The Meaning of Patriots’ Day…

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Today’s post is to honor those affected by the tragic event that took place in Boston on April 15th, Patriots’ Day…

Massachusetts and Maine observe Patriots’ Day on the third Monday of every April.  Patriots’ Day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 which was the start of the American Revolutionary War.   Prior to 1775, the area that is now the eastern part of the United States mainly consisted of British colonies controlled by the United Kingdom. The American Revolutionary War was a major step in the independence of the United States. The first battles in this war were fought in the areas of Lexington and Concord, near Boston, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775.  For this reason, the third Monday in April is symbolic for the emerging independence of the new country.

Paul Revere is among the patriots who are remembered on Patriots’ Day. The American silversmith is known for spreading the word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia, and for warning the Lexington Minutemen about the British invasion in 1775. The story of his “midnight” ride to Lexington to discuss action plans against the British has been poeticized.  With a clatter of horse hooves, Paul Revere rides from Boston, shouting warnings that British soldiers are on the march.

The Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, is run each year on Patriots’ Day.

Along with various events around the city, Bostonians celebrate the battles of Lexington and Concord in a touching act of community, a marathon in which strangers cheer on strangers, and runners push themselves toward the finish line with charming grit.

On April 15, 2013, Patriots’ Day, as I watched the events unfold on television, I saw rescuers running towards the wounded in acts of true heroism.

In the end, the terrorist(s) will fail because Bostonians did not turn from their fellow citizen — they turned toward them. And that is the real root of mankind.

Patriots’ Day.  It is a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit of us all.

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Coming Full Circle…

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When I was a little girl living in Hawaii my parents sent my brother and I on an airplane, alone, to spend summers with my grandparents in Northern Minnesota.  I dreaded those summer getaways… all I could think of was spending my summer with “old” people, out in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely nothing to do.  It was time spent in the garden, stealing apples from old man Marco’s apple tree, dirt road rides in search of wild critters, hanging out at the lake diving for clams, and walking down the street to the corner store to buy penny candy.  Oh, and, yes, going to the annual polka festival.  A night out to eat was to the local Bonanza, where all I longed for was the lollipop at the end of my meal.

To top it all off, I was somehow taught, led to believe, that growing your own food or buying local was embarrassing, going beneath yourself.  I vividly remember my grandfather coming home one day with local strawberries.  All I could do was laugh at the thought that Minnesota strawberries were so much better than a strawberry from elsewhere (like I was some expert that strawberries from a tropical island were so much better).   I also remember being so critical over a fireworks show in town, thinking how could such a local celebration be so much better than seeing one in a huge city like New York City?

As I write this blog I am amazed at how much I disliked those times.  How could I not have appreciated and enjoyed all that I did, and learned?  It’s so sad.

Here I am today living in a simple home, with a few acres, out in the country in Maine.  The life I have today is actually is no different than my grandparents.  Gardens, fruit trees, fishing, hunting, buying local, and supporting community efforts.  I have come full circle.  Everything old is new again.  The passion I have for this lifestyle, for me and for my family is deep.  It is important to myself and to my husband.  Shouldn’t our kids know that locally grown food is so much better than food grown thousands miles away?  Shouldn’t our kids know the importance of where our food comes from?  Shouldn’t our kids know basic outdoor skills?  Shouldn’t our kids experience green trees and fresh air?

I wish I could go back in time and enjoy my Minnesota visits more.  I wish I could tell my grandparents how much those visits influenced who and where I am today.  I only hope that both are looking down at me from above smiling… and, of course, shouting, “I told so”‘!

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This Week’s Project Download…

You would think that with  my husband home I’d be able to get a lot more done with the the extra hands.  No such luck.  However, I am happy to report my husband took on a couple of projects this past week.  He busted out his muscles and did quite a bit for us!  Thank you, deary (insert belly rub)!

The weather was great this weekend.  The kids spent both days outside, ALL day.  One of the things I love about our little homestead is that the kids can go outside and literally play to their hearts content.  They can bike up and down the road with no worries.  They can trek in to the woods and explore.  This weekend they set up a plank headed towards the pond so they can put some chairs out and, as my daughter says, “chill”.  The best part of the weekend… all of our neighbor kids were out four wheeling together.  Everyone had so much fun!

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I have a love/hate relationship with my brother-in-law.  He is extremely free spirited and will show up at our house on a whim.  I hate that.  My kids love him to pieces, and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for my kids.  I love that.  So, I accept his quirkiness and feed him a ton of food every time he shows up for a visit.

