July 30, 2011

life done well.

as i have said, i am working on being fabulous.  more specifically, i am working on living a fabulous life.  and even more specifically than that, i am working on realizing that the life i live is already fabulous, so i am noticing, naming and thanking god for each gift in each moment of my life.

this journey has been a mind-consuming thing.  to stop, and notice.  first of all, the moments in my house that are quiet, totally focused and still?  there have been about four of those moments in the last 7 1/2 years.  my life has felt like a whirlwind, especially the motherhood part of my life.  it all started with a scandalous break-up, where i called off an engagement to an impressive guy that most women wouldn't dream of walking away from.  but, i did and i know it was the best thing for both of us.  then in an even more scandalous rebound move, i met my beloved husband, the kind of guy, that NO woman would dream of walking walk away from.  so, i didn't walk away (for once in my life) and in one last move of scandal we ended up pregnant before we were married.   this is how motherhood began for me.  with a lot of unresolved emotional baggage.  even during those seemingly "quiet" months of pregnancy, where i didn't have any other children to run around and look after... there was a lot of noise.  there was so much noise in my mind.  just noise.  i started the painstaking process of sifting through my baggage.

i sifted.  for years i have sifted the noise of my upbringing; a divorce, a brother's life violently taken, a search for happiness in all the wrong places (and in all the wrong people.)  i sifted through the noise of my young adulthood; the regrettable choices, shame, mistakes.  i have sifted through beliefs taught to me, beliefs introduced to me by books, professors, the world, oprah and friends.  i have sifted through instincts, fears, ideals, and ideologies.  i've forgiven some unforgivable things done to me, things i took years to say out loud.  and i've sifted all the secrets i've been asked to keep, and those i kept on my own.

even before the actual, physical noise of motherhood, there was this inaudible noise of my mind.  it has been such a long, loud life.  attempting to be fabulous in my thirties is, for me, much more than looking great and loving life.  living a life of gratitude can only happen if i have sifted through enough past garbage to have a moment quiet enough to see what's actually happening right here and now.

so, my silly resolution of fabulousness is actually a deeply spiritual exercise in faith, healing, forgiveness and renewal.  i have resolved that as God makes me new each day, that at some point in my thirties He will graciously reveal a creation made new, and so stinkin' fabulous that i will undoubtedly have to write a book.

so, here is a moment of my life.  and in it, a thousand gifts, waiting to be noticed and named and appreciated.  i see the sunlight dancing on the blonde curls of, marlie, my second born daughter, as she pours herself a goblet of muddy-water tea.  she perpetually has one bun-cheek hanging out of her bathing suit.  london walks around.  she is bow-legged, and she's a little pushy.  in her veins, her blood is being pumped at a normal rate and her blood is all her own.  the bags of adult blood that were transfused through her body are gone, and what is left is her own healthy blood.  her bone marrow is doing it's job.  annalee, the eldest and "most likely to be class treasurer," fixes the strap on london's bathing suit, all on her own.  harper, my only son and the one who makes my heart simultaneously ache and leap with joy, dumps a pitcher of water on his own head... and then seems startled by the event.

these are all gifts.  i name these, and i write them down, and i thank God - out loud - for each of them.  i am naming the specifics.  i am thankful for the kids, in general, but something is lost in general gratitude.  i am specifically thankful.  in this moment, though, i am mostly thankful that in my mind, i have sifted out enough clutter to make room for the awareness of 1,000 gifts.

July 29, 2011

update on London's health

Yesterday, London had her 18 month check-up and we wanted to share how it went with all who have been praying for her.  In the last 2 months, London has gained almost 2 pounds, grown 2 inches, and moved up 2 shoe sizes.  This is the first growth in the past 9 months.  Since her 12 month check-up she has moved from the 5th to the 24th percentile in weight.  Also, she has moved from the 8th to the 33rd percentile in height.  We received back all of the results of her genetic testing and all of the results came back negative. Additionally, her most recent blood test results suggest that she is still happily making her own red blood cells.  We have one more blood test in a few weeks just to be sure, but if those are as good as we expect them to be... we will be done with all medical testing for London.  As you can imagine, this is a huge relief and amazing testimony to God's healing.  The only unresolved issue that remains is her diarrhea, which has been ongoing for nearly 4 months.  Please continue prayer for this specifically.  Thank you all for your prayers and concern, and encouragement!

July 22, 2011

can i help you with your groceries.jpg

London was quite a little helper unloading the groceries. Yes, that is a pack of swimmy diapers in the crisper. Just where I wanted them... She's so smart.

