June 16, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

The campus is literally abuzz with activity. And when I say abuzz-the sound of many bees buzzing around at once, or filled with a continuous buzzing sound, I really mean we are hearing it. The aliveness of our natural world here is amazing, and is at times, is audible with the incredible “stillness” that our campus affords us. Oh, and the other buzz, or low hum, being heard around here is the forthcoming Family Weekend! Oh ya. It is amazing at how the energies begin to shift to a bit more lighter and jovial as the residents know they will soon be reunited to all of you. It is really a very exciting time and we can’t wait to see you. In light of this we try to keep the kids focused, on task and “in the moment”. Like the bees, there is much to do.

Ethnic Night was a journey to Brazil. A Savory Pork Stew, Cheese Bread and Sautéed Kale met the plates of the residents. Many of the residents took the opportunity to dress up in traditional Brazilian clothing they had made up in addition to the many house decorations.

Canine classes are more expansive and touching into the deeper levels of dog training. Yes, the tunnel is still being used with both dogs and kids becoming more accustomed to it. A level of comfort in getting the dogs to do what they simply would not do two weeks ago is very rewarding. They are not only becoming better at handling dogs, but the residents are encouraged to bring training thoughts and ideas to class to work out strategies with our Canine Instructor, Staff Ronanne. She encourages them to come up with short term training issues and then develop some strategies on their own to train the dogs a new discipline.

The FH residents are preparing for participation in a 5K benefit race! How exciting. Staff Eric, our Director of Physical and Experiential Fitness, will divide the residents into 3 groups based upon desire and ability. Some will run, some will jog, some will walk, and some will bring a dog! All groups will be accompanied by staff. This was very excitedly received by the FH residents and it was even reported that the girls group passed on an ultimate Frisbee workout the other morning so they could run the Frye Loop in preparation for the event. More to come on this.

This has been, by far, one of the worst spring/early summer for gardens here in Maine in a very long time. A late spring and snow loss, late frost deterioration, and a darn cold spring has fueled a garden concern statewide here in Maine. Most organic farmers and even our larger dairy farms are really adjusting to such an abnormality and are hoping for a better than average July/August to boost what is now record slow starts on many crops. However, we are faring OK here on our campus. Yes, we are behind, due mostly to this weather phenomenon, but activity is brisk with more seedlings going in at Frye, along with finishing the fences and residents jumped in this week and planted a few varieties of late flowers in hopes for some floral brightness in September.

Been another exciting week here! As mentioned, things are abuzz! And you’re a big part of the buzz…see you all on Friday. And thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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June 9, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

The grass is high enough in the fields that you can actually see it blow in the wind as the gusts funnel down and around Frye Mtn. Waves of grass tell us we are coming on to our annual “hay season” where the fields will be cut, teddered and baled for winter use. In spite of the inconsistent weather things continue to grow. And our fields do grow; hopefully yielding us two different hay crops this year. The “second cut” is always a shorter grass, usually clover and nutrient rich! Yet, weather permitting, we’ll get the first cut done in the next two weeks.

The girl’s wilderness trip to the far ends of our campus was a tremendous success. We’re certain that if you had a child on the trip you’ve heard all about it. Hiking, fire-tending, outdoor survival skills and cooking on an open fire were just a few of the things that the residents experienced. Most important it gave some of the Frye girls to live, and work with FH girls in an outdoor setting that allowed some serious mentoring to take place. An extraordinary experience for the kids.

Mentoring from existing residents and past residents is a very critical component of our mission. From Level IV residents going to Frye on a daily basis, to past residents coming back a mentor’s presence with existing residents can have an enormous impact on residents program. This past week we were honored to have a past resident who graduated IW 6 years ago and is currently a Sgt. in the United States Marine Corps., I believe you’ll be reading more on him in another section. Yet, it is important to note that mentoring, coaching, or anything to allow a current resident a fresh perspective is important. Many times a visit from a mentor, simply from FH or a graduate can turn an individual’s program around.