A few months ago, while my husband was away at sea, he shows up to the house.  As he is playing WWF with the kids my daughter’s bed breaks.  She has been sleeping on a bed held up by a few old books.  This week my husband made a bed frame for my daughter out of pallets.  Some may think it’s a bit cheesy, but she loves it!  He put black lights under the slats that creates a glow in the dark effect at night for her.

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Speaking of pallets… we have a bunch of them.  A trip to a box store proved pay dirt.  We’ll be making a potato bin as well as a lettuce/herb garden.  I’ll be sure to post pictures once they are built.

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The tree house flooring is near completion.  The kids are quite eager to finally get their bean bags inside.  My daughter created the first sign for the tree house.  I hope that in a couple more weeks all will be done and the kids can spend countless hours hiding away.  I am hoping for this tree house to be the ultimate reading room for them!

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My reading was very poor this week.  I’m trying really hard to finish a book I had been so excited to read.  Unfortunately, my progress has been slow.  I am bound and determined to finish it this week though!

A couple of weeks ago I read “I Funny: A Middle School Story” by James Patterson (yes, the same James Patterson that writes thrillers – he also writes children’s books).  It was a quick read about a boy, Jamie Grimm, who wants to become the world’s greatest stand-up comedian.  Jamie has a lot of personal obstacles but keeps a wonderful sense of humor.  He decides to enter a contest called The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic.  I found myself cheering Jamie on the whole way.  He is an extremely likable boy who is amazingly strong.  Not only was this book clever and funny, it was heartwarming.

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This Week’s Project Download…

Happy Maple Syrup Sunday!

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In Maine we celebrate Maple Syrup Sunday on the second to the last Sunday in March.  Did you know that Maine is the second largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S.?

Here are some other interesting factoids:

– It takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make one gallon of pure Maine Maple Syrup.

– It takes freezing cold nights and warm sunny days with temperatures in the 40’s and up before the sap will run.

– It takes approximately 40 years for a sugar maple tree to reach tapping size.

Our home has once again taken on the challenge of tapping our own trees.  Each year is a bust for us when it comes time to make syrup.  But I am determined to one day get it right, without having to spend thousands of dollars on industrial equipment.  We shall see what the next couple of weeks bring.  Hopefully it will be some syrup… even if it’s just a small pint!

I didn’t get much done project wise.  I think I needed some down time after all the stress from the Pinewood Derby.  I also needed a couple of days to get this house in order before my husband came home.  His patrol is finally over and the kids and I will have some time with him before he takes off yet again in another month.

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One thing husband and I did was start some cool weather crops down in the basement.  Using grow lights we (or should I say he) planted cabbage, brussel sprouts, onions, peas and beans.   We are so excited to finally get the garden started this year.  We have so many ideas and plans.  I hope to have an over abundance of crops.  Enough to share with our friends and neighbors!

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I love knitting, although I love yarn more.  I wish I had more time to knit and learn more knitting techniques.

Last summer, when I found out I was having another baby girl, I began knitting a blanket.  Here we are over 8 months later and the blanket is no where near finished.  I’ve promised myself that this darn blanket is going to be finished by the time summer arrives.  That should give me more than enough time… right?  Let’s hope so!  Or else Baby Girl will end up using this blanket as a towel cloth instead!

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This week I read “Touch Blue” by Cynthia Lord.  The story takes place in Maine so, of course, I had to enjoy the book.  I always love how authors depict Maine and New England in general.  It’s so refreshing and peaceful.  I can literally smell the ocean air and feel the sand gritting between my toes.  It’s fantastic.  In “Touch Blue” families volunteer as foster parents to meet minimum state requirements to keep their school open on the island where they live.  The story focuses on 11-year old Tess and her new, older, foster brother Aaron, a veteran of the foster care system.  I particularly like how each chapter begins with a superstition.  My favorite is Chapter 16, ‘If you write your wish beneath the stamp on a letter, the letter will carry the wish with it.”

Life’s Lesson… What is Winning Worth…

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Ahh… not only is spring around the corner, it’s Pinewood Derby time.  The Pinewood Derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the Boy Scouts.  Cub Scouts, with the help of parents, build their own cars from wood, usually from kits that contain a block of pine, plastic wheels and metal axles.  Truth be told, I didn’t know what the derby was until last year when my son joined the Cub Scouts.

The derby came right at a time when my husband began a 2-month patrol.  If you ask me (and him), horrible timing.  I panicked.  I have no clue how to build things, let alone build things that are suppose to move.  A neighbor offered to have my son build his car with their son.  At first it sounded appealing but after a lot thinking I knew this was a project my son and I needed to tackle on our own, even if dad wasn’t around.  In the end, we did it!  My son and I built a derby car!

