Doesn’t It All Go By in a Blink

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Broken arm to start off the hot months.

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Baby’s first haircut. Goodbye curls:(

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.” ― L.M. MontgomeryAnne’s House of Dreams

When every day of summer lasts a million years (this is how it feels anyway) I find myself forgetting that I only really get a handful of summers with my kids.  What I mean of course, is a handful of summers when they are still mine.  Before they’re begging to go over to friend’s houses and to summer camp and into the future without a backward glance.  It isn’t my wish to keep them little forever- little kids are an incredible amount of work.  But I do love the innocence.  I love the soft cheeks, the concept that mom and dad can make everything alright, and the way they sleep without anything weighing them down.

These are a few pictures of our summer so far- a blur of manic energy contained in a few photos.

 

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July garden.

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Calvert Marine Museum, terrapin.

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Indoor Beach Day

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The new balance bike.

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Water table fun and bug catching.

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First full family campout, Elk Neck State Park, MD.

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I capture the castle.

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I’m 3 today!

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Life is good.

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Oh yes we DID bring the clip-on highchair.

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The Quilt is Done

Summer 2014 019My mother did not quilt.  My grandmother did not quilt either.  My great-grandmother probably did quilt as befitted the time in which she lived,  but as we were not destined to know one another I can’t be sure.  What I’m getting at here is that quilting was not something I absorbed from my childhood surroundings.   I wasn’t mitering corners at grannie’s knee or using a rotary cutter in elementary school. It is rather baffling therefore that for my first quilting project ever I decided to make a queen-sized quilt for my baby daughter.  I considered the lap quilts but felt she would outgrow those too fast, and who has twin beds anymore anyway and so heck- why not just go big or go home?  So I went big.  I completed all of the blocks during her first year of life and even got them all put together with the inner borders.  We were living in Eugene, OR at the time and knew we wouldn’t be able to stay.  I chose colors to remind us of that place- the blues of the sky, the greens and browns of the earth.  For the background I chose a patterned fabric featuring bright umbrellas in front of a cloudy sky. Once the top was done it just sat.  And sat.  For 2 years.  I’ve heard this is common tale- the patchwork top is the exciting part and after that it’s just levels of tediousness.Summer 2014 018

Once I finally came to terms with this understanding I hired a longarmer.  In other words, one who possesses a long-arm machine.  It was a wonderfully freeing experience which has left me with a finished quilt, a sense of peace, and a neater sewing area.  Thank you Heidi Hendrix in Lusby, MD!

The longarm machine is an invention which allows the quilter to spread a large portion of the quilt out while machine quilting the patchwork top, inner batting, and backing together with a set pattern such as spirals.  If your other alternative, like mine,  is using a small sewing machine shoved into the back corner of your loft, a longarmer might be preferable.

For the next quilt I will be using a solid color for the background, and instead of doing a sampler quilt where every block is a different pattern, I’ll just be sticking with the ones I like.  Rail fence is one of my favorites- nice and simple and best of all- no triangles!

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Embrace the Whirlwind

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Dorsey Park, MD

20131103-154025.jpgThe last year has been a whirlwind for us- we got to know our new surroundings (Southern Maryland verses Western Oregon), made some friends, and welcomed a son. Much has happened, most of it was a blur. Incredibly we have now found ourselves in November.  Again.

Time for the Halloween decorations to go away and to plan the Thanksgiving menu.

Time to make Christmas lists and check how much heating oil is in the fuel tank outside.

Time to throw leaves, take in the East cost colors, and make that last apple pie.

There is so much to do and doing it with two kids can make it all seem daunting, particularly with no family close by.  However it is possible.  There is time.

There is time for hikes at the nearby state park.

20131103-154550.jpgFirst taste of grass at Cove Point Park, MD.
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The Dove at Historic St. Mary’s City, MD.

There is time for dinner picnics and pirate ships at sunset.

Time for eating grass.

Time for peace.

Time to be a family.

It isn’t easy and you might ask yourself later if it was worth it.  But you needn’t.  Because you know the answer before you leave the house.

No matter how awful it might be it will always be worth it.  Because this is the only time we have.  Not tomorrow, not next week.  Only this minute, right now.  So we have to figure it out.  We may have to stay up late to pack tomorrow’s lunchtime picnic.  We may have to spend naptime doing the dishes, the laundry, making the next batch of baby food, locating the pruning shears, or scrubbing the sweet potatoes out of the white carpet because there simply is no other time.

