Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Envisioning our Modern Nature Home, first meeting with the architect: schematic design

We kicked off our home design process with a meeting of the minds last Friday night. We were asked to prepare in advance a document that would articulate what we want for the look and feel of the house (Vision), the primary materials we want to use, and the living spaces and their functions as we envision them (Program).

Our vision is this:



A modestly-sized, environmentally sensitive, low-maintenance home that effortlessly integrates into its surroundings. Industrial and natural materials.

A comfortable—sometimes luxurious—technologically enhanced, light-filled spaced inspired by modern design that melds minimalistic architecture and natural family living in fascinating and surprising ways; a relaxing retreat that invites nature to come inside.

A floor plan that fosters intimate family interaction, and accommodates larger gatherings for entertaining. Spaces that serve a clear function and purpose.

Transform the land into a sanctuary for good, easy living that brings us in tune with the river, ourselves, and each other.

Materials: glass, concrete, wood, metal.


For the Program (a list of every space to be included in the house plan) we drafted detailed descriptions of each room's purpose and the elements we want to incorporate, from the guest bunk room to the vegetable garden and everything in between.

Right now I'm most excited about the kitchen and project space:

Kitchen/Dining
A chefs workspace with high-end appliances and custom details like a larder, spice drawers, open display shelving, cookbook shelves, ample counter space and storage; room to accommodate lots of cooks and spectators in the kitchen and at the large family-style table. The feel of an eat-in kitchen with an expansive serving table for 12+. Under counter refrigerator and freezer. 

Project Space
A designated project space that can evolve with the kids’ play/work, and that can serve the adults in the house equally well. Natural light. Multiple work surfaces: work bench, computer/desk counter space, open floor space for working on larger art projects. Wall and shelving display areas for posting ideas, storing art work and 3D representations. Built-ins: book shelves, and other shelving for ease of access and storage of art supplies. Not static. 
We've shared a lot of photos that illustrate the "style" of house that we want, but the schematic design process actually works in reverse order. They will first look at the Program we created and then, taking into consideration many factors from the land (solar orientation, slope, setbacks and easements, etc.), a floor plan will be configured. The floor plan will then dictate the shape of the house, and the exterior elements will come last.

The design process is so interesting!

It's humbling too because while our ideas may be big, our budget will be another factor to help constrain the design. I really love the look of glass-faced fronts but, not only is that impractical for our particular piece of land, it is cost-prohibitive. Same with cantilevered dwellings and concrete floors; they just don't go together unless you have extra money you want to invest in structural support. Getting real about cost and design makes me feel like this is really happening, and the tremendous value of hiring an architect is apparent already.

Based on our Vision, Program, and Houzz.com ideabooks, by early December we should have a few first-draft floor plans that we can begin to work with and refine!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween 2014, vamps and ninjas


Roscoe and Merritt each made very detailed and specific lists last month of what they wanted to include in their halloween costumes. We went shopping together for a few key things and gathered the rest from home, checking off the lists as we went. The boys were very happy with their costumes and Merritt was shocked and thrilled when he won first prize in his age group for "scariest" at the SOTJ Homeschoolers Halloween party. I was so happy for him because he had a strong vision for his vampire ensemble and, as Roscoe's little brother, he's often in the shadow, but yesterday Merritt got a little recognition just for being Merritt. I wish I had captured his incredulous face when the judge witch rode by on her motor scooter to gift him with the prize box!

Later, my sister stopped by with a special delivery of potted venus fly traps and cotton candy, which made their day, and instead of the usual block party we opted for a downtown trick-or-treating event at the Children's Museum of Richmond—a perfect madhouse for these two.

Halloween this year was our best yet, we all agree—new joy and new surprises for all of us, which feels like an incredibly impossible thing but I'm beginning to see the pattern as time passes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We closed on our river lot today!

Hooray! We closed on our river lot today. It is one big first step toward building our home here in the city and it’s a long time coming.


We signed the papers this afternoon and then headed to the lot for a little flag raising celebration. 