July 17, 2011

End of Chapter Two

Since my last update, we got set up at Devil's Hopyard, which was a large State Park that our GPS refused to acknowledge. Madge (which is what we named the lady voice of our Magellan GPS), hates New England. If pushed, Madge will send you down dark, muddy, and (arguably) haunted streets in the middle of the night. More on that shortly, but next, we have a feature story from ATATT.

Those of you who personally know the star of All Tom, All the Time, understand that Tom is not really a guy who risks it all, throws caution to the wind, or goes where the wind takes him. Tom could also be the star of another feature like, All Cautious, All the Time, or All Planned Out, All the Time, or even All Low-Risk, All the Time. This is not to say he isn't brave, or fun, or adventurous... As his fan base, though, that much is obvious. The point is that when Tom leaves the rain fly off, it's because the forecast says that there is a 0% change of rain, clear skies all but guaranteed.

That was the forecast on our first night at Devil's Hopyard, and given such statistical support, Tom decided against the fly. When it started thunder storming (literally leaving an actual puddle on Tom's sleeping bag - everything else in the tent was bone dry) he was understandably surprised and just a tad agitated. We scrambled, once again, like crazy first-time campers and got the fly on.

That was about the same time that I had to leave to go get my dad at the airport. He was flying in to Hartford, CT just after midnight on his birthday. I asked Madge if she could handle getting me to Hartford's airport and back to the campsite... She reluctantly agreed. Just to build her confidence, I stored the exact GPS longitude and latitude coordinates of our actual camp site. No reason to get lost.

As I said in my last post, I don't drive when Tom and I are together. I hate it, and am maybe not the best at it... So, he drives and we're both fine with it. But, I wanted to get my dad, so Madge and I set out, breaking my 3 week dry spell.

I went with Madge's suggestion of Hartford's only airport, which proved to be a very small, private airport for flying lessons and things of that nature. When I pulled up at almost midnight to padlocked chain link gates, no lights or parking... something felt off, like maybe United Airlines is stopping by tonight after all. So, I panicked, not wanting to be late, I chastised Madge briefly and turned to the age-old "ask a police officer" move. Fortunately a group of 4 or 5 officers were hanging out in the parking lot between a bar and gas station. After closer inspection, I am pretty certain that they weren't legit cops, but had more of a "male entertainer" type of look... But, their uniforms were pretty convincing, so I asked for directons and they happily sent me on my way to the international airport just outside of Hartford that Madge forgot to mention. (She's so literal.)

Anyways, I am brilliant enough to give myself plenty of extra time... So I got there right when my dad's plane landed. Mission accomplished. And given my previous brilliance (setting the GPS coordinates as my next destination), not even Madge could slow us down.

I got my dad, was glad to see him and was excited to get back, get some sleep and let the kids give him some birthday gifts that they picked out themselves. That was not what Madge had in mind. Apparently when I saved the EXACT coordinates of our site, she thought that meant I wanted to go down a long, gravel, dead-end road where the Salem witch trials (practically) took place. When I got to the end of Foxtown Cemetary Rd. (which falls between Witch Hill Rd. and Salem Rd.) I gave Madge the cold-shoulder and pulled an agressive U-turn. Unfortunately, my turn was just a bit over-zealous and I backed too far over the edge of the road, trapping my spinning back tires in mud. We were stuck in Witchville, USA at 1:30am, no thank you very much.

By the time AAA came and pulled us out, and we got back to the campsite it was about 4:30 in the morning. Happy Birthday Jack, love Madge. Ok, I guess it wasn't all the GPS, my driving skills are to blame too. In some, minuscule way I suppose.

This made for a tiring morning, but we pushed through it... exchanged gifts, and headed out after breakfast for a brief 0.87 mile hike to an overlook point, called the vista. We found the vista, about a mile and a half later, and turned to head back. About 3 miles later, we actually arrived back at our campsite. Apparently Madge's bad sense of direction wore off on me, and I got us pretty turned around.

Next, we headed into New London, for what would surely be an exhilarating stop at a Maritime Museum. The kids got a brief look at a graphic portrayal of naked African slaves violently overthrowing their white captors aboard the Amistad. While the portrayal was inaccurate, historically speaking, it was anatomically spot on. So, there's that little bit of education for the children. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and passionate, pronouncing foreign names in their original dialect with more gusto than I've seen in decades.

