Yesterday was a beautiful day but we didn't spend any time outdoors. The girls have been working on sewing projects for the Cumberland County 4-H "Fashion Revue." It's a county-wide sewing contest and fashion show held every year for 4-Hers and my kids have entered projects for judging for the last couple of years. They've developed some great sewing skills through 4-H and have enjoyed the many sewing opportunities offered (from club activities to the county-wide sewing class).
But the girls have been a bit behind schedule with their projects this year (you know, we sit around all day doing nothing...). So yesterday we decided to make that the day to finish things up (the entry deadline is Friday and we've got a lot going on between now and then). They are both pretty excited about their entries this year now that they are done with them.
G. made a "fancy doll dress" (it has a collar and that was quite a challenge for her) for her American Girl doll. And L. had it in her head she was going to finish the quilt she started a couple of months ago. It was a huge project and I wasn't convinced she'd get it done in time. But when L. decides she wants to do something, she usually finds a way to make it happen.
G.'s doll, wearing the dress she made, was hanging out with L. as she was tacking her quilt, the final step to complete the project. Neither project is "perfect" but the not-so-straight lines and unintentional pattern variations makes them all the more interesting. I try hard to help the girls understand the Revue is more about feeling good about your project and the time and effort you put into it, not the ribbon you're awarded.
The problem now is that L. wants to actually use her quilt. The idea of turning it over to the Revue committee for a week isn't sitting well with her at the moment (i.e., she's whining about it and driving me a little crazy).
So we're headed outside this afternoon to play in the snow. Nothing like some fresh air on a beautiful day to expel some extra energy and help everyone be happy again.
We've been cross country skiing weekly with our Ski Club and it seems every meeting we have one of the kids in our Ski Club brings their dog. Usually that's the highlight of the day for G. (she's been asking for years to get a dog, which is not going to happen right now because of the managerie we already have).
This past week little Oliver went out on the trail with us and G. was in her glory with him.
The favorite activity for the entire Ski Club though is the hill about 1/4 mile from the Standish trailhead on the Mountain Division Trail. It's just steep enough to be fun without the kids feeling out of control and not too difficult to climb back up. We seem to spend a whole lot of time there this year.
And sometimes we really clog up the trail with people - and pets - so that the snowmobiles have a hard time getting by us.
There's always a look-out at the bottom and top of the hill to signal a rider that we're there. It's a fairly visible place for the snowmobilers to see the group so it works out well for us.
Favorite hill on Mountain Division
But like I've said before, we've never really had a problem sharing the trail with the snowmobiles. Overall the riders have slowed down, offered a friendly wave and moved on down the trail. Only once or twice have we had a machine run by us too fast, which considering how much time we spend on the Mountain Division Trail (at least twice a week for a couple of hours each time), that's not bad odds (there's always going to be rogue in the pack regardless of the activity).
Probably one of the funniest things I've seen this year in our Ski Club is L.'s "ski running." Our group has kids that range in age from 5 to 14 and L. can outrun them all on cross country skis (not to mention that she has outrun nearly every adult as well including me and her dad).
She has wax-less skis this year which I think gives her a little more traction and she just seems to have the running rhythm. It cracks me up. And the other kids, who try to run on their skis like it's something to aspire to (really, I try to encourage them to glide!), can't seem to catch her. L. thinks this is extremely funny and I caught a bit of her "act" on video (which I have to say isn't as fast as she has done previously, we had skied for over an hour by the time I got around to recording her).
That's my L., always sharing her interesting perspective on things.
Fino took the kids to the Future Engineers Expo at USM on Saturday while I was at the office. They met up with some friends and from the look of the pictures, had a great time building and making stuff.
G. had the camera for part of the day and snapped a bunch of photos. Another Seen Team family also took some photos. G.'s pics | Kusturin Family pics
When uploading the photos to make the gallery, I asked L. to write the captions to identify what the photos were. I was highly amused with this one:
"A thing-a-ma-bob that has to do with something."
