Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We made it!! We survived our first Maine Winter...

Little green leaves are starting to peek up from the soil. The grass is changing from a wintry brown to patchy shades of green. The trees are so close to having leaves again. I actually heard a songbird the other day and have never been so excited to see bugs in the yard. Hopefully we have had our last snow storm of the year.

Spring is finally arriving in Maine.  It is almost May. 

I knew that if I could make it through our first year in Maine, namely the winter, I would be fine up here in the "great white North".  I like knowing what to expect. I like to be prepared. I like to be warm.  That being said, my husband and I were relieved to be able to find a decent home and move in just before the snow started in late November. Little did we know that we wouldn't be seeing our grass again until early April.  Mother Nature has been having her laughs with us as we have had snow several more times this month, but thankfully the snow doesn't linger very long and leaves behind a few more patches of green grass as it melts.  

It is with extreme caution that I finally, in a very quiet voice, say, "Welcome Spring".  Many of our friends and family from the South have asked what it is like living here during the Winter and here are a few things that we have learned:
  • The electricity does not go out when it snows in Maine.  We never lost power this year. It was too cold for the snow to melt even a little and for ice to form, and therefore we had electricity.  We didn't need all of the emergency blankets, sterno, oil lamps, cook-stoves, and camping gear that was to help us make it through a bad storm.  
  • School DOES get canceled in a bad snow-storm in Maine. Don't let any Northerner fool you into thinking they are better about going to school when it snows.  School was even cancelled a few times because of anticipated storms that hadn't even begun yet.  Emalee will be going to school through the middle of June because of this...
  • Bad snow-storms never kept me from going to the grocery store. I never ran out of milk or bread. The roads in town were always in good enough shape to get around.
  • I enjoy using the snowblower. You can work up a sweat when the temps are below zero.  Not once did I ever get cold while shoveling or plowing our driveway and front steps.  I enjoyed doing this chore because it got me out of the house and is fabulous exercise. Towards the end of the snow season we were starting to get worried because we were running out of room to blow our snow. It was taller than me in some places and the blower only throws it out so far.  One thing we did learn... wet snow is the pits to plow. Give me powder any day of the week!  Daniel did do this chore a great deal more than I did, probably for the same reason I did... 
  • We don't need as much winter gear as we had purchased. My husband is a collector of boots and coats and he was awesome to equip us with warm clothing and more than adequate layers.  When we would send Emalee to school, she had so many layers on and all you could see was her pretty little face peeking out of her snow gear.  You can't let the freezing temps keep you from being outside, so you just bundle up and get out of the house. 
  • If you don't get out of the house a little during the Winter, you will go nuts.  Or you will begin to bake. I chose the latter as my hobby of choice.  Thanks to the KitchenAid stand mixer that my mother gave me for my birthday and the stacks of cookbooks I was finally able to unpack (after 2 years of moving them around), I became a woman on a mission.  I was determined to find the best cookie recipes and perfect my pound cake.  I experimented a lot and had some eager "testers" in Daniel and Emalee.  I discovered that I already had the perfect pound cake recipe in my family files (thank you, Mary Wright) and that if the cookies don't have chocolate chips in them I shouldn't even bother. I also experimented with meals that I had never attempted before and began to truly enjoy cooking. 
  • You MUST find a form of exercise to do during the Winter or you will go insane (and increase your waistline because of all of the baking)!  Fortunately, being the mother of 2 children and staying home with them, I have a built-in exercise routine. My son became quite mobile this winter and went from crawling, to cruising, to climbing and walking.  He is into everything. He is a large baby, too... and carrying him up and down the stairs isn't for the faint of heart.  He is squirmy.  He also is mesmerized by Wii Fit and loves to watch me do the silly exercises there... 
  • I am thankful for Amazon.  The shopping options in Houlton leave much to be desired and the prices are pretty ridiculous.  I like having diapers, coffee, and tea delivered by UPS (aka "Brown Santa") and the kids had a better Christmas because of those deliveries as well.  If only UPS could deliver green grass and blooming flowers... 
We made it through our first Maine Winter.  It wasn't so bad. We stayed warm and didn't strangle each other.  We came to appreciate the time we have together and love the simple life that we now have together.  As I sit in our new, warm home I look forward to the next 3 seasons in Maine.  Spring, Summer, and Fall here make up for the long, long Winter.  When our friends in Georgia are roasting and melting from the heat and humidity, the temps here will be near perfect and we will begin our new family hobby... camping!  

Friday, April 1, 2011

No More "Winter Farming" For Me!

In the years I've known my husband, I have learned a number of unique phrases and terms that he uses to describe various people, situations, and circumstances.  Some topics are suitable for this forum and some are best discussed in appropriate company, but if you know my husband, he has a way - all his own - of telling a story and making a point.

One particular phrase that I have gleaned from him is actually a term that he learned from his father and with my agricultural background I can truly relate to:  "Winter Farming".  In the definition given to me by Daniel, a "winter farmer" makes plans all winter long about what a fantastic garden he or she will have when the weather gets nice and then, when the time comes, does little or nothing to achieve their plans.

I have been guilty of "winter farming" from time to time in my life. Up until about 2 years ago as a "marketing professional" that was a part of the fabric of my job description.  Planning, dreaming, and - depending on funding  or timing or some other positive circumstance, doing.  There was often a lot of brainstorming ideas and most of the time the ideas either fizzled out, stayed on a "maybe one day" list, or puttered slowly to life.  Occasionally the right pieces would fall into place and quickly take off for great success.  What I did learn from the experiences in the workplace - is that I can be my biggest stumbling block or hindrance to taking the next step... hence, the "winter farmer".

This also applies to dieting and exercise, or the lack thereof.  If only I could get into shape just by watching the exercise video or thinking of the miles I would run if I could just get started - or paying for a gym membership that I never took full advantage of.  I always have great plans during the winter months of getting into shape during the winter and when the spring finally comes, emerging from my bulky sweaters and sweatpants a smaller, more fit version of me. This year is the first time that has ever happened for me and I attribute that to chasing my (almost) 30 pound toddler around the house and shouting, "No, Eston" as I pull him from whatever he has been climbing.  Trust me, there isn't a video for that kind of exercise, but it does work...(and is extremely rewarding!).

One of the main areas I have been guilty of "winter farming" is in the area of my home and finances.  I have made so many plans on how to get organized in the home and bought binders and designed spreadsheets and templates for everything from cleaning house to managing schedules and they are seldom implemented.  Up until this last year I was careless with my personal finances and not working as a team with my husband.  I was not controlling my home and money but letting circumstances and time control me.  I am finally working with my husband on this and as a team we are tackling this area and slowly beginning to see the first little buds of our "harvest".  It is so much easier to "farm" with someone that shares the same goals and dreams.

I know that when I started this post, I had a point to make.  Oh yeah... no more "winter farming" for me.  Both metaphorically and literally speaking, I am more than ready to dig in the soil, get my hands dirty, and watch the ground come to life. I plan on planting squash, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, daffodils, peonies, hope, love, happiness, joy, creativity... and anything else that may grow as a result.

Now, I just have to wait for the snow to melt...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cookies for compliments?

My daughter notices things that I often overlook. She sees which houses have 2 chimneys and which ones don't. She sees the kitty cat in someone's window or that a storefront in town has changed since the last time we passed by.  She knows how to read people's faces and can see when they are sad or mad because of how their eyes look.  She can tell when I have on new socks. She sees everything. She notices everything. She tells me everything.

Today Emalee wasn't feeling well so she stayed home from school.  Poor little dear, her little eyes were watery and I can't tell you how many times she has sneezed today.  We are on box #2 of Kleenex and she just feels rotten.  We made a trip to the drugstore to pick up a different kind of allergy meds than those she had been taking and I promised her a milkshake when we finished up at the store.  While waiting to pay the cashier in the drive-thru, Emalee says, "Tell her I like her necklace.  It's really pretty."  So I do just that.  Again I hadn't even noticed the necklace.  This changed the girl's face from sad or unfeeling to the brightest smile you have ever seen.    Emalee then says, "Mommie, I think I made her day!  That made her smile!"  The next thing is what is unexpected and sweet at the same time.  She gave Emalee some cookies.  Now I am thinking to myself - oh great... now Emalee now thinks that compliments equal cookies.  Then she amazes me yet again, "Mommie, I would have told her I liked her necklace without the cookies. That was really nice of her.  I made her smile and now she made me smile."

Every day is like that with my sweet girl.  There is always something for me to learn from her. It  has been that way since she was born.  I thought parenting would be so much about teaching my children but I am finding each day that it is completely the other way around.

Today I learned that I need to notice more.  And that cookies given from a compliment taste even sweeter.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Love My Husband

I am not ashamed to say this:  I love my husband.  I am amazed at how rare this is.  I am blessed to be surrounded by people that can say the same, but looking at the world in which we live, I appreciate the rarity of the relationship that I have with my husband.

Before we moved to Maine I could have made the same statement, but looking back now I realize that I overwhelmingly love him more now.  I'm not completely sure why I felt the need to blog about this realization, but I hope that it will offer encouragement to those of you that feel the same way about your spouse and hope for those of you that are on the fence...

I'm not big on "top 10" lists, but I feel the need to limit my reasons because of my time constraints and the fact that when you love someone so completely, words cannot express the width or depth of that love.  This list is not  an "all inclusive" one, but a few of the highlights:

  1. He makes me smile. Anyone who has met Daniel knows that he is a cut-up. He is unintentionally funny and likes to see humor in all things.  I don't just smile because of his humor... I am just generally happier when I am with him. I smile because I am proud of him. I smile because of a million different reasons.  I smile because he gives me no reason not to. 
  2. He is real. With Daniel, what you see is what you get.  He is his own man.  He is unpretentious and honest. He is loyal and true.  He is not one to change based on the weather or whichever way the wind is blowing.  You either love or hate that about him, but it is one quality that I have always admired.  He has never played games with my emotions and I have never wondered where I stood with him. Because he is real, I have always been able to count on the love he has for me.
  3. He is unselfish.  He genuinely puts others ahead of himself.  He wants his family and friends to be the best that they can be and will do what he can to help. 
  4. He is a wonderful father. When I see Daniel with our children I love him even more. He is patient when my patience is wearing thin and he loves our children deeply and completely.  He is firm and kind and helpful and has never shied away from diaper duty or anything else that our children have needed.  
  5. He is fun. We can be doing the most mundane, everyday thing and have fun doing it.  He loves to travel, even if it is just the country back-roads close to home. 
  6. He is good with money. This is a huge weakness with me. I am a horrible manager of my finances and have been incredibly insecure in that area.  Instead of making me feel incompetent, he encourages me and we now communicate about money in a way that I was always terrified of in the past. We now have a plan and with any luck will be completely out of debt (minus our mortgage of course) by the time we celebrate our 10th anniversary.  Not working has, at times, made me feel as though I was not "contributing", but he has never made me feel that way.  We make decisions together and are carving out our own future. 
  7. He is practical.  No, Daniel is not a roses and jewelry kind of guy.  That is ok with me.  He is a warm coat and good shoes kind of guy.  He takes care of the practical needs of our family and of others.  He makes sure the house is warm, the trash is hauled off, the bills are paid, and that the cars are running.  
  8. He is smart. He probably wouldn't agree to this, but he is incredibly intelligent. He is a history buff and makes the topic interesting in conversation.  He knows a lot about guns.  He plays a mean game of chess.  He reads everything he can get his hands on. He inspires me to do the same. 
  9. He is straightforward. You definitely don't wonder where you stand with Daniel. If you do wonder, all you have to do is ask. He will tell you. 
  10. He is always helpful.  It is not unusual to see Daniel washing dishes or doing laundry. He is not one to think that because I stay at home all day that the entire burden of housekeeping is in my hands.  He is very helpful and shares all responsibilities with me. 
My hubby is almost too good to be true... and sorry ladies, he is mine.  I hope I didn't bore you but I just felt the need to get this out into the open.  I love my husband. I have never felt better about our future than I do right now because I feel completely and utterly loved by him.  Thanks for indulging my need to brag on him just a bit...  He deserves it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The best food ever.

Lately, I've been exploring a room in the house that I have been petrified of most of my life: the kitchen.

Throughout my entire life some of the greatest memories and moments have happened in the kitchens of my mother, both grandmothers, aunts, and friends. The majority of time I have been a spectator.  A minor contributor.  I am one of those people that doesn't like to try something unless I know that I will be good at it. Cooking has always been something I wanted to do but was a bit nervous about because of the long line of amazing cooks that I come from.  I always felt like the cooks in my family spoke their own language.  Even as an early adult I took a seat and stuck around for the conversation and waited for an invitation to join in the madness.  Nothing was worse than around a holiday.  I waited for someone to ask me to fix a dish.  The lack of an invitation, in my mind, was an indicator that the pros questioned my cooking skills and therefore didn't ask.  On the rare occasions that I was asked to contribute, I always felt like someone was looking over my shoulder and criticizing my approach or methods.  Occasionally they did, so I would back off and stick to safe dishes and recipes from my "comfort zone" of cooking.  I definitely didn't want to ruin a holiday meal.

Now that we finally have our own home in Maine and I have time to explore this scary room, I am now working on my cooking skills.  I have a nice, roomy kitchen.  I finally have all of my pots, pans, dishes, and tools in one place.  I have a KitchenAid stand mixer.  Armed with these tools and a ton of encouragement from husband, daughter, and even my little son, I am trying recipes that, at one time, would have made me run in the other direction.  I don't have anyone looking over my shoulder that has more experience than I.  I can include my daughter as I learn new things, thus boosting her confidence, too.  The way I see it, we are learning together.

It warms my heart to hear my daughter proclaim at dinner, "Mommie, you make the best food ever.  You're like a chef!"   Those are definitely words that I never thought I would hear.  The other day I realized something... she thinks of my cooking now in the way that I always saw my mother's (and still do).  The best food ever.  Wow.  Then I started thinking about the "pros" in my life in a different light. The legacy that they have left for me to pass along to my children doesn't come from the finished product - or the amazing dish - but in the experience of creating something that brings delight to those that gather around their tables. It is in the fellowship.  It is in the conversation that happens around the dinner table.

When we were looking for a house, one of my main stipulations was that we have a formal dining room that we were to use for all of our meals.  No eating in front of the TV.  No food in the living room.  We eat around the table and eat as a family.  I always figured that if we did that while the kids were small and life was less hectic it would be easier to keep that going when they got older.  Now I feel like I can lure them to the table with something more than just food.

The experience doesn't just happen around the table over a plate of food.  It happens in the preparation.  It happens as I step over my children  playing with pots and pans in the floor while I cook.  It happens as Emalee helps me roll out the biscuits.  It happens as she licks the beaters from a cake (she also likes to lick the beaters from mashed potatoes).  It happens as my 13-month-old son turns up his nose at Gerber food and prefers my chicken-n-dumplings.  It happens when my husband compliments me and helps clean up the kitchen after a good meal.

I wouldn't say that I am a fabulous cook yet.  I wouldn't even say that I am all that great.  I will say that through my experience in the kitchen I am learning to be a better mother and wife.  I am nourishing and being nourished by my family in a way that I never understood before now.  In the kitchen I am close to my grandmother, Mimim.  As I lovingly pat out the biscuits or give my kids little bites of cheese, I am reminded of all of the moments spent with her in the kitchen.  As I make a cake I am connected to my other grandmother, Grammy.  Whenever we visit her, she always has a fresh cake made and meals prepared ahead of time for our visit.  When I try new recipes I am mindful of my mother - and the things I have learned from her example.

I love to cook now.  One more good by-product of a winter spent in Maine.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's been awhile...since we have seen our grass.

When starting this blog I had the best intentions of keeping it current, relevant, even fun.  Well, it has been awhile, so let me catch you up...

Summer in Maine is glorious - if you can handle the black flies and don't mind dousing yourself with insect repellent each time you venture outside. It is incredible how such a tiny little insect can be so annoying!

Fall in Maine is spectacular.  The colors are vibrant and the air is crisp. We made a quick trip to Georgia for a couple of weeks and came back to the most beautiful leaves I have ever seen.  We also stepped up our efforts to find a home because we had no desire to live in a cold, drafty farmhouse during our first Maine winter.  In early November we bought a house.  It was #245 that we looked at and probably the 4th or 5th that we seriously considered.  In an effort to keep this blog upbeat, I will not go into the housing options available in this part of the world.  I will simply say that we found a nice, warm home that has been remodeled and is quite comfy for this stage in our life. Let me stress that the house is warm...

Emalee started school in the fall. She loves school. She would go on the weekends if they would let her.  She also started dance lessons - or "Creative Movement" as her class is called.  If you have ever seen 20 4-year-olds dance, it is an appropriate name for her class.  She loves it and that is what counts.

Winter in Maine seems to be never-ending.   We had our first snow the day after Thanksgiving and haven't seen the ground since then.  It is March now.  As I write this, it is snowing.  On average we get about 6 inches of snow at a time and have gotten as much as 2 feet in one storm.  The snow itself isn't that big of a deal.  The roads are always well plowed and we have had no issues getting around.  I've learned how to use the snowblower and actually enjoy getting out and doing the task.  We have a couple of sleds and have enjoyed playing when the temps are decent enough to do so... but I will tell you that it takes a couple of grown-ups to groom a sledding hill that has 3 feet of snow on it.  We are ready to see grass and green trees.  It doesn't help that while the temps here are still hovering close to 0 our friends in the south have already enjoyed spring weather and temps around 80 with buds on the trees and daffodils blooming.   We have to wait until May for that...

Do we regret moving to Maine?  Absolutely not.  We miss our family and friends in Georgia in a way that we never imagined but as a family we are thriving.  This move has taken a good marriage and made it amazing.  It has taken us from a one child family to two and our kids are healthy and wonderful.  It has put everything of importance into perspective.  Daniel and I appreciate each other and our children in a way that we were too busy do to before.

Now the question remains... how long does it take for the 2-3 feet of snow in our yard to melt?  I'll let you know when we see the grass!