At one point in the building phase I considered making a Facebook status that said, “who needs a man when a tool-deficient mom can do this?”  But I quickly remembered the kind old man at Lowe’s who quickly showed me how to operate my dremel tool in 10 seconds (I tried for hours at home and couldn’t figure it out).  I remembered the YouTube video (featuring a man) showing me how I’ll sand and polish the wheels.  Last, but not least, I remembered the numerous emails back and forth to my husband asking his advice.  And, most importantly, I reminded myself that this project was not about me, but about my son.  About us working together.  So, instead, I kept my lips sealed.

You see the whole idea of the Pinewood Derby is to encourage a bond between a boy and his parent/guardian.  They should work  together.  And, yes, they should build a car that looks cool and goes fast.  But the overall focus should be on fun and growth.  Right?!?!  At least that’s what I think.  However, I get the distinct impression that the derby is more about dad’s flexing their muscles desperately attempting to out race every other grown man.

I have worked hard with my son.  My son drew his design and was very adamant that his design was “the one”.  When it came time to saw I did the work.  But he helped sand and he painted.  He guided me every step of the way, down to the “x marks the spot” carving he wanted on his car.  It truly was a project he was 100% involved in and had 100% input.

These past few days have been an overflow of emotions.  I’ve broken down in tears three times… all over this damn derby car.

It all began when a fellow parent posted pictures of his son’s derby on a social media site.  Looking at the car I immediately knew it was a car completely made by the parent.  As I looked at that car the only thing I could think of was how much my son will be disappointed because his car didn’t look as “cool”.  I began to obsess at how I could just do something to make his car better.  And as awful as it sounds, I even contemplated buying a car on eBay.  Thank goodness for my husband and my wonderful kids.  They quickly snapped me out of this horrible funk.  However, it led me to do some research and reading on the whole concept of competitive parenting, parents taking on their children’s assignments as their own.

Did you know that a recent study found that up to 70% of kids will plagiarize, cheat and pass off others works as their own before they graduate college?  The study suggested that kids are under greater pressure than ever before to succeed, and that they have a greater number of daily stressors than any other generation.  It’s a tough world out there, I get that, but does this mean parents need to start doing their children’s work for them?  Don’t you think that by doing more for our kids we are actually doing less, creating the inability to learn about life’s lessons on their own?

This derby has inspired me to create a rule in our house:  Projects will be done by our kids.  My husband and I buy materials, advise and even make suggestions.  We encourage the kids and guide them but we also make sure they take ownership of the project/task.  They need to learn how to develop skills to complete a project from beginning to end.  This new rule came at a time when my daughter was also assigned a project in school.  Sh needed to create a poster on why our family loves Maine.  It was a family project.  My daughter insisted I come up with all the reasons why we love Maine.  I helped, but I left the rest to her.  And guess what?  She came up with the best reason why our family loves Maine, on her own!

Whether it’s a derby car or some other project, when parents give their children sufficient guidance and freedom to let their imaginations soar (without imposing their own viewpoints or worse, taking over entire projects) we give our kids the confidence and self satisfaction that helps them grow into secure, assertive adults.

I like to think I chose the high road on this one.  Was I tempted to cheat after seeing all of those pictures of glossy pieces of wood and glue?  Hell yes I was, but I didn’t.

We did this together and made the most of what we have, time and love.

And that is what I love the idea of living simply, and the whole homesteading movement.  I think perhaps Robert Frost was right.  Choosing the road less traveled may very well make all the difference in the world.

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**At the completion of writing this blog I came across a movie on Netflix, “Down & Derby”.  It’s a comedy that satirizes the desperate behavior of parents who compete with one another through their children.  It was a hoot to watch… and made me thankful I never went off the deep end.

**To read Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” click here.

May the Force be With You…

DSC_1858 I don’t know about you but I am so ready for winter to be over!  Don’t get me wrong, I love New England and its change of seasons.  But we’ve had a storm every week in February.   I’m done with the snow, the slippery roads, the power outages.  I’ve especiallyhad it with the snowsuits, gloves, hats and boots laying on the floor, surrounded by a pool of melted snow.  Spring, where are you?!?!  Please hurry!  For if you do  not quickly arrive on my doorstep I am afraid I may have to use the utmost of powers… the Jedi mind trick.  You know, like in Star Wars. The mind is a powerful thing.  Perhaps I, Obi-Wan of this homestead, can exude my force…

Mother Nature:  Are you ready for more snow to fall?

Mama Jedi:  *waving hand* There will be no  more snow. 