We had great difficulty getting the kids to sleep that night, they were squirrelly and excited (knowing it was our last night camping), and likely overly tired from being forced to senselessly hike a half-marathon earlier that day. But, our visit with my dad was nice, and we got the kids down... Eventually.

Now, we are headed back home. It is bittersweet to leave the carefree adventure behind, but, with it, we happily leave behind the bug spray, the coolers filled with perpetually sogged food, and a potpourri of odors coming from a potpourri of places.

I have never considered scrubbing my children with steel wool before this trip, but it's on the table, I'm not gonna lie.

Our trip was really fun, though, and I am so proud of my family. I am proud of the kids, who go wherever we drag them, (usually) without complaint. And of how they hiked so much, endured bug bites and just a touch of poison ivy, like true camping enthusiasts. I am proud of Tom for doing these trips, for being the kind of dad and husband who actually WANTS to spend his vacation time doing this crazy stuff. And I am proud of myself. For going through with these wild adventures against scoffer's warning, and against conventional wisdom, and against all motherly instincts to keep one's children clean and comfortable. I am even proud of Madge, who failed us time and again, but really stuck with her beliefs about "taking a legal u-turn when possible."

I am thankful that we can take these trips, and I am thankful that my kids will grow up with so many great memories, and unusual experiences. I am thankful that they have a stable, steady father and a crazy mother and a home to go back to, with a bed for each, covered with sweet, precious, clean sheets.

In my thirties, I said I wanted gratitude. The trick is not FINDING things to be thankful for. The trick SEEING and ACKNOWLEDGING everything around me as the blessing it already is. I hope that I really do complain less, and grow a longer temper, and become truly fabulous and have great skin. But, more than anything I want to SEE, I want to see everything as a gift from God before it registers as anything else. I want to look around and really see every gift, every blessing. And it is easy for me to see and acknowledge that this time away was a huge gift, and each person I got to go with is a blessing I am so glad to call mine.

July 15, 2011

Scoring an Eisenbeiser Ain't Easy.

So, last night we arrived in Rhode Island. The state park we stayed at was more like a hoppin' block party. Which is a plus whenever we get a little too loud, but a little annoying when there is zero privacy. One little bonus, was that the campers before us, presumably the Eisenbeisers, left a children's soccer ball behind. The kids kept taking turns with it, requesting to play with "the Eisenbeiser" next. Even London is saying Eisenbeiser instead of ball. In Castaway, Tom Hanks had Wilson. In Rhode Island, we had Eisenbeiser.

It was a nice night, and we went to a nearby beach, then to a lighthouse, where we cooked and ate dinner on an oceanside bluff. (I am not totally certain I am using the right word here, but it was the bluffiest thing I've eaten on. So, let's just call it a bluff. Bluff it is. I hate the word bluff now that I have said it so many times, so now I'm calling it a 20 foot cliff over a rocky shore of Point Judith, a little peninsula leggy thing sticking off the state of Rhode Island.)

Anyhow, that's where we ate. It was really beautiful and the weather was perfect. So, we slept without the rain fly. We did not realize how risky this was until this morning when we woke up to the wild call of some sort of prehistoric birds. They pooped all over our tent, fortunately they focused their efforts more on the door of our tent, sparing the screened ceiling area (and our faces).

ATATT News Insert: Tom was the unfortunate tent de-pooper, which probably triggered flashbacks... Because he also de-pooped our picnic table the day before. No wonder he has so many fans... It takes a real man to let his woman remain free of such duties. Other duties I have been spared from this ENTIRE trip include, but may not be limited to: setting up the tent, taking down the tent, dealing with bugs, dealing with animal feces, and heavy lifting. Also, I don't drive. I mean, in general I do, but if I can help it, I won't. I haven't drive once in almost 3 weeks. On the other hand, I do all the cooking (except coffee, I make horrible coffee. Just can't get that ratio right.) I also manage roughly 1,350 ziplock bags full of clothes, socks, shoes, pajamas, rain gear, toiletries, cold-weather clothing, etc. For all six of us.). If Tom didn't come, we'd eat well, but sleep outside... But, we'd get mad dehydrated because I can't open the water bottle caps he twists on so tightly. Bad wrists, you know. If Tom did this without me, he would only eat marshmallows, which he would have to roast naked, but he'd have a tent and no animal poop anywhere. So, it's probably good we are a package deal.