For the next four months we’ll be working with our architect to develop our home design. More to come on that but for now you can check out our Houzz.com Ideabooks to get a feel for the new direction we're headed. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Homeschool: Let Go or Be Dragged

The start of the school year came and went for us without fanfare. Roscoe’s pre-schoolmates and the kids of most of my friends had started kindergarten by September 2nd, but the boys and I remained in Summer mode as we waited for the 9th to roll around. Eager for Fall’s arrival we spent what would have been Roscoe’s first official day of kindergarten picking apples in the humid heat atop a mountain in Charlottesville, and then roaming the promenade downtown for gelato.




The boys’ first day of school did eventually arrive, and the combination of a truncated preschool schedule and Merritt being slow to warm up to his new routine meant that Roscoe and I didn’t get the one-on-one project time we had planned for that week—though we were able to make up for it in the afternoons, the three of us.

First Day of Homeschool 2014
First Day of Preschool 2014, Merritt is pleased that he has his own decorated cubby
I’m very quickly developing an appreciation for the non linear unfolding of homeschool life.  It really does require a long term view or big picture perspective as the day to day happenings may or may not reflect our hopes or intentions. 

Let go or be dragged.

Our first month of homeschool has been a lot more relaxed and a lot more fun than I expected. The first week was awesome; Roscoe was so focused on dissecting, showing his brother the finished specimens, drawing them, taking pictures of his work, and watching dissection videos online. By the second week he he had satisfied his curiosity after dissecting eight animals, (which was actually accomplished over 4 weeks because he started this work in August) and next he wanted to practice computer skills; he wanted to watch documentaries about dinosaurs, and play make believe dinosaur games, and make animal habitats, and animal fort/dens for he and his brother to play in; he wanted to play animal charades; he wanted to go to Starbucks and order and pay for his own food. In the third week he called himself a mad scientist and made bubbling, oozing experiments in the back yard with self chosen ingredients from around the house, then changed direction again and asked to go for a nature hike, to scale the big ravine walls, to go to another coffee shop to play games from the game shelf. He’s requested trips to the library to play computer games and to check out books on everything from castles and knights, to secret agents, police, and military weapons. 

Roscoe's interests have rapidly taken on a life of their own. Some days I wonder where this homeschooling gig is taking us, but I can't help but marvel at his enthusiasm and joy for learning about the world around him.

Dinosaur play and documentaries
Smoothies and the introduction of Mancala
Successful rockwall scaling
Library mornings
Last week I introduced clay to the playroom and we had a collaborative making session contributing different pieces to a forest scene with caves, snakes, worms, snails, lizards, and other small creatures. This week we searched for different kinds of clay and bought some tools to expand their skills and exploration. Roscoe built onto the previous week’s theme and made a big sea serpent and added a bee hive to the inside of his cave, as he figured out how to twist the clay into a hive and pinch out plates on the back of the serpent.

3D representations in clay
We’ve made it to a few playdates at the park with our local homeschool groups, and friends. We’ve jumped right into Maker Monday’s with a handful of boys and girls ranging in age from 3 to 11 years to build and dismantle and explore together in the woods. 

A new friend showed Roscoe how to catch and hold chickens at Maker Monday
Working together to build a fort, learning how to use new tools, exploring 12 acres of family farm
We’re enjoying getting to know some other elementary school families while working along side them in the GROW Community Garden at a local private school that shares our learning philosophy.

Turning mulch, watering the beds, pulling weeds
All this to say that our homeschooling so far is feeling very UNSCHOOLING to me, which I’m coming to terms with. I’m open to following the unschooling path, and it does feel good for us right now. I also have to keep reminding myself that Roscoe is just five years old. He’s learning things! He’s learning how to ask questions, how to find answers, and he’s understanding himself better: how he likes to spend his time, what his interests are, and different ways to explore them. He’s made big strides in writing his name, and recognizing letters, and he’s learning about a lot of different kinds of making materials and ways to express his ideas. We’re enjoying our time together, which says a lot, and we’re meeting new people and experiencing new things every single day. 