Yup, she's headed in the engineering field for sure...
Although she and her friend K. did make a life saver car that according to K.'s mom, they spent a lot of working on and really enjoyed doing (well, they did eat a bunch of life savers while they did it I'm told). Read K.'s story in My.MaineToday.com
But this photo, this was my favorite from the Kusturin album.
They were making their own polymer, also known as 'slime' or 'glop.'
We decided to try-out the groomed trails at Smiling Hill Farm as a change of pace from our usual cross country skiing adventures on the ungroomed trails. The reason we haven't tried out any groomed trails lately is because, well, it costs money and we live on a pretty tight budget. But with G.'s WinterKids passport discount (her trail pass was free and her sister's half price) the girls and I decided to splurge and compare the differences in skiing experience.
No look-outs required - the kids liked skiing next to each other (not in a line like we usually do on the Mountain Division Trail) because they didn't have to watch out for snowmobiles. They felt more relaxed to simply chit-chat and look around for animal tracks (we found lots here!). And of course we had to stop and watch the planes heading into the jetport (see video).
Grooved tracks were "cool" - The girls really enjoyed the grooved tracks for double-poling. They loved the speed of double-poling but didn't have the upper-body strength to do it for long. I personally found the tracks a little hard for regular skiing and stuck to the middle of the trail to avoid them.
Map marker woes - The trail map seemed easy enough to follow with multiple loops and paths to follow but it was a little more challenging once we were out there. The markers were few and far between with many intersections not having any. We opted to ditch the map and just ski around for a while until we got tired. And it turned out not to be that hard to find our way back; the smell of the cows/manure made choosing our direction easier (the barns are next to the ski shop) and we did find a couple of markers on the way back (the girls had quite a few comments about the "stinky cows" by the end of the day).
The dairy store - The highlight of the afternoon for the kids was getting a small ice cream cone. We all really build up a sweat cross country skiing, even on the coldest days. So an ice cream after a trail run isn't so strange a choice for us.
Mom's two-cents - I agreed with the kids that the groomed trails had a lot of great features but explained to them it was not something we could do with frequency because of the cost (which will always include the ice cream because we can not pass the dairy store without stopping for our favorite treat). But we do hope to make another visit before the snow season is over.
The kids really liked the grooved tracks and did quite a bit of double-poling, something they hadn't done much of on other trails.
We see deer tracks often enough in our own backyard and on other trails...
... but the wild turkey tracks were an exciting new discovery for the kids.
The trail markers were small and infrequent but we did find a few, enough to lead us back to the trailhead when we decided to leave.
Eating an ice cream cone outside in February isn't all that strange after an afternoon of cross country skiing.
The girls and a couple of their Juliette Girl Scout friends went to Winter Fun Day at Camp Pondicherry yesterday on a truly picture perfect winter day.
Camp Pondicherry's Chalet offers a spectacular view of the area.
The girls did some sledding, which was a little tricky in the deep snow. They had to work pretty hard to make a sledding track down the hill. That's the problem with the less-traveled sledding hills and no snowmobiles to pack down the snow.
And building a snow cave wasn't easy either but as you can see by the girls' faces, they thought it was well-worth the effort.
There were about 30 girls who had a hand in building the snow cave throughout the morning hours so by the time lunch was over, it was quite large.
We also tried snowshoeing for the very first time and my girls and I really enjoyed it but we all agreed cross country skiing was more fun, especially going downhill.
But running is a whole lot easier -- and more fun -- on snowshoes!
We also saw a bunch of animal tracks on the camp's Waterfall Trail.
It was an active day outdoors but the kids did have some indoor fun too making fleece scarves.
And yeah, we were tired by the time we got home yesterday but we did manage to put together a few video clips of our adventure.
We went sledding at USM's Gorham campus and had fun until L.'s last run ended in her flying off her tube and hurting her back and me getting frostbitten fingers (they still hurt).