This afternoon we did some of Cliff Walk, which is a 3 mile stretch along the coast of Newport, RI. The gorgeous mansions were incredible, and bad for my self-esteem. Then we hit a matinee showing of the new Winnie the Pooh movie. The kids were loving it, and I was loving the AC. I stopped loving the experience when a wrestling match between London and I (over who was at the helm of the juice box holding) left one of my legs juice-soaked and sticky.

We are now headed to our last campsite, Devil's Hopyard State Park near Salem, Connecticut, where we will spend our last two nights. My dad is flying in tonight from Michigan and spending the next two nights with us before we head home.

I am sure that he is in for quite an experience. I think he will particularly enjoy the post-dinner Beatboxing Hour, featuring "DJ Harper and all the Saliva He can Muster."

More on that to come, I'm sure.

winnie the pooh premiere.jpg

Today was opening day for the new Winnie the Pooh movie. So, we hit the theatre in Rhode Island after doing the gorgeous Cliff Walk. This is Harper and London's first time at a real movie theatre. They are very excited, especially because when we passed Home Depot on the way to the cinema, they thought that was going to be our surprise destination. The movies are even better than home improvement stores!

"Let's all go to the movies!" -Daddy Warbucks, in Annie (Sam, don't you wish I was your mom?)

July 14, 2011

our view for dinner tonight... right on the coast of Rhode Island.jpg

baby toes made it to Rhode Island.jpg

Muggy and Buggy

We spent our first night in Wompatuck State Park being boiled alive in our tent. So much sweat was involved. Tom summed it up best when describing it as "muggy and buggy."

Our second night is best described as "torrential downpour." In between the two nights, however, was a lovely day spent on Cape Cod. We had lunch at a playground after driving the historic "Captain's Mile" which was a 1.5 mile stretch of old Sea Captain's homes.

From there we went to Grey's Beach where we walked a 300 foot boardwalk pier out over the marshlands. At the end, we pet a crab and walked back. After this, we caught our own miniature little crablets. The kids enjoyed naming and releasing them. London enjoyed throwing them instantly back in the water, since she thought they were rocks... or she is a die-hard crustacean advocate. Time will tell.

We then made a half-hearted attempt to see Plymouth Rock. Our lax effort never really paid off, but we did see some other rocks that has no historical importance, but were lovely nonetheless.

We are now in Rhode Island heading to our campsite at Fishermen's Memorial State Park, which is right on the shoreline and should be beautiful.

I know what it is you're all after though, so without further ado... Let's hear it for Tom everyone!

Today in ATATT, we will take a closer look at Tom's rise to fame and get to know a new side of Tom... Not Tom the star, but Tom the camping husband-dad-man.

L: What do you feel is your biggest contribution to the trip?
T: (*Note to reader: Tom originally gave this answer, "I will know later. Next question.") Final answer: "After one failed attempt, and one mediocre success... I was able to rig a tarp just in time for the torrential downpour, which served as shelter over our picnic table. The downside was that it also provided shelter for either squirrels or chipmunks... I don't know which it was. Whichever animal sprays more poop pellets on our tablecloth, that would be the one."
L: How do you feel that you handled the extreme weather conditions over the past few days? And can you describe what you were feeling?
T: (*Note to reader: this question made Tom want to "crash his head into the window.") Final answer: "The hot weather threw me a bit. 95 degrees, in a tent (with the rain fly on) is not ideal sleeping conditions. That night I hated camping. My friend, Paul Robinson, always hates camping. So I asked myself, WWPRD?, What Would Paul Robinson Do? Here is what I came up with, Paul would rip open the side of the tent with his bare hands, tell everyone to 'get up and get in the car,' leave everything at the campsite, and drive 90 mph to the closest hotel. Instead, I laid there and drenched my own drawers and sleeping bag. Next time I will DWPRWD (Do What Paul Robinson Would Do.).
L: The trip will soon be ending, can you tell your fans what they can expect from you upon returning home? Can they expect to see a blog from you in the coming weeks?
T: "I am in negotiations with my agent and publisher about a blog deal."
L: How have you managed to stay balanced during your recent rise to stardom?
T: "I am totally unbalanced. The stardom has driven me to extremes. For a closer look, you should see me on VH1 Storytellers soon."
L: Would you like to take this opportunity to thank anyone? Like, I don't know, someone for supporting you? Keeping you humble? Featuring you on their wildly successful blog?
T: "Nope, I'm good."

July 12, 2011

poor baby.jpg

Ladybird's burn. :( poor sweetheart can't get a break. We threw away the camp chair. But for those who think us negligent... we have used it for six years without a problem. I guess the lady is just top-heavier than the others.

Burnt in Boston

We concluded our time in Maine with a last-ditch drive to the northern part of the state in an effort to see a moose. We did not succeed.

Our last night in Maine was quite eventful. We made a last-minute campground change, which landed us at Paul Bunyon Campground in Bangor, Me. If you are looking for a family-friendly atmosphere, with a moral and inviting feel... maybe skip Paul Bunyon. If, however, you are looking for F-bombs all around, and an occasional mother threatening to "whoop yer..." then Bunyon's your place.

Adding to the already colorful experience, we had our first injury-related trip to the emergency room in seven and a half years as parents. We were all sitting in our camp chairs around the fire (including London who has a teeny tiny version of an adult camp chair.) The only difference in our chair and hers, is that apparently it tips with the slightest lean forward... which is exactly how London ended up with a bump and first degree burn on her forehead. She must have dropped her cracker or something, and when she leaned forward, she fell head-first, landing right on the fire ring.

I took her right to the ER, in part because it was too dark to get a good look at the burn and we'd rather take her in to be sure she was okay. They said it should heal up fine, and she seems to be pretty comfortable.

We were thankful that that was our last night of camping before another hotel stop. This gave us a chance to, once again get cleaned up and do laundry. It was horrible going to the hospital with a dirty, stinky kid and saying "yeah, she fell down, I swear, she's usually cleaner. And I don't always smell of smoke and wood and car." Tip: If you have an injured child and you have only showered once since June 30, at least wipe the pacifier shaped residue off from around your baby's face before your take her in. It will just help you keep your dignity when Child Protective Services hauls you to the Women's Penitentiary of Maine.

Ok, it was actually fine. They told me that accidents happen, and she is so pretty that nobody will even notice if it does leave a scar... which it shouldn't. But, they did say to keep the area clean. So it is true that I was very thankful for the hotel stay and your basic hygiene.

Our hotel was right in Boston, and we spent today at the Public Gardens, where the kids got to ride the swan boats and see the little duck statues that the kids know from one of our favorite children's books "Make Way for Ducklings." They enjoyed feeding the ducks, seeing a woman painted gold who acted as a statue (quite impressively), and meeting "Juice" a tenor sax player who waits until just the perfect amount of shade covers his favorite bench before his sits down to start playing.

From there we went to the Museum of Science. This was a nice break from the 94 degree heat, and a good deal since our zoo membership has a reciprocal program which allowed 5 of us free admission. We are now headed to our campsite at Wompatuck State Park, about 45 minutes outside Boston (or a million minutes, with traffic.)

I am exhausted from staying up late doing laundry. I actually fell asleep on the wooden bench in the hotel laundry room. Between lack of showering and my general appearance and position of the bench, it definitely would have been a low point, if we hadn't just burned our baby the night before. :(

But, tonight should be an early-to-bed kind of night, and tomorrow brings all sorts of new mercies, and hopefully a healing epidermis and a fresh start.

tom's moose - stuffed and behind glass.jpg

Boston duck statues from “Make Way For Ducklings”.jpg

Boston swan boat.jpg

Riding the swan boat around Duck Pond in Boston from the storybook "Make Way For Ducklings".

our view of Boston from the hotel room.jpg

July 11, 2011

final stop for legit Maine food.jpg

We tripled our "one eat out a week" allowance while in Maine. Had to try the local favorite - lobster rolls.

July 10, 2011

fun surprise of the night - there's a pool at our campsite!.jpg

A buffet of ridiculousness

For readers returning from my early blogging days, you may remember a few posts entitled "Never in a Millions Years." These posts were a sort of list of things I never thought I would say (or hear) in a million years. Below is a Road Trip Sampler Platter of things that I never imagined I would speak, or hear spoken, out loud.