Roscoe seems to be running with the freedom that he has to choose how he spends his project time. I can see one obvious project theme of animals/nature emerging, and several others that aren't as well documented: building and law enforcement. I imagine he'll settle into a deeper long-term project at some point, but we're not in a rush.  

Anticipation for the start of our school year has peaked and I’m happy to note that it’s still just us, doing what we always do but with a little homeschool twist. That the transition has been smooth and no big deal, really, comes as a surprise and a relief for this Type-A mama. That I’m having fun and enjoying the way our days play out is a sign that this is a good fit for me too.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Family Camping at Assateague State Park



Last weekend we took our first beach camping trip as a family. We pitched our tent in the sand with only a grassy dune separating us and the sea. At night the sky lit up with a billion stars like I haven’t seen in a long time, and the wind carried fire smoke on it’s tail. It was very beautiful, a little romantic, and a lot of fun, despite the kids being sick with bad colds and a few things we'd do differently next time.

The last time Andy and I had a real campout we were on a sandy beach in Kauai at the end of the 11-mile Kalalau trail. It wasn’t too long after that we learned I was pregnant with Roscoe, so it's been more than 6 years since we've slept under the stars, and never before with the boys. 

In the spirit of trying new things and getting out into the world with the kids, we picked a long weekend in September for a camping trip on the barrier island of Assateague. (Did you read the story of Misty of Chincoteague as a kid? These are the islands that provide the backdrop for those wild pony stories!) There are two main camping areas to choose from: Assateague State Park and Assateague National Seashore. There are subtle differences between them but we chose the state park because it felt more hospitable with hot showers and flushing toilets. 

It was a 4.5 hour drive for us and as we crossed the bridge to Assateague Island on Friday afternoon, we were greeted by wild ponies gathered along the shoulder of the road nibbling grasses as traffic slowed, and then backed up with spectators. That’s kind of the way it goes there. The ponies are everywhere and despite posted signage—graphic photo posters of reasons why not to touch or get too close (They bite! They kick!)—people cannot resist them. The horses are a huge draw for families, and photographers, and animal lovers alike. We were not disappointed!


Welcome to Assateague! 
We set up camp soon after we arrived and then took to the beach. 


Unpacking
Car camping at the dunes

The ocean is always magnificent, and the kids pranced wild and free until they remembered that hot cocoa was next up on our itinerary. 


Sears Brothers
We warmed milk on our little one-burner stove and added to it a homemade cocoa mix that we'd brought from home. We read bedtime stories, and sang by the fire. Yes, I've been practicing my singing voice, and Roscoe and Merritt are really into it so they’ve taken up learning the songs that I’m learning, which is very sweet and endearing. We've had a lot of fun with it lately and the campfire set a great stage.

The makings of bedtime at the beach
The quadruple marshmallow roaster
Ghost crabs were abundant in the evening! (In Merritt's hand)
Headlamps are a must for camp kids
The kids were asleep by eight, and Andy and I enjoyed the nighttime breezes and a marshmallow or two before we crawled into our makeshift family bed around nine. 

Sunset over Assateague
One of my happiest memories from camping as a kid was waking up to the cold air of morning and then, with few cares in the world, nestling deeper into the warmth of my sleeping bag until breakfast was ready. I'm in charge of the morning routine now and I loved waking up to the sunrise, leaving the kids to snuggle together, and preparing breakfast as Andy worked on building the fire. 

Shortly after breakfast the ponies came through camp. Someone tipped us off about five minutes before they arrived so we walked to the end of our loop and waited for them. A little herd of five ponies walked through each site, sniffing and nibbling and picking through whatever they could find. We quietly trailed them for as long we could without taking our bare feet too far from our own campsite.

Cautious excitement
We didn't know it, but Saturday was National Park Day and we had free admission into the Assateague National Seashore. There were a number of great beaches, and three perfectly short hikes that offered a glimpse of the different eco-systems in the area: Life of the Forest, Marsh, and Dunes trails. Each a half mile long, we had hoped to hike all three but the mosquitoes were swarming and we turned back on the forest and dune trails because we just weren’t up for the itches; I think we're still recovering from the trauma of black fly bites in Maine! Instead we spent the rest of the morning into the afternoon at one of the nearby beaches.