The hill on the campus was tons of fun except for the man-made bump on the run. The kids initially enjoyed flying over the bump because quite literally they went airborne. But after a few runs the kids opted to avoid the hill's bump. Even on an inflated tube, it was still a rough landing to take.
The hill was just steep enough for the kids to enjoy the speed but not so hard to climb back to the top.
I have Gortex snowboarding gloves (which I put on after the first run to replace my cheaper gloves) but they don't have fleece lining. They usually keep me warm on the slopes because I'm usually sweating under my gear while I board and the gloves are great because they don't ever feel wet. But they are not so warm while sledding. My fingers got so cold that it was painful; and today they still hurt alot. I think you can tell how cold it was by simply looking at the well bundled-up kids.
L. thinks it is hysterically funny that she doesn't *have to smile* for pictures when she's got all her gear on. Both girls wore multiple layers yet they were still cold. The wind chill really was a killer yesterday.
Just before it was time to go, L. and her friend C. went down the hill and couldn't steer their tube around the bump on that run. L. flew off the tube and got the wind knocked out of her. I got video of her fall before running over to make sure she was OK. Her back was still sore last night but she was in good spirits. She spent some time on the massage chair in the living room and talked about her accident for our YouTube video.
The kids are in snow-heaven right now. They played for a long time out in the storm with the howling winds, strong-blowing snow and frigid temperatures. It didn't bother them a bit since they had on plenty of warm gear.
And of course they had to stress me out by burying each other in the snow - face and all.
But they're Maine kids, this is what they live for -- SNOW DAYS!
It is not an option for the girls to stay inside when it's snowing outside, no matter how hard the wind is blowing or how big the storm. At least they're getting some wear out of their ski goggles this year.
Our 4-H ski club was well-attended yesterday and it got a little tricky on the Mountain Division Trail with the snowmobilers. There were a lot of machines on the trail and our large group of kids didn't really want to ski in a single file on the side of the trail the entire afternoon.
So we ventured over to the less-traveled paths around Otter Pond and the kids really enjoyed the hill leading to the pond.
It's all about the thrill of speeding down a hill for the kids, not to mention it takes a lot less effort.
But after skiing on the pond for a while we spotted a couple of ice fishing holes that were freshly drilled. And then we saw more ... and more of them; there were at least a couple of dozen scattered all over the place.
My concern wasn't that the kids would fall through the ice - it was clearly solid - but that one of them might catch a ski tip in one of the holes and lose a ski or take a hard fall (the holes were kind of hard to spot until you were right next to them). We moved off the pond and headed back to the main trail to play it safe.
Those kids who weren't grossed-out by the dead fish wanted to know why the fisherman didn't take them home. It seemed a mystery.
We also stopped by the boat launch on Sebago Lake to see what was happening over there. The kids and I love to check-in with the winter ice fishing village that pops up on the frozen lake every year.
We even got to see an ice drill in action yesterday. Boy those things are loud.
Yesterday the girls participated in the Girl Scout's USM Girl Sports Day. They had reluctantly agreed to go to the event after I convinced them it would be fun. Both girls barely lasted a season playing soccer when they were each in kindergarten and have resisted even considering playing that or any other sport I've suggested. It's not that I think they *have* to play sports, I just want them to simply try a season of a team sport to have that experience.
So when this Girl Scout event came around, I thought it was a the perfect opportunity for them try a variety of sports in a stress-free way.
So what did they think about clinics where they learned how to play each sport?
Basketball - L: "It was a boring sport to play." G: "It was OK but I don't think I want to play it."
Soccer - L: "I liked soccer but I don't want to play it." G: "It was good. I will think about playing it for fun at my house."
Lacrosse - L: "It was too hard for me to catch the ball in the little net." G: "I didn't like lacrosse."