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Greenwell State Park, MD

This stage of life is a whirlwind- an attempt to survive and take the family with me.  An effort to document enough moments so that my kids can get an idea of what their early childhood was like and more importantly who they used to be.  We may come out of this craziness one day or it may be like this forever.  But we’ll come through it together.  And we’ll know that we always took time to make time.

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Explore the Calvert Marine Museum with Toddlers

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Watching the otters Bubbles and Squeak

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The Calvert Marine Museum is well worth the annual family membership fee of $60.  It’s a wonderful option for those very hot days, very cold days, very wet days, well you get the idea.  Although the exhibits don’t change much my daughter doesn’t mind.  She looks forward to checking in with the rays, the terrapins, the sea horses, jellyfish, and the otters most of all.  On good weather days there is a lovely wooden pavilion for picnicing, a boardwalk, a covered area housing a large antique boat collection, and the best feature- the Drum Point Lighthouse which is open from 11:30-12 and then again sometime in the afternoon.  Naptime has made it impossible for me to ever go in the afternoon though so I wouldn’t know about that.  That’s only for the parents of Older Children.  The lighthouse boasts several separate rooms and although the winding stairs are quite tricky with a toddler in tow it’s well worth it.  A tip from a sadder-but-wiser-girl: do not wear a skirt as the updraft can be gusty.  The history of the lighthouse is my favorite part- many different families (something like 15 of them) raised their kids in it and I always have a great time imagining them gathered around the table on a blustery day or sending a home-made slinky down the stairs.  When the kids were school-age they took a boat to the mainland  (the lighthouse used to be quite a ways out in the water) in order to get their education.  Just imagine a boat instead of a school bus.  Those lucky little buggers.

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For those of you with toddlers there is a Sea Squirts program that happens twice or thrice a month (see website)- it’s free but if you want to stay and look around afterwards you will need to pay the daily admission fee.  For my money I’d rather just take my kids there on a quiet day.  There are so many people that attend the toddler program I’ve never been able to hear anything and my toddler gets impatient with all the waiting.  If I didn’t also have a baby attached to me I might find it a bit more manageable.

Besides the animal exhibits there is also a Discovery Room which is wonderful.  It has a fossil digging area with experts on staff to help the kids identify what they find.  There is a sailboat replica that the kids can climb in-  it comes complete with a set of life vests and sailor hats as well as a marine backdrop which makes for great photos.  Perfect for the grandparents.  There is even a mini lighthouse along with keeper quarters.  Lastly there is the staffed touch tank.  My kiddo doesn’t seem to care about it either way yet but one day she will.  I’ll be sure to be there when that day arrives.

Little Explorers at Historic St. Mary’s City

The remains of an ancient settlement are located only 3 miles from my house.  Well, maybe not ancient, but by USA standards it’s pretty old.  1634 to be exact.  St. Mary’s City was the fourth permanent settlement in the New World and the first capital of Maryland.  It is supposedly one of the best archaeological sites in the nation because although the whole city dissolved when the capital was changed to Annapolis in 1695,  the site was then left undisturbed for ages.St marys citySt marys city 2

Originally I thought that touring St. Mary’s City would have the same feel as visiting Williamsburg or Jamestown but no.  st marys city churchAlthough there are some folks wandering around in colonial garb there is no Disney-like feel to the place.  It’s quite calming and relatively unchanged so it is possible to stand on the cliff overlooking the St. Mary’s River and imagine that it’s really 400 years ago, just you and the water.  Structures have been erected where the remains of dwelling places have been found- rather ghostly silhouettes of a place that once was.  There are trails, a museum, a plantation, pigs (at least I’ve heard tell), and a visitor’s center.  It’s certainly worth a look.

An added bonus for those of us with small kids at home is that there are special programs.  Little Explorers focuses on kids age 3-5 and although my child is only 2 years, 4 months sometimes I get desperate enough to sneak into places I shouldn’t.  This was one of those times.  Looking back on our visit last Wednesday it occurs to me that the focus was most likely more specific than “dug-out canoes”.  However there were so many children present and so many strollers with younger tag-along siblings that I would be hard pressed to tell you what the whole purpose was.  Looking back I mostly see flashes of color and chaos.