Harper: "Enjoy the feel. Aaannnd, look at the bright side." (The kids take turns each day being Captain of decision-making, and this was what Haper offered up for the Captain's advice-o-the-day.)
Me: "There is no reason for your hand to have that much shine." (This was after I gave Harper a very small piece of candy. So small, that it should not have produced any mysterious hand shine - usually saliva or stickiness.)
London: "Cracker got me!" (When London gets upset, she will ask for either Tom or I by saying 'Mama/Dada got me!' It's her sweet little way of saying she wants one of us to get her. If she falls! 'Mama got me!" Or if Tom is walking away, and she wants to go too, 'Dada got me!'. Recently it has become her way of asking for anything she wants. Hence, 'Cracker got me!')
Me: "Yes, you can say 'good morning' to the serious campers, but you can't spit your toothpaste that loud when they're nearby."
Harper: "Sometimes animals poop on dair floor, but I will only say dat once because it's rude to keep talkin' 'bout dat."
Marlie: "I took a nice, little nap and now I changed my heart so next time we have to leave I will say 'Okay, well we had tons of fun and we can come back again another time.' That way it won't ruin the other fun things we have planned." (This wasn't totally ridiculous, but it was pretty cute.)
Me: "Juice should not come out of your face." (One of my many selling points in my pitch for chewing with your mouth closed.)
Me: "When a car is coming at you, you can't just look at it. You have to actually move back." (Lessons in Basic Survival 101.)
London: "Cake? Cake? Cake! Cake? Cake?" (Asking for a marshmallow? Cake. Asking for maple syrup? Cake. Asking for anything slightly sweet? Cake.)
Me: There shouldn't be any whining while I cook dinner, your tummies should be full of ice cream." (I feel a little shame on this one... But dessert was Captain's Choice. Marlie was Captain and her Choice was ice cream before dinner.)
Harper: "Mama I have a little skin peel. Can you really fix my skin peel?" (I still have no idea what this means."

Now for All Tom, All the Time's Sampler Platter. (That title is something I never thought I'd say in a million years.)

Tom: "I'll even take one on the side of the road, like roadkill." (Tom's desperation has spiked as we are nearing the northernmost tip of Maine and still have not spotted a real, live moose.)
Tom: "That black bird sucks." (When I tried to lift his spirits by pointing out a nice crow instead.)
Tom: "There is no more asking for gumballs, we will surprise you with one when it's time."
Tom (a short while later): "There is no more asking us when we are going to surprise you with gumballs."
Tom (whispered to me quietly): "If someone drops their wrap and tuna gets in this car I'm just going to drive right into a tree."
Tom: "Did you see that crispy wizard crotch?" (Somehow Harper's mispronunciation of 'sesame sticks' morphed into 'crispy wizards.'. So, when London spilled a cup of sesame sticks in her lap, it created a 'crispy wizard crotch' worth checkin' out.)
Tom: "And the worst part? I can't find Gandalph."

July 9, 2011

view from the top.jpg

We made it!

first climb to a summit.jpg

We just finished our first family mountain climb! It was a really difficult climb for the kids especially... But us too in some places. We did South Bubble (766 ft to summit) then North Bubble (872 ft). It was a beautiful view at the top... But a little too dangerous for air guitar. So, I will send a picture of the view from the top next.

wicked maine air guitar.jpg

Gorgeous views call for wicked moves.

swimming in the Atlantic.jpg

learning about native american tools.jpg

July 7, 2011

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All Tom, All the Time:

As requested: action shots of driving. I know I'm in there too... But, I got a new headband! And it's my blog (Joe), forgive my involvement.

Maine, Mustaches & Mosquitos.

Today is Day 8, which means as of tomorrow, our trip is half over. Wahh.

So, as you may have seen... We achieved all our lobster goals by ordering twin lobsters. I must say, it was quite appalling and I will never eat a whole lobster again in my life.

There was just a lot of cracking, and oozing, and discharging for one dish. When I am eating, I do not want any of my food having a discharge. Sick-a-relly.

So, we are now Livin' La Vida Lesson Learned and, in the future, plan to opt for the chowder, and politely pass on the opportunity to open up the exoskeleton of our dinner.

What did not disappoint, on the other hand, was bathing. It felt so good to have all six heads (and tails) scrupulously cleaned. We trimmed nails, washed clothes and flip flops. It was a little sad to discover that my legs were not as tan as I thought, just dirty. After the hotel, we got right back into the filth of our camping groove.

We explored downtown Portland, Maine (not nearly as radical as our visit to Portland, Oregon last summer... Rick and Christine were sorely missed.) After Portland, we went to Mackworth Island which is an adorable little island, heavily wooded, with a narrow beach... but, the best part is a clearing in the woods with dozens of tiny fairy houses built by little visitors. Annalee and Marlie got right to work building intricate fairy houses, complete with desk lamps made of acorn tops, and leafy bed covers. Harper got right to work laying a stick across his upper lip and pretending it was a huge mustache. And London waited until we had hiked to the point on the island that was furthest from the car (and the diaper bag), then got to work on filling her drawers. It was a beautiful day though and a nice, easy hike. For the two oldest girls, it was definitely a favorite activity.