Later, and still in our suits, we stopped in at the Assateague Island Visitor Center to check out the educational displays, while the kids spent most of their time at the touch pool with scallops, clams, mussels, and a horseshoe crab. 



On our way back we dropped Andy off at our site to enjoy a little respite while I took the kids to a playground near our camping loop. Then it was dinner and campfire antics, and early to bed for all of us.

We hope to make camping a bigger part of our life outdoors because it offers such a unique and intimate nature experience, and we can set up camp just about anywhere that we'd like to spend more time or explore. The biggest obstacle is equipping ourselves properly and streamlining the packing process so that we can prepare for our trips without spending hours gathering and re-packing supplies, meal planning, and trying not to forget anything important—and I find that everything feels important when we're camping! Designated storage bins to hold all our gear in one place, plus a printed checklist would be a really helpful start.  

As for equipment, a few key items would have made this trip even better. Good sleep is no less important when on vacation, and sleeping on the sand made for hard nights for us adults. We had lazily improvised a family bed of sleeping bags on the bottom and a down comforter on top, which isn't an arrangement I would choose again. After discussing with a few of my friends who regularly camp with their families I think we'll invest in two queen air mattresses. We'd also love a bug screen to prepare food and eat under, and a bigger stove so we have more versatility at mealtime.

We Love Camp!
If you plan to visit Assateague, here are a few other activities that caught our eye that we didn't make time for:

In addition to kid-friendly hikes, there were quite a number of free ranger guided park programs available like clamming, and crabbing lessons. We didn't have proper footwear so we skipped them, but next time we'll look forward to those. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and bike rentals are also available in the national park. I would also suggest bringing bikes and helmets if you have room because both the State and National Parks are very biker friendly with paved trails throughout.

Do you have any tips to share for family camping newbies like us?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A love letter to the James River, and Good News on our Search for Land: we're under contract (again)!



One of the things I love about Richmond is that it is a city of surprises. I’ve lived here for more than 10 (non-sequential) years now and the place still feels new and vibrant and special to me. Every week we rediscover why we love it so—a new restaurant, a new shop, a new overlook or nature trail. When it feels like we’ve explored all there could possibly be we happen upon another unexpected or new-to-us gem.

The Pony Pasture rapids, and the scenic roadway that connects to it, was once one of those unexpected surprises. We first met on a Saturday in the Fall of 2005 during a training run for the Richmond Marathon. My route that day was a 15.5 mile loop beginning at the Boulevard stadium, whipping through the preppy Libbie and Grove neighborhood, down and across the Huguenot bridge to Riverside Drive, up to Forest Hill Avenue and through Westover Hills, across the Nickel Bridge, around Dogwood Dell and Byrd Park, then to the homestretch on Boulevard and back to the stadium. (In case you run RVA and are in the mood for a little sight seeing.) :)

The happiest part of the route is the two miles that spans the river along Riverside Drive.



Here, on the James, it is another world; a nature retreat well within city limits. Along Riverside Drive the trees arch up into the sky, reaching for each other, high across the flat roadway that unfurls beneath it. The river here belongs to no one and everyone. In the Summertime people from all around spill out into the water and the road bustles with pedestrians on pleasure walks and dog walks, runners, cyclists; families making their way to and from the water's edge, inner tubes and coolers in hand; kayakers and paddle boarders carrying their transportation overhead to nearby access points. On the other side of the road is a haunting rural landscape of mansions old and new that loom over the great edge of the grassy hill on which they perch, and water-filled rock quarries that pool down below. Every day the sun rises at one end of the river and sets on the other. The River sees it all. If I had a church this spot would be mine.




Riverside Drive leads to Pony Pasture rapids, part of the James River Park System. This is the place we go to when the river is high to stomp along the trails that run parallel to it, taking care not to get too close, remembering that nature can be a wild beast; this is the place we go to when the river is low, and the boulder-studded underbelly emerges for periods long enough to allow green grasses and habitats to grow thick and high, a terrarium of earth, sky, and water. We walk the trails then too, but it is with purpose to find a little thicket opening to crawl-through and emerge on the other side into our own frontier, where long afternoons are made for rock hopping, creature discoveries, and slippery expeditions out into the shallow playground. The views are handsome and we are a part of the river as the river is a part of us.  

It took me more than five years of living in Richmond to find this place, and it has lived in my heart ever since. 

***

We’ve been semi-enthusiastic renters since 2011 when we moved back to Richmond for good, and we've been actively surveilling a few key areas in and out of the city for these past 3.5 years in search of just the right piece of land. We've known of every lot that has come on the market in these particular areas, and there haven't been many as the city is old and well established. The choice though, has always been to pursue small obscure opportunities found in the city, or acres on acres for much lower prices outside city limits. It’s been our joy to dream of what each situation could bring.

Earlier this year, two lots at Pony Pasture arrived on the market. We had just recently decided to cool it, after the Varina lot fell through, and for about a month we drove ourselves crazy passing by those two lots every day on our way to somewhere by the river. Finally, we called our realtor. We sat on it for a bit. We made an offer on one of them, and negotiated a price. There were extenuating circumstances on the part of the seller's and the deal couldn't move forward. We waited, we called more lenders, we looked at every other possible avenue. Months passed. Summer ended, and then earlier this month we tried again.  

Our offer was accepted, and we are officially under contract for a half-acre wooded lot. The best part is that our closest neighbor is the trusty river. Always offering up something new for us and never one to turn down adventure or quiet solitude. The choice will be ours. We close in October! (Barring any unexpected challenges, ahem.)

The first time we walked the property, last Spring.
We met yesterday with our architect Scott. It was a drizzly morning and the smells of the earth of our future homesite were rising up, lush and welcoming. I’ve been saving my enthusiasm for the end of this process, when I know that the land is good and finally secured, but I have to admit that standing together under the tree canopy sharing our vision with Scott and hearing his take on how best to nestle the house into the hillside, it was, well, hard not to feel the thrill. This has been our dream for a long, long time.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Roscoe's Plan for the First Week of Homeschool: animal dissection


The latest branch of Roscoe's inquiry into the animal world—his first and enduring passion—comes in the form of dissection. It's something he has expressed interest in for many months now and began with a desire to dissect a snake after he viewed a particular documentary about anacondas. Then, over the summer, after finding several eastern box turtles on various hikes he decided a turtle would be better.

We went online and looked at the different animals available and while he could have chosen either a snake or a turtle, he was enticed by a dissection kit that included seven different specimens of various anatomical complexity: a worm, grasshopper, crayfish, clam, starfish, perch, and frog. He liked that the kit came with all the special tools he would need.

At first, his interest reminded me fondly of my own dissection experiences in highschool and college biology, but then I came to wonder why he wanted to cut open and dissect nature's little creatures. Eventually though, I realized that he is just genuinely curious about what animals look like on the inside, and he likes the close-up view and intimate exploration that the dissection experience provides.

***

Sunday night I sit down with Roscoe to touch base and to discuss what he hopes to accomplish in the week ahead.

He scowls and says, “Well I don’t want to just have a conversation. That’s boring! I want to type.” So I say sure, and bring my computer to the table. He helps type in my password and then I open up a new document and type at the top: Roscoe’s Plan for the Week. 

He sits in his chair on one side of the table and I find my place across from him. I point to his bulletin board on the dining room wall and read off some of the ideas that he’s had in the last few weeks: create habitats, construct dens or forts for animals, answer the question: "How do I handle venomous, non-venomous and constrictor snakes, and scorpions?", see a baby logger head turtle....

“Do you want to work on any of those ideas this week?" I ask.

He seems genuinely disinterested but continues to type with much enthusiasm. Tap, tap, tap! 