Mother Nature:  There will be no more snow.  

Mama Jedi:  You will bring us Spring now.

Mother Nature:  I will bring Spring to your doorstep now.  

Mama Jedi:  Move along.

Mother Nature:  Move along.

Okay, so maybe I’ll just continue with wishful thinking.  But, regardless,  I am going to do whatever I must to get the spirit of Spring going!

This week I started on some spring cleaning.  This concept is pretty foreign to me.  Being half Asian, and growing up in Japan most of my life, this type of cleaning happens at the end of the year.  To me, it makes more sense to purge the old at the end of year, beginning a fresh new year.  However, now that I live in New England, I guess I can understand why spring cleaning is a must. You’re holed up in your house all winter, dust bunnies collecting around the wood stove, the air not circulating enough because of the tundra outside, stashing cardboard boxes down in the basement because you dread walking it to the end of your driveway for trash collection.  (Note:  I do not cite these examples based on first hand experience)

I so get it now.

Spring cleaning has arrived at the homestead.  I am getting rid of all the “junk” accumulating around me.  If we don’t use it, if it’s lost in the abyss of my kids closet, it’s gone.  Although I’m sure I could make a decent chunk of change, I am not big on selling things.  Instead, I choose to donate as much as I can to our school, local clothes pantry, local children’s hospital, Goodwill, and churches.  It’s an act that the whole entire family take part in, and enjoy.  There are others out there less fortunate that could use something as simple as a jacket, or great picture book.  The notion that my son gets excited about his once favorite fire truck going to another boy puts a huge smile on my face.

A few more rooms to tidy up.   One last snowman, that is it.   And then I expect the snow to melt away very soon.

Yes, Mother Nature, I am speaking to you.  I’m itching to get my hands dirty!

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop

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Leap of Faith…

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Life only happens ONCE.  And it is either what you make it, or what you allow it to be.  

When I began my blog I had one mission:  to be as debt-free as possible, which should allow me to stay home with my kids and take up homesteading.  It’s been a wonderful year of self-discovery, focus, education, and, yes, many sacrifices.

Though the odds seemed stacked against me, I am happy to say that my first goal has been achieved.

Last week I took the biggest leap in my journey… I quit my job.  As terrifying and nerve racking as it was I felt completely liberated.  I’m not going to cry.  I’m not fretting.  I’m not second guessing myself.  I am savoring this moment and looking forward to the future.  “I’m all in”, as my husband says.

Most folks would slap me silly for leaving my job.  In retrospect I did give up a fairly big position, full of advancement potential and salary to boot.  I am also very aware of the situation in today’s economy where there are thousands of people looking for employment who are not as fortunate as I am.  However, when balanced against my goals, after months of nail biting and angst over the decision, I surprisingly sailed out that door and I haven’t looked back yet.

Am I crazy?  Perhaps.  But I was not happy any longer.  I needed something more.

My life has taken a dramatic turn over the past few years.  I’ve always teased myself (and have been teased) that I’m the black sheep of the family.  I’m much like my late grandmother, Rosie.  These years have reinforced it.  So rather than fighting it, I choose to embrace my heritage.  I am what I am and I like to think Rosie and I would see things the same way.  I have her traits, her preferred way of life, her somewhat obnoxious attitude.  It’s “the Rosie gene” that has guided me to the realization that I must do what makes me happy in life.

When my grandmother died she was still very young.  I was only 16 at the time.  It was unexpected.  What made it most heartbreaking was that she still had so much to give, and had such a fire for life.  She always had something going on… her garden to tend, her cooking, her trips to the lake with her best friend Babe, her collections of chickens, and her old, yet cool, light blue VW Rabbit.  I would have learned so much from her.  She was just a lunch lady at the local high school who always had a waiting line because of her good cooking.

Although she didn’t make a lot of money her life was rich with accomplishment.  That is what I aspire to be.  A person beyond the flashy dollar sign and the latest gadget.  I want to downshift.  To get away from “living competitively”… job stress, consumerism, and feeling I have to live up to someone else’s expectations.  I am not okay with this anymore.  It no longer fits… if it ever did.

So, goodbye rat race.  I am going to pursue the things that enrich my soul.  For me, I am choosing to be home with my children.  I choose to live a lifestyle that may seem simplistic to some, but to me it has all the potential of the rich loamy soil in my garden.  I can grow anything with what I have.

I’ve heard life is what you make of it.  If so, I see a challenging, exciting road ahead of me.  I am going to make something I can be proud of.

And so can you…

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This post was featured at the Homestead Barn Hop

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