Field Hockey: L:"I LOVE field hockey! It was fun! And I was good at it too. I liked that!" (don't think I can use enough exclamation points to express her enthusiasm on discovering this sport) G: "I liked field hockey but I wouldn't compete, I would just do it for fun with my friends." (This is high praise from G. for a competitive sport; she is the sensitive one in the family and doesn't like the win-lose notion.)
I should not have been surprised at L.'s enthusiastic response to field hockey. If I had really thought about it, I should have known she would like it. Anytime I've suggested she play ice hockey - her favorite sport to watch - she has scoffed at the notion saying she doesn't want to get pushed around and beat up like they do at the Pirates games. I can't blame her for that so I haven't tried to convince her to try it. But field hockey offers the same type of action without being a serious contact sport. She's totally hooked on it now and was disappointed to discover that she has to wait until the end of the summer to join a team.
The girls also worked with the USM cheerleaders on a half-time routine for the women's basketball game that afternoon. All I can say is that my girls were not so keen on the cheerleading thing but they gave it a good effort and had fun (and they thought the USM cheerleaders were really nice).
The USM cheerleaders worked with the Girl Scouts on their routine before the game.
I realized that I hadn't been to a basketball game since college so I was looking forward to going to a game with the kids. Of course, it took me a few minutes to figure out how to explain the game to them because I'm not nearly as familiar with this sport as I am with hockey.
L.'s first question was to ask how many periods were in the game. Bless her heart, she's a hockey fan all the way.
But she and G. enjoyed the game; L. especially enjoyed yelling and clapping in the stands for the team as well as the cheerleaders (they did a lot of impressive flips). She really does know how to share her home team spirit.
The USM women's team warm-ups.
In between clapping and yelling (USM scored a lot), L. sat watching this clock for several minutes wondering what it was for. It finally dawned on me it was a play clock and a shot on net (or whatever it's called in basketball-speak) had to be made within 30 seconds or the buzzer rang.
It's too bad we've *discovered* college basketball so late in the season. It looks like the play-offs are just around the corner so there aren't many opportunities left to go to another game.
And on our way out of the game, L. caught a glimpse of the men's hockey team playing a game.
Our ducks are not too bright, which you are likely aware as I have lamented about this many times before. But still, I am struck by their dedication to the water. Even when the outside temperature falls into the single digits (or below), they still go for their morning swim. And when they jump out of the water trough (eventually the hens push them out so they can drink the water), they sport icicles all over their body.
Clearly I can't image having ice hanging off my body, particularly my mouth, worth this daily ritual during the winter.
The kids were doing their morning chicken chores when they found Flipper dead in one of the nesting boxes. Unfortunately for me, this happened on a morning when Fino was at work. I couldn't leave the dead chicken in the coop all day so that left me with the task of finding a resting place for him.
I didn't want to pick up the dead rooster in my hands - I was already queazy enough just looking at his dead body - so I found a shovel to use instead (I guess the upside of losing a chicken in the winter is that the body was frozen solid so he wasn't too hard to scoop up).
But then there was the issue of what to do with the body because in all the years we've had chickens (almost 6 years), Fino has always been the one take care of this part.
So there I was walking out of the coop with the dead rooster in my shovel and two upset children still trying to figure out what to do. I had the girls say a quick prayer and then sent them into the house. I then proceeded to walk into the woods several hundred yards behind my house and put Flipper under a big pine tree. I knew the wild animals in the backyard would 'take care' of him and told the girls what I had done and said it was probably better that way so those animals would have some food.
The girls didn't want to talk much about Flipper dying but the next day L. wondered what would happen to "Chickenland" now that "the king was dead." It seems that now Napoleon, our only remaining rooster has been dubbed the new king.
I guess he was aptly named for his new role.
Napoleon the rooster is tiny, even by bantam standards (he's on the left next to his sister). He looks like a 6-week old Rhode Island Red breed chick. But he makes up for his size in other ways by making a lot of noise and intimidating the hens by pecking at them. Little did we know that he would so completely be living up to his name.