Exercise program remains an everyday event with, ready for this? Full body workouts, Ultimate Frisbee, 1 Minute Sprints, Circuit of Stations, Ladder, Kettle, Bell Swings, Farmer’s Carry, Goblet Squats, Bear Crawls, Crab Walk, Sneaky Monkey, Duck Walk, Inch Worm, Kangaroo Jump, Frog Hops, and Scorpion Push-ups! Yes, these are some of the exercises that staff has put together and the kids are participating each week. Maybe next week I’ll begin defining for you what each of them actually are and what they do! Sooo much going on…

The Hoop House is skinned and the ends are framed. Yes, we’re a bit behind, but the mini greenhouses that were put up have assisted in getting many seedlings going, and the hoop house will be in production mode this week. Countless hours continue to be put into the garden with Arugula and Beets going in at the FH garden. The potatoes are up! It was a bit risky as the weather was not very conducive to early planting. Frye received more seeds and the completion of the raised beds. And we’ll be adding a “Vertical Garden”! Sounds like we’re moving up!

Germany was the host country for Ethnic Night with the ever popular German Dish, Wienerschnitzel taking center stage. German Potatoes, Creamy Spinach, Apple Streusel, and Sparkling Lemonade rounded out this culinary delight and there were many “glucklich gesichter” (smiling faces)…

Update from last week- the dogs are still in the 18 foot vertical tube and the boys are right behind them…

It’s been a great week. Weather forecasts for the weekend are high 80’s, low humidity, and many smiling faces here at Ironwood. Have a great week and thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives!

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June 2, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

We’ve turned the corner and have finally reached late spring. Yes, late spring for us is June 1st. Not quite full blown summer, but we’ve at least turned the corner. Better days are now headed our way with greater degrees of certainty than ever before! The campus is very, very, beautiful now with all leaves in full form and the gray/browns of winter are but a distant memory. We can’t wait for you to see the tremendous beauty that the children live in every day when you arrive later this month.

Wilderness Weekend is on the launch pad with the group of Farmhouse and Frye girls taking leave Sunday morning for their two day adventure on the mystical and ancient Frye Mountain. The individuals do not know they are going and are told the morning of departure, so if you’ve signed parental release forms, please don’t tell your child. Let’s keep the surprise and excitement factor in place. We’ll report back next week on how exciting this event actually was.

Taking full advantage of our surrounds here, a group of FH residents went on a hike this week. There is a sign on the border of our property that abuts Frye Mountain State Lands that indicates that there is a monitoring station (hung in a tree to gather the species) for Emerald Ash Bores, EAB. This is an Asian invasive species that bores into our native Brown and Mountain Ash trees and kills the tree. The Maine Dept. of Conservation has placed monitoring stations around the state with their lands next to us as one of them. This discovery of the station in the woodlands prompted a great discussion on “Invasive Species” not just to Maine, but to many of the areas our residents hail from. The Burmese Python and African Killer Bees were just a couple that were brought up for discussion. The group tallied forth from there, hopped and skipped a few of the winter melt runoffs coming down off of Frye, where comments were made out the attractiveness of the area for possible dirt biking opportunities. Staff quickly jumped on this and pointed out the effects of erosion by the disruption to forest cover and top soils. Never an opportunity is missed to discuss stewardship and sound use of our resources.

As if hiking, gardening and athletics isn’t enough, exercise routines were front and center again with Circuit Stations, Box Jumps, Frye Loop Run, Tire Toss, and Obstacle Course being enjoyed by FH residents. The residents have a healthy introduction to balance of fun and vigor with exercise routines. In addition, the residents take great pride in achievement but also in the encouragement they give to one another as they partake in the events. Exercise is to be fun, not just grueling chore. On that note Scottish Highland Game events were enjoyed! A Tire toss instead of iron weights proved a success as it was determined that the iron weights may have been too much, not just on muscles, but on the lawn. A robust Tug O’ War concluded the festivities. It was a great way to learn of other cultures, and Staff Eric even wore his Kilt for the games. No worries please, he did not wear it in “traditional fashion” and was donning gym shorts beneath his attire!

Out of the woods and fields and into the gardens. Yes, it is that time and things are popping. The greenhouse is skinned and seedlings are plopping in the soil everywhere. While waiting for the sprouts that have been planted to join us, more were introduced this week with Head Lettuce, Kale, Summer Squash, Cucumbers and Kitchen Herbs being planted at the FH garden, while Lettuce, Peas, Spinach, and Beets hit the dirt at Frye. Mulch paths, trellis work, and more clean-up is a daily chore. Can’t wait for you to see our gardens!