Our campsite last night was not at all what we expected. The website boasted of waterfront campsites which would be a clam-digging free-for-all. In actuality, it was a wild mosquito refuge, in the deep woods of a trailer-park, with a dash of thunderstorms during set-up time. If I was still in my twenties, this might be a time when I complained. Fortunately for all of us, my new maturity transcends such trivial challenges.

If I were in my twenties, I might also complain about our GPS, which has led us astray, more than once. But, not thirty year old, fabulous me. This me says "well, at least we know where that supermarket isn't!" (Insert polite, closed-mouthed church smile here, while making a hmm sound.)

But, we managed to stay dry, get ice cream to celebrate Annalee's and London's half birthdays, and get a decent night's sleep. This morning we visited the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, Me. We saw lots of interesting things, and climbed aboard a real ship, as well as a pirate ship playground.

We are on our way to Acadia National Park, which will be our home for the next three nights. As for ATATT, Tom is feeling overwhelmed by the question "how is the trip going?" So, out of respect for the hardships of newfound celebdom, I will give the fans a little something to hold them over and just say that he is a safe driver, a willing tent putter-upper and his head, specifically, is a mosquito magnet.

So for Day 8, we are taking the scenic drive along the rocky coast of Maine, while we sip hot coffee and all the kids are silent with sleep... even in my twenties I couldn't complain.

porthole peeker at Maine Maritime Museum.jpg

July 6, 2011

July 5, 2011

dreams come true.jpg

livin la vida lobster.jpg

Maine Madness

We just left White Mountain National Forest where we hiked one of Mt. Washington's easier trails. Still, it was steep and rocky, and quite challenging. The kids did awesome, and we had the proud realization that most of the places we have hiked don't have many kids on the trails... so we feel pretty sure that their athletic prowess is probably unparalleled. Plus, the girls had on dresses. Athletic prowess and style?? That's a double threat y'all.

We are headed to our first hotel night. This also means our first showers, grocery run, and laundry time. It will feel good to get cleaned up and restock, but I am mostly excited to get into Maine, where we will spend the longest stretch of time in one state. I hope to be livin' la vida lobster by tonight. (Oh, hotel nights are usually our one sanctioned eat-out night per week as well.)

Since Tom's fan base is growing considerably... I won't delay what most of you are waiting for: All Tom, All the Time!
Today's feature will include a list of "Tom's Road Trip Fast Facts." Enjoy!

Fave activity: "Pretending I was in the Lord of the Rings when we were hiking in The Shire." (Here, Tom is referring to New Hamp'shire' as "The Shire.")
Fave meal: "Eating all the dropped food off the ground. Nope, not the food London dropped, all the food Lara dropped."
Percentage of rage increase every time you pass a Moose Crossing sign without actually seeing a moose: "A full 100%. Every time. The sign should say 'Moose Already Crossed, That's How We Knew to Put a Sign Here.'"
Most insulting thing I have said to you on this trip: "I can't believe you didn't fail school."
Most insulting thing you have said to me on this trip: "Ya airin' out yer hamhocks?" (Meaning my feet. See earlier post for his follow-up attempt to scramble out a compliment to undo this remark.)
Most frustrating moment: (Here Tom tells an unrelated story about a trip to Guatemala many years ago. Followed by a few not-so-frustrating accounts of this trip.) Then, we decided to skip it because, let's be honest... the only thing that frustrates Tom is not seeing moose and having to answer these freakin' questions.
Fave thing about traveling with me: "Reading every road sign in a southern accent. And when we run into any sort of problem, your willingness to start 'hitting people with a bat.'"
Hopes and dreams for the remainder of trip: "To actually see you hit some jerk with Harper's wiffle ball bat."

I have renamed this section "Tom's Incredibly Slow Facts," since it took him an hour and a half to answer each question. More from Maine, coming soon!

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Aerial view from tramway

July 4, 2011

I guess I will write an update while I am pinned to the floor anyways. (London is sleeping in my elbow, allowing me just enough mobility to, conveniently, hold this small device.)

To backtrack a little, we spent our third night in Vermont in the Green Mountain National Forest. It was a great site - private, brooke-side and only ten bucks. And for that low price, we never expected the bonus package to include just a tiny bit of poison ivy on Marlie's leg. She is actually handling it really well, and the placebo ointment seems to work for a few minutes at least.

Packing up that site was our first experience with packing up soaked gear. Tom's leisurely morning tear-down quickly morphed into wild hysterics as it started thunder storming. From there the rain was in and out for most of the day... But we are so hardcore (ie; unnecessarily committed to our itinerary) that we opted to do our hiking in the rain. It was actually a lot of fun, but we were low on sleep and the kids 'tudes were needing adjustment.

We camped in the White Mountain National Forest (night #1) in New Hampshire. We started this morning with new mindsets (and lectures about gratitude), which proved to start the day out on the right foot. Everyone took several opportunities to say what they were thankful for throughout the day, and we celebrated each time with an obnoxiously upbeat and over-the-top group hug. I know it sounds corny... that's because it was a serious amount of corny. But we got more gratitude out of them than when we didn't do group hugs and thankful high fives all around, so, we'll take corny.

Today we did an awesome hike around the Basin at Franconia Notch State Park. There were waterfalls, and natural water slides, and London splashing in a diaper. Annalee found fools gold. Harper went waist deep, fully clothed. And Marlie was very brave hiking in the muddy parts of the trail (despite her intense fear of quick sand, or, more specifically, sinking into the earth.)

After the hike, we surprised the kids and took them on the Aerial Tramway which gives a gorgeous view of New Hampshire, Vermont and (on very clear days) Canada. We did not see Canada, but it was fun and beautiful, and we got to the top and hiked a really cool trail.

We are settled in the tent now, playing cards, lazing with babies and deciding if we should play crazy eights again, or teach the kids poker. (That one counts as "All Tom, All the Time.")

By request: Kids' Faves to date

*Annalee- "Hiking in the waterfalls today, because I found fool's gold. But there are so many more, it's so hard, but I'll just say that one for now."
*Marlie- "The Tramway and the Daughters of the Revolution house, because I just liked it. Loved it."
*Harper- "Going down the red one and it was fun and the Revolution and going in the water and Annalee and Marlie went on the tiny water and I decided not to go because it was too deep and I can get hurted and it was 'gwait.'"
(My best guess for) *London- trying "budge," commonly referred to as fudge.


Tickling London's face until she fell asleep while the rest of the fam plays war in the tent... It was the only way to get her to sleep with all the action going on. It took a total of 25 seconds to fall asleep after our long day of hiking and exploring.

Today's hike, Flume Gorge, NH

Playing in the waterfalls, New Hampshire style.

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July 2, 2011

Maple Mecca

Day 2 & 3:

We got to our campsite in Vermont and realized that my hasty, late-night packing meant that I forgot almost everything I needed to make dinner. Hunger? Check. Utensils? Not so much. But, at least we remembered that badminton set.

It was a rocky start, I must say. Low point from day one: poking our dinner with toothpicks bc I forgot forks. But, we technically got food in us so mission accomplished, right?

Day 2 went a little better, I located a small general store where I stocked up on forgotten supplies and discovered an old Daughters of the American Revolution mansion tour. We did that, and it was a fun little experience for us and the kids. It was very educational, especially when the tour guide explained that the bread box doubled as a cradle to rock the baby in, and tripled as a casket for when the baby died. Those pioneer women loved a multi-use item, and the tour guide loved to school my kids on the infant mortality rate of the 1800's. Good times were had by all.

After the D.A.R. Mansion tour, we went to a little maple heaven where we got syrup and maple fudge. We spent the rest of the day hanging out with Tom's parents, hiking around, skipping rocks on Lake Champlain, and baking homemade pizzas over the fire.

Day 3 (today) has consisted of breaking camp (almost on schedule) and going to Dakin Farm where we ate samples of Vermont delicacies. The kids filled up on the "free examples" and maple frozen yogurt. Now that we are all successfully stuffed sick, we are headed to our next Vermont campsite in the Green Mountain National Forest.

Next up, in 'All Tom, All the Time,' I will share an interview I had with Tom when we recently sat down together to discuss his feelings about the trip.

L- Tom, we recently started a road trip, how do you feel it has gone so far?
T- "I think, so far, it was a typical rocky start... but now I'm ready to have my way with the great northeast."
L- What has been the greatest challenge?
T- "Maintaining control of the vehicle, while my wife tried to pluck a rogue eyebrow hair out (without warning) while I was driving down a steep, twitsy road through the mountains."
L- What would you like to say to your fan(s)?
T- "Hey, Joe. What's up man?"

Another tid-bit from Tom's corner, this morning he paid me a very romantic compliment when he called me "a beautiful, graceful, hoof-less mammal." I know ladies, I know... but he's already taken.