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!

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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Preparing for the Homeschool Year

Early morning in the woods, North Carolina

Summer still feels in full swing but the calendar says it's winding down. Our first homeschooling year begins in just a few weeks and some of you have expressed curiosity about what we are doing to prepare and plan for it. My last post on feeling good but protective of our decision to homeschool was written as part of this post but I pulled it apart to publish separately. Along those same lines, however, sharing the specifics of what we are doing this year feels a little uncomfortable. I know that confidence will come with experience and that I will eventually (hopefully soon!) move past this period of sensitivity to outside opinion, but for now it does feel awkward to write out my very in-progress process here for all to see. But I still want to share it. :)

For the better part of a year Andy and I have had casual but ongoing conversations about our goals for Roscoe in this first year of homeschooling. We recently folded him into the discussion to capture his goals and to incorporate what he is interested in and wants to know more about. Archery! Dissection! Guns! Cooking! Guitar! He has lots of ideas. I've compiled our collective brainstorms and in addition to, and separate from, our intention to use the PBH approach to support his interests, we've identified some topics and skills that we think will benefit his independence and help him to grow into the best Roscoe he can be, as we like to say around here.

Some of our big ideas:

  • This year we will explore artistic representation methods and learn what we can and cannot do with different making materials so that when he has an idea he will have the skills needed to adequately express it: textures, movement, color, three dimensional media, drawing and painting. I'm using the The Language of Art to guide our explorations in this area. 
  • Nature is our outdoor classroom and we'll continue spending as much time outside as we can throughout all the seasons. In addition to our usual, Marr Science offers well-loved science courses for kids of all ages and I've enrolled Roscoe for a 5-week course in the Fall that will explore science through movement. 
  • I want to continue to foster his sense of self, family, home, and community in a way that gives him a better understanding of how and where he fits in. I see this happening organically through our regular interactions at home and within our different circles. 
  • I also want to engage him more intentionally in what goes on in our family kitchen; to continue to share my love of food prep and making through basic cooking skills that will build his confidence and extend an opportunity for Roscoe to contribute to our weekly meals. 
  • Same goes for adapting the environment and our parental expectations to increase his responsibility and independence at home. 
  • In the last few months I've begun to introduce Spanish vocabulary through our daily conversations, and the kids are eager learners. 
  • Regular play dates with his friends, and other children from various groups that we belong to, as well as invitations for friends to join us in our weekly activities and to work on projects together will come as we can work them in. 
  • I want to continue to facilitate Roscoe and Merritt's brotherhood. 

When I look at this list I have to shrug my shoulders because most of these ideas are what we do and would be doing regardless of whether Roscoe was homeschooling. Even so, it is a helpful exercise to take time to think through the intersection of our home life, Roscoe's personality, and home education. Articulating these ideas (and posting them where I can easily reference them) helps me to keep an eye on our intentions and to remember the specifics.

The most Homeschool-y thing that we will do this year will be the portion of his learning that we set aside for project based inquiries: emergent, child-led, interest-based work that I will actively mentor him through. I'll report back on that part once we get started.

We are truly excited to move into this next phase of our life together, and sharing the last couple of mostly-solo months with the boys has shown me how our time can ideally be spent, what routines work well for us right now and how to harness their un-ending energy for good. Of equal value, I've confirmed yet again—by virtue of not having most of these things this Summer—what I will need to feel happy and sane and purposeful beyond mothering this year: loads of self-care (good sleep, good food, time with friends and Andy, and time to exercise), a few child-free hours a week to stay on top of my list of family to-dos, and dedicated time for pleasure writing. I’m narrowing in on my personal formula for success (Finally, after five years!) and it feels so doable now that I've made the other big decision to not pursue paid work this year.

Merritt will be in preschool either three or five day a week, depending on if he makes the birthdate cut-off for the 3 or 4 year old class. I requested five days in anticipation of wanting dependable one-on-one project time with Roscoe every week, but I think five days may be a lot for Merritt, not to mention the ways that the daily preschool schedule will constrain our at-home routine. We are spoiled by Summer's freedom from imposed schedules.

Looking forward, I've let go of the idea of an uber organized and structured introduction to homeschooling life in favor of allowing these first few months to be a slow ramping up to where we hope to get to in terms of a learning rhythm and routine. I have a feeling that Roscoe may not jump right into something that looks like an obvious project and that it may take some time before he settles into a groove and focuses on what feels like authentic project work. I can guarantee that I will be learning as I go, practicing observation and documentation of his process, practicing using the right language to facilitate his learning process, and continuing to make my own personal learning and doing processes more transparent for him to model.

I'm not sure what the year is going to look like yet but I'm looking ahead only as far as the next season will take me. September. October. November. Little steps to big goals.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Homeschooling Insecurities

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, children's garden

I hear that parents of homeschooled children are often told they should get used to feeling like they aren't doing enough, and that routinely second guessing their effort is normal. I'm already appreciating the ways that homeschooling is going to stretch me and demand that I reach hard for this. I've said it before but this is way outside my comfort zone, and yet it still feels like the clearest choice for us.

Right now I can't imagine a better way forward.

While I'm confident about our decision, my feelings are still mixed. Everything we did up to the point of deciding to homeschool has done away with my biggest worries and concerns, and that feels really good. Even the wonder about my ability to meet my own needs in the midst of the added responsibilities that homeschooling will bring has dissipated tremendously over the last few months. What I grapple with now is a familiar vulnerability.

In the same way I guarded what was precious knowledge at the time—my decision to give birth at home—I find myself guarding the plans we make for homeschooling. I feel uncomfortably open to judgement and want desperately to shed the pangs of needing to prove myself or justify my decision to others; if i'm honest it is a moot effort to even discuss this very personal decision with those who can't understand it. It's as hot as any political topic I've ever cared about.

Unlike birth at home, which is a private event and in our case lasted only a few hours, I sometimes wish that homeschool didn't span an entire childhood and that it was an easier choice to keep hidden when I don't feel like going there. But Roscoe is so loud and proud and happy to know he is homeschooling and I want to be equally so. I'll have to continue to balance my introvertedness and my insecurities about being misunderstood by those who are close to us, and focus instead on sharing my heart with those who are truly open and interested in supporting us on our journey.

At least until I find my own true confidence in this process.

The process that will teach me how to do it better. A process that I'll probably get wrong in order to learn how to do it right.

We'll get there. I know it.

I have to believe that there is more than one way for children to be well educated and prepared to live a life of their own choosing.

This post was inspired by a recent online class on PBH journaling that I took with Lori Pickert from The Camp Creek Blog. 
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