We spend a lot of time on the Mountain Division Trail in the winter. It's near our house and the snowmobiles pack the snow down to make it decent cross country skiing terrain. Our family budget doesn't always allow for skiing on the groomed trails at Smiling Hill or Pineland (a family of 4 costs around $36 for the day trail passes at each place). Of course you get what you pay for and groomed trails make skiing easier and faster. But the multi-use Mountain Division trails are a nice option for us as long as we accept its quirks and take precautions to deal with the snowmobile traffic.
These trail signs appear at regular intervals along the Mountain Division Trail but we occasionally see an ATV as we did this weekend.
Because the trail is popular with snowmobiles, we are always listening for the sounds of one approaching and try to ski to one side of the trail to allow for moving out of the way quickly. I remind the kids whenever they start moving into the middle of the trail to get back to the side because snowmobilers sometimes go too fast and don't always see us at first (but in our experience, that is not often -- the motorized people are usually courteous and slow down and wave as soon as they spot us).
On the Standish end, there are many smaller trails off the main one that wind around Otter Pond. Those smaller trails are not typically used by snowmobiles so it's nice to have some time away from them. Of course we had to forge our own path but the kids still enjoy the follow-the-leader games.
About an hour into our trek on Saturday Fino and G. realized that they had each others poles. G. has grown so fast that we've had a hard time keeping up with equipment she feels comfortable with (she prefers longer poles and they are nearly the same size as her dad's).
And part of sharing the trail means using our common sense. For instance, there is a portion of the trail with a fence between the tracks and trail. As we headed towards that part, we realized that if a snowmobile was coming in the other direction we had no place to get out of the way except to jump down a large embankment. We opted to ski onto a smaller trail through the trees to avoid that area.
The benches placed at various intervals along the trail are great for water breaks so we can sit down without having to take off our skis.
And the small hills on the trail are enjoyable to ski down but not so big that the return trip up is fairly easy.
The kids had so much fun on Saturday during our trail ride (we did about 2.5 miles round trip) that we took our 4-H Ski Club onto the trail instead of playing our usual games on the field. We did less than half the distance we did the day before but with all the talking and laughing the group did, they said it felt like they skied a couple of miles.
There were no outdoor adventures this week at the Almeida homestead. I was sick and in no shape to do more than our basic weekly schedule (which was hardly restful) so the kids spent more time than usual on the computer.
Both girls received Webkinz stuffed animals for Christmas from their cousins in New York and have been consumed with their animals and its virtual "room" online.
Basically Webkinz are small stuffed animals that have an ID tag. Kids log onto the Webkinz website and register their animal's ID number. The website hosts a virtual room for that animal and gives the kids virtual money to decorate their room and play with their pet. When the kids run out of money, they are prompted to play games (some more educational than others) to earn more for their pet. (The whole concept of Webkinz is quite clever; basically by purchasing the stuffed animal you've bought a subscription to a website.)
The other component of the website is the Kinz Chat, a way kids can virtually visit their friends who also have Webkinz. But the kids have to know their friend's Webkinz user name to "chat" which I really like; I can easily monitor who they are talking to.
So this week the girls were in Webkinz bliss because both of our home computers were available for them to play with their pets and visit each other's rooms.
G. had talked to me previously about making a video of her pet online to share with her Webkinz-less friends for her YouTube channel. As I was recording G., L. decided to spice things up as only she can do.
L., while visiting G.'s room through the Kinz Chat, had her pet tell G.'s pet "Looks like this room isn't decorated yet." This prompted G. to gasp and yell into the other room to ask why L. thought that.
"Because you're room is naked!" L. replied.
I caught this bit of "action" on the video clip but as you can see below, L. has a very different idea on decorating.
G.'s room with its calming color scheme yet has a little fun thrown in with the little trampoline (lower left).
L.'s room - and although a bit hard to detect with the busy color scheme is the big giant white bunny decoration (white blob just left of bottom center). It sort of speaks for itself.