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Sensory box

There was a mini parachute, this I know. Autumn 2013 032 There were bins of sensory activities to keep the kids busy before the main event occurred.  It seems to me there was a story at some point.  Can you tell it was a bit chaotic?  My kid was happy so I was happy.  Autumn 2013 033Eventually we were asked to paddle pretend canoes out to the woods where an actual dug-out canoe was stationed still smelling like the fire used to break down the interior wood.  Then it was a mad scramble for an oyster shell in order to scrape, scrape all the soot out.  Did my child have any idea why she was scraping soot?  No.  Did she care?  No.  Did I care?  A little bit.  But with 50 toddlers maybe I should have just been grateful to get out of there alive.  Besides, my daughter was happiest spending her time jumping from one canoe support beam to another.

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There really is a canoe under there.

Well, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make ’em drink”, I guess.  50 soot-covered toddlers then paddled their way back to the visitor’s center to create toilet paper tube canoes.  Yes, it’s possible.

There is a great picnic table set-up so many groups stayed for a picnic lunch.  Now that fall is here I think there are only one or two more of the Little Explorer events until Spring.  I’m ok with that.  By then maybe I’ll be brave enough to go back:)Autumn 2013 037

DIY Birdfeeders, Keep it Simple

Autumn 2013 007It’s hard to go wrong with these super simple pinecone birdfeeders.  We’ve all made them before  but sometimes it’s the most simple reminders that are the most useful. When long days of parenting have you feeling steamrolled there isn’t energy for anything complicated.  It’s like the baked potato.  So simple yet so overlooked.Autumn 2013 014

It seems like it took forever for my daughter’s dexterity skills to reach the level necessary for this project.  Only recently have we begun stringing penne pasta and peeling off stickers.  Now that we’re here I’m eager to keep going.  I was thrilled to present her with a popsicle stick and a bowl of peanut butter.  She spent a happy 2 minutes spreading it on the pinecones before Autumn 2013 012transporting it from the stick directly to her mouth.  Toddlers.  A minute later I heard her crunching on something that sounded a lot like a rock.  Nope, just one of the grains of super dehydrated corn.  After we fished that out we got to roll the peanut butter cones around in the birdseed- a sensory experience that I’m not ashamed to say I still enjoy.

‘Tis the season for collecting pinecones by the way, they’re just starting to fall in our neck of the woods (Southern Maryland) and watch out- they’re still very sharp.Autumn 2013 003

Perhaps the most engaging part of this project for my little one was the “Calling of the birds” ceremony we invented while hanging up our new birdfeeders.

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Since our real birdfeeder has been empty for a time we weren’t sure how long it would take the birds to discover the new bonuses.  The answer?  A full 24 hours.  They’re here now though and we spent an afternoon practicing our birding skills.  As the leaves begin to fall birding will get much easier.  We are already looking forward to the winter happiness that comes in the form of over-wintering cardinals.  They provide such a nice splash of color during an often dreary time of year.

This is a great activity to do with your toddler while your infant naps.  You know, in case that ever works out.

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Fairy Houses

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It’s fairy season down here in Southern Maryland.  If you are local and you’ve got some wee ones at home it’s a good time to head over to the Ann Marie Gardens in Solomons.  The   Fairies in the Garden exhibit continues until October 8th, admission is $5 for adults, children 5 and under are free.  The woodland path that houses the fairy dwellings also has a few other perks such as the tree pops – works of art that are depicted on some of the stumps and trees.  Here is one of my favorites;Maryland Part 1 038

We visited this exhibit last year when my daughter had just turned one and at best she was only mildly interested.  We went again this past May when the exhibit opened and once again it didn’t really seem to do much for her.  It might have been that she was so distracted by all the kids dressed up as fairies that she was unable to focus.  Today however she LOVED it.  She would shout, “I see another fairy house!” and take off tearing down the path.

mostly ann marie garden blog pics 006  Another perk of the Gardens is their large play area.   It plays host to a small stage, several large bamboo and fabric open tents, three play houses, low stump pathways, and a sandbox.  More Fairy Houses 011The group of kids we were with today would have gladly stayed there the whole time.  Ann Marie also lets the kids check out a woodland costume during their visit- they’re allowed to wear them outside as long as an adult leaves their keys or driver’s license at the front desk.  mostly ann marie garden blog pics 007

Sometimes it’s More Fairy Houses 010easy to overlook the local stuff or to think that one visit per summer is enough.  This is really a fantastic thing to be able to take your kids to More Fairy Houses 013see.  We had such a good time that I think we’ll be going back next week.  If my daughter lets me wait that long.

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