After a moment he stops typing and peers over the monitor to say, “Oh, yeah! I want to order a new animal to dissect.” Then he's back to typing. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

I remind him that he still has four animals left in the dissection kit that we ordered a few weeks ago and ask, “Would you like to finish dissecting the animals you have before you order a new one?” 

He says yes, he wants to dissect the rest of the animals in one day, and declares he will dissect the clam first. He wonders how he will open the clam, and then quickly answers his own question, “I think I’ll use the scalpel to pry it open.”

"Good idea." I say. “Ok, so we’ll work on dissecting the animals you have, and we’ll start with the clam. When you’re done, we can order a new animal.”

“A pig!” He shouts with a grin. 

Then he turns his computer screen to show me the text he has typed and asks me to show him the words he has spelled. I scan through the lines, and highlight in blue the words “yoyo,” “my,” and “poo.”

Here are a few photos from the frog and perch dissections. (He's also dissected the starfish.)

Counting and comparing frog fingers and toes to his own
Practicing proper technique for disposable glove removal 
Drawing frogs post-dissection

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Maine with Kids: A Moose Safari in Greenville

One of my favorite activities from our summer adventures in Maine was a trip to the Highlands for a guided Moose safari.

Lake Moosehead is a huge lake, the biggest in Maine, and spans more than 120 square miles. In the winter it actually freezes over solid and Spring does not officially arrive in Greenville until the Katahdin steamship can safely travel across the lake, at which point the Ice-out date is declared, marking the beginning of the tourist season. Like in Virginia, Maine's winter was particularly harsh and long, and when we visited in early June, this sleepy little town was just waking up.

We stayed at the Chalet Moosehead Lakefront Motel, recommended by our tour guides at Northeast Whitewater Maine Moose Watching Tours, which offered two-bedroom accommodations. We have decided that suites are the way to sleep when away from home, even if that means we stay in the economy tiers—it beats the alternative of post-bedtime crowding in the darkness around a laptop on the floor (as we have survived in the past). Chalet Moosehead was a fine pick. Family owned, and offering beautiful views, easy access to town amenities, a kitchenette, and plenty of space to spread out.

After a relatively quick 3-hour drive from the coast, we checked-in and then set out to explore the property where we found breathtaking views of the lake, and paddleboats that we used to check out the docked floatplanes.



We went into town to grab some groceries at the Indian Hill Trading Post, which has a Hannaford's grocery store on one side and a sporting goods/gift store on the other. I love odds and ends stores like this one and they had two full aisles dedicated to a good assortment of quality kids toys so I grabbed an angry birds card game and a playdoh pack for evening entertainment, some lucky moose socks for the boys, as well as some breakfast and snack essentials to last us through lunchtime the next day.

On our way home we ordered takeout dinner from an inviting little restaurant called the Stress Free Moose Pub and Bar, and then headed back to our room to settle in, eat, and play before bed. The kids and I surprised Andy with a blueberry pie that we had stowed away. It was his birthday and I'm pretty sure we ate the whole thing.

Roscoe and Merritt went to bed well before the sun set around 9:00 and so Andy and I had our room and a lovely view to enjoy before the knowledge of our early morning wake-up call demanded sleep.



We woke up the next day at 4:45am, quickly dressed in layers, and drove a few minutes to the Northeast Whitewater lodge where we were greeted by our tour guide Jessica, and a welcome sign with our name on it. We chose a private half-day tour for flexibility to accommodate the kids' attention spans and moods, with the benefit of a dedicated tour guide to field all the questions I knew the boys would have.

We were only the 5th tour of the season, but our guide was encouraged by the success of previous tours despite Spring's late start, and the subsequent late hatching of the black flies that are the primary force to drive out the moose from the deep woods, where the cows have recently given birth, and nearer to the water's edge where they can more easily be viewed.

We moved the kids' carseats into her Suburban, distributed smoothies to the boys, and set off on a 45-minute drive up into the mountains.


Foggy morning views in the highlands of Maine. Perfect moose weather!
The air temperatures were chilly that morning and heavy fog enveloped the road and the forests leading up to Moose Pond. Our guide drove slowly as we climbed higher, mostly to keep an eye out for moose on our behalf, but also because it is one big moose crossing up there and they can be as tall as 7 feet high and weigh as much as 1500 pounds each—you don't want to hit one! We were all on the lookout when Jessica noticed moose tracks, like deep scuff marks patterned into the dirt, on the shoulder of the road. We were getting closer!

We exited the paved road after a while and drove on a gravel access for another 9 miles. When we reached the lake Jessica encouraged the kids to be quiet and to use inside voices. They sneaked down to the waters edge, but their excitement was hard to contain. I wasn't sure for how long they would be able to stay quiet.

We don't moose safari without our lucky red moose socks. 

We put on life jackets and swatted at swarms of insects that had started to gather around us as Jessica made her first sighting: a young female timbering gracefully along the shoreline, digging up foliage from the lake's bottom. Very cool!  The kids were happy but indifferent as the moose was pretty far away with a silhouette that was hard to distinguish from the surrounding mist.

Looking for moose
I asked Jessica if the swarms of insects were the biting kind. She laughed and said they were not, just black flies that could be very annoying. She left briefly to retrieve a canoe for the five of us, and fortunately we could all fit into one since the kids were able to squeeze into spaces nestled at our feet and beside us.



The lake was fantastically gorgeous. Serene, and peaceful. I love every angle of Maine.







We rowed along, the only visitors on the entire lake save for one fishing boat on a far edge. We paddled into a cove where we spied a young bull, maybe only a year old. We stopped and watched him as he made his way across the waters and into the woodland scrub. The kids were a little restless, requesting the paddles, and putting their hands in the water, and beginning to ask a lot of questions about things unrelated to moose.


Meanwhile, I noticed blood dripping down Andy's neck and pointed it out to Jessica. She said, "Oh, I guess those are the black flies." Then I noticed Roscoe had blood in his ear. Jessica assured us she never gets bit, and I wasn't feeling any bites yet. I kept an eye on the kids, and swatted around their heads just in case. Andy was in front paddling and unable to swat the flies away.





We decided since we were already out in the middle of the lake, to go for it, and check out one more cove before heading back to shore. We didn't find any moose there but on the way back we met a five year old bull up to his neck in the middle of the water. He was swimming through the deeper parts on his way to the other side. We slowed our paddle, and he stopped to watch us for a moment before continuing his morning routine.




Then it was only a few more paddles to the shore where we hauled our boat to dry land.


Jessica offered us homemade brownies, granola bars, and sweet tea to refuel before the drive home.


Our tour guide was patient and great with the kids. It was a very kid friendly tour.
Roscoe found part of a moose antler as a souvenir and back at the lodge they found more accessories to play with.


A small gory note on the black fly: They are tiny and ferocious. They bite with a numbing agent so you don't feel them, and they leave open wounds that bleed and swell up in an alarming way. We all were bit to some extent (except for our guide, naturally), and Andy won with more than fifty bites on his head and neck alone. As it turns out, a lot of black fly bites at once can give a person the Black Fly Flu, and so Andy felt achy and off for the better part of the following two days. The bites itched horribly and took weeks to heal. WEEKS. Thankfully our bodies were almost entirely protected by our clothing, and, had we known, we most definitely would have brought some bug repellant, although I've read conflicting reports about it's effectiveness. The timing of our trip and the hatching of the hungry flies was an unfortunate coincidence and the boys have staunch opinions about the black fly, having declared they would never visit Maine or go on a moose safari again because of them. Really, though. The experience was very special and we got to see another side of Maine that we wouldn't have trekked up north for were it not for the moose, so my vote is that the flies get a pass. If you ever consider a moose safari remember the black flies, wear light clothing, and cover up as much skin as you can. Don't wear perfumes or wash with strongly scented shampoos or soaps, and look into a bug spray you feel comfortable wearing. I might also suggest a reservation later in the Summer after the birds have picked off most of the flies. This site, although from Milwaukee, has interesting facts about the black fly
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