From woods, fields and gardens into the kitchen with another incredibly successful ethnic night conducted this time with the Country of China being celebrated. General Tso’s, double fried and soaked in sweet sauce, Traditional Fried Rice (eggs and peas), Bok Choi, and Garlic enjoyed main fare status with delicious Glazed Peaches taking up the dessert place on the menu. Green Tea with the tea leaves grown in China was served and traditional chopsticks were used. Oh, and of course, Fortune Cookies ended the celebration. It was reported that this was the most colorfully decorated Ethnic Night so far with paper flags of China and Panda Bears all over the house.

Can’t forget about our Ironwood Dogs and their friends, staff dogs. For Canine Class this week they were introduced to the 18 foot agility tunnel. Now, how do you get an 80 pound Black Lab to crawl through 18 feet of circular plastic the Farmhouse Boy’s group was asked? Well, it was quite calamitous to watch as they coaxed their four legged friends through the new obstacle. The agreed upon method was to have the residents climb into the tube and encourage the dogs to follow! Seems logical? Absolutely! These are 14-17 year old boys! It was quite a sight, and success was met with the dogs experiencing a whole new level of agility training.

At the risk of being long winded I’ll mention the field trip the FH took to the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory in Bucksport this past weekend. A few residents got to stare at their fear of heights in the face as the observatory elevator opens to full length glass walls staring out at the Penobscot River Valley into Frenchmen’s Bay.

Oh, and the Athletic Activity this week was a robust game of Volleyball. My, there is soooo much to write about this time of year. Can you tell? Beats those dull and dank Weekly Updates from January…thanks so much for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

Have a great week…

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May 27, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

And the uncertainty and mischievousness of the May spring weather continues. If you’re getting tired of hearing about it, imagine how tired we’re getting of it while living in it! But, with the hearty resilience of the early settlers of this unwelcoming and unforgiving land we tally forth day by day. Actually it’s not that bad. We’ve had a few days rest comfortably in the 70’s with mild breezes, yet today sees residents in their winter jackets huddling against rain and black flies as they move to and fro.

In spite of the, and in conjunction with the weather the daily activities go on. The more structured Physical Exercise plans for both campuses has been a huge hit. Each day has a defined plan and is structured to be exciting and not mundane. Emphasis is on the “whys” of exercise here and at home. Exercise should be fun and to assist in overall health, not on aesthetics or what the scale reads; and this is what is instilled in the residents.

Farmhouse Ethnic Night continues to be a highlight of the week with Puerto Rico being celebrated. For those who care to know the menu was Seasoned Grilled Steak, Sweet Potato w/ Bacon, Cabbage Salad with Lime and Cilantro. Desert? Why Banana, Coconut, Pineapple Smoothies of course.

Canine Group was advancing to some Level II tracking skills, along with some new dogs who came to this week’s session Level I tracking was revisited. A great refresher for all-dogs and residents. In addition to the continued module on “tracking”, the “Heal” command was introduced to both trainer and Canine. A great time was had by all until the “Black Flies” forced the group in to the indoor arena for cool down and wrap up.

Gardens are the word of the day, with our Hoop House waiting for the outer skin to arrive. Never fear however as seedlings of Head Lettuce, Chard, Kale, Squash, Cukes, Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Flowers and Pumpkins got their introduction to the soil of Ironwood and will begin their journey. FH Garden saw some Bed Prep, Mulching, and Straw placement (pathways for weed control) occur this week. Frye Garden continues to be prepped with clean up and organization. In addition Seed Peas are in and trellising has been placed.

There is a girls Wilderness Weekend planned for the first full weekend in June. This combination of Farmhouse and Frye girls will be heading out for an Ironwood Wilderness adventure, and they don’t even know it! More to come…

Been another busy week here in our little corner of the world. We hope yours has been as eventful and peaceful as ours. Have a great week. Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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May 12, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Spring must go on! Regardless of the weather, the campus has been abuzz in activities welcoming the season after winter in spite of weather patterns that are more indicative of March than May. Garden activities are a daily occurrence, long and exploratory hikes are being experienced and spring fun time activities are launching today.

In addition to the simplest spring garden prep activities such as raking and rock removal, the garden has been rototilled, manure has been brought on, the hoop house frame is up, weeding is happening, planting boxes at Frye are being prepped for fresh soil, potato seedlings have been cut, trenches dug and potatoes planted. This may seem a bit early for planting but we have a lot of potatoes to plant. Last year alone we acquired, prepared and consumed over 900 pounds of potatoes on our little campus. Will we grow that many? Eventually we hope to, but we’ll settle for 400 pounds this year! Seedling planting and further hoop house and soil prep will occur this week.

Frye girls had a very beautiful and relaxing hike to the Beaver Pond early this week. Many species of birds were noted along with the many wildlife tracks spotted on the hike “to and fro” through the woods to the pond. Farmhouse weekly enrichment hike was full of adventure, having to move trees from pathways, traversing spring mud holes, poking heads into holes in the ground and trees. Outdoor nature hikes are part of the staple of activity here and gives many residents a new found connection to nature. Many express interest in comparing the natural world and seasons of Ironwood to their native homes.

Outdoor sports activities become more of an enrichment activity this time of year with the Sports Group practicing a bit of kickball. The Wombats and Platypus’ jousted in a bit of a practice match in prep for a full blown competition in the weeks to come.

The Frye Chicken’s (not a sports team, they’re actual chickens) are doing very well with many beginning to lose the “pin feathers” or hairs of “chick hood” and are well on their way to developing full blown feathers. Not quite ready to go outside they are being moved to larger quarters soon for the next step to outside free range chicken life.

Spring Fling is the word of the day today as staff has prepared the campus wide annual celebration of winter’s ending with a day full of games, exercise, challenges and food! Festivities kick off at 10AM with a campus wide gathering at the FH garage where teams and schedules are put together. Off they then go for a day of fun with activities like the “Build a Boat”( craft a boat and float an egg across the trout pond), “Egg Drop”( build an egg crate able to sustain a drop out of the FH garage upstairs window without braking the egg), Tie Dye your own t-shirt, and Obstacle Course( timed to determine the fastest person on campus), Garden Galore( Plantings and Garden beautification-bird feeders and waterers), Horse Agility Course( guide a horse through certain pre-determined obstacles)….and more! School is cancelled for the day and teacher’s, therapeutic staff and direct care staff all join to make this a fun and remembered day for the residents. It’s been a long winter, with sacrifice and hard work, and it’s time to have a bit of fun!!!!!!

So, much happening here as usual. And as noted, spring must go on! Even if we have to make it happen!!!! Have a great week and thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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May 5, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Has not anyone told Mother Nature it is the first week of May? Yet, typical of our mid-coast Maine weather one day may see residents and staff in T-shirts, yet another in full “winter coat” mode as was the case this morning. Days are long and the sun is high, yet the cooler ocean temps really prevent any sustained warming until the end of the month. Happy to report though that we are getting along quite well, with ample supplies of clothing and when needed firewood.

In spite of the weather the spring to summer activities continue. Our “hoop house” should be constructed next week, just in time for garden seedlings. Frye garden’s plantings will also start their IW journey there as well. May has been designated as “dairy” month by our on staff Horticulture and sustainable living person, and the FH residents watched a mini-documentary on small Maine Dairy Farms earlier in the week. This was topped with a visit to a local “Organic” Dairy Farm here in Morrill. Interestingly it is the same farm that harvests the hay fields on the campus. The residents had a grand time with visits to the Milk Parlor, the Calf Barn, and of course the “ladies” themselves; the 50+ herd of Organic Holstein Dairy Cows! We had to do a pocket check upon departing to be certain there were no calves being smuggled back on campus. The kids really took a shine to the young stock.

Another Spring to Summer activity, being spearheaded by our “wilderness” staff, saw a group go out to our wilderness camping site, located on the North Perimeter of our campus, to clean the site and set up the tent! This is not your back yard tent, this a four corner frame tent placed on a wooden platform. We’re very happy to note that the wilderness camping schedule has been established and the first group leaves next week. 3 Frye Level II, and 3 Farmhouse Level III’s will join our director and another staff for a two night wilderness experience encompassing Sunday, Monday and back on Tuesday afternoon. As you know, our large campus, in an agricultural/ northern forest setting; coupled with the 5241 acre Gene Letourneau State of Maine Wildlife Management Area makes for an ideal “wilderness” experience. As an added extra, the Hills to Sea Hiking Trail Network running from the Town of Unity to Belfast on the ocean has officially opened and traverses through Frye Mountain less than a mile from our site.

Community outreach endeavors remain a strong part of our Farmhouse Program as we instill the noble concept of giving back and selflessness saw our residents making “May Baskets” which were delivered by all the Farmhouse residents to local Nursing Home on May 1. I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to the residents of the Nursing Home. And I dare say it has quite an impact on the Farm House residents as they visit and socialize with the Senior Citizens. Also we had 2 residents prepare some baked goods for a Senior Citizen lunch in the town of Brooks and after lunch today, residents are piling in the vans and headed to the Morrill Volunteer Fire Department to do some cleaning of the Morrill Firehouse.

Ethnic Nights are back at the Farmhouse! Each week a resident is selected to plan and prepare a supper meal that aligns with their ethnic heritage. Although the food is outstanding, each resident is required to study a little bit about the “host” country and be prepared to give a short summary of what they’ve learned. This past week was Ethiopia Night….to say it was well received, well, is an understatement.

SAT testing is taking place this Saturday with residents of both campuses buckling down at the Farmhouse school to show their prowess as they prepare for life after Ironwood.

As you can see, it’s pretty busy around here. Now we just need some summer weather to go along with it! Soon enough. Thanks so much for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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April 28, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

We do not even begin to get remotely excited for Spring/Summer until we are on the doorstep to the month of May. And here we are! You can sense in the residents a very light and positive attitude here on this April Friday afternoon. While light and airy moods are the norm here on Fridays, this one is far different than a January Friday. Our fields have literally “greened up” today as we experienced rain through yesterday and got a good dose of sunshine which means the transformation from gray/brown to green/dark green has begun. A sense of newness and renewal is permeating the campus.

As usual a very busy week for both campuses, with much happening. Dog training, Horsemanship, Horse riding continue on their steady weekly schedule. Farmhouse residents went to the Maine Organic Farmer’s and Grower’s Assoc. Earth Day event at their headquarters Unity for some beautification work. A group of residents enjoyed a culinary session with staff Ronanne where the fine art of “Knish” making was practiced. Potato and Onion along with Beef Knishes were enjoyed by all as mid afternoon snack. The culinary exercise is not just a kitchen free- for- all. Residents are instructed on menu interpretation, measuring, and food presentation. In addition, the journalistic crew has conducted their first organizational meeting with the next issue of the Pertinent Press scheduled to be delivered by next Family Weekend in June.

Maple Syrup season is over with just over 15 Gallons of pure maple syrup placed in the lair for a summer’s worth of sweet eating. Farmhouse residents will be completing final clean-up with floors being scrubbed and wood stacked in the woodshed for next spring’s boil.

There are 12 new residents that have been delivered to Frye this week! No, no, they’re not wearing Orange T-Shirts, they’re donning little “pin hairs” that will soon be full blown Chicken Feathers. Yes, 12 chicks were delivered and are comfortably housed in the mini barn chicken coop! Important to note that these are Laying Hens and should be mature and laying by September. They are not meat birds for table fare.

Sure sign of spring when the chickens have arrived, the grass is green and the kids are excited for a Friday afternoon.

Thanks for allowing your child to be a part of our lives.

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April 21, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Mid to late April here in mid-coast Maine is a real test of one’s patience as well as wardrobe. From one day to the next one does not know what to wear as the weather is so unpredictable. Many staff’s vehicles can be seen with a back seat full of the possible “layers” that may be needed on any given day. Winter has been long and we all want it to be over, and yet we get the real hints some days of the weather that is just around the corner with a stunningly beautiful sun filled day, then followed by a 20 degree overnight and 30 degree mornings. Today struggled to hit 40 with a damp Atlantic breeze nipping at our campus. Warmer days are coming!

Weekly schedules and curriculums are being formatted for summer and outdoor activities. The Character Development class held at the FH School has hit its semester end. The allocated time for that class will now be available for enrichment times with Gardening/Horticulture, Journalism/Photography and outdoor recreation. In addition, we will be having sports recreation including, not just playing but sports experientials. Outdoor sports activities will not just focus on play, but on the introduction of sports that residents have never played. An emphasis on understanding the sport not just for its physical benefit but on the rules, regulation and strategies will be emphasized.

Outdoor beautification takes on a new function as all of the unseen debris from winter, covered by months of snow cover is now ready to be cleaned up. Fallen branches, errant rocks and gravel and displaced sod from shoveling and plowing needs to be removed from the lawns and flower-beds.

FH residents took an afternoon this week and volunteered at a local elderly resident’s home in assisting them with just such aforementioned beautification. In addition, they travelled to Camp Fairhaven, a local summer kid’s camