, we put in a garden for her--simple, a tree, a stone with a plaque, some flowers and, that fall, a handful of bulbs. Now, three years later, the phlox have completely taken over, filling over half of the space, the strawberries that I had thrown in so the girls would have something "from" their sister are completely covering the back half, and if someone had told me what a handful of forget-me-not seeds would do...well, I probably still would have put them in, but at least I would have been warned! Anyway, add to all that the fact that I couldn't really tell the weeds apart from some of the plants (I told you, I'm not a gardener!) and the fact that we have lots of clover on our lawn, and you can imagine what the garden looks like now.

Until today. When I went down to Augusta to attend a homeschool used curriculum sale, I met up with Karen for lunch as well. In her car, she had dozens of beautiful plants along with, I kid you not, two incredibly detailed drawings of Sophie's garden and the front of our house. The location of each plant was labeled so that even I could figure out where each thing went! I got home that afternoon and grabbed a shovel. Standing in Sophie's garden, I hesitated...what if I screwed it up? What if the phlox never bloomed again? What if moving all the bulbs around killed them and I never had color here again? What if I killed all the wonderful things Karen gave me? In the garden, shovel in hand, I called Karen. With the patience of a saint, she assured me I wasn't going to mess it up and even if I did, plants in general and bulbs specifically, are very forgiving. So I did it. We did it. Chris and I dug up virtually everything. We put bulbs around her plaque, moved all the strawberries to a different garden, planted a few annuals, and put in coral bells, hostas, and irises. We moved a few things I can't ID (but there are a lot of them in the garden!) and pulled out all the forget-me-nots (those I'm sure will come back again in the spring!).

Even better, we did all this in the pouring rain. Very fun. As we were digging, of course, Evan was getting soaked and muddy, Megan (wearing a princess dress) was riding up and down the driveway on her bike, going through puddles as fast as she could and Erin was fully enjoying her new Latin Dictionary by shouting words out the window to see if we knew what they were (not really!). What the neighbors must think, I can't even imagine!

Here is the new and improved garden.

I know it doesn't loot like much, but believe me, it will. Oh, and if you know what this is:
...let me know. I have a bunch of them and I'm not sure what to do with them all.

Thank you, Karen!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Time

Today I had some time to myself while Evan slept and the girls were at various activities. It was awesome...know what I did? I cleaned their room. Now, many of you probably wouldn't want to do that with so-called "free" time...but it is refreshing to me. I love simplifying their lives and making it easier for them to play in that space. I want their toys in reach and I don't like it when they get so overwhelmed with "stuff" that it is hard to find the favorites. I usually do this once or twice a year and they hardly, if ever, notice the stuff I have taken away. While many see this as significantly limiting their choices, I see it as giving them opportunities to more fully explore the choices they do have. They will tell you that they notice a sense of peace in their room and they notice the space to do Legos or Lincoln Logs or whatever. It calms them. Plus now Megan has her own Meditation Area, which she has wanted since reading the book Peaceful Piggies." I'm happy to give it to her.

I would post a picture, but my father broke my camera...are you reading this, Dad?? We need a new camera!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great Post

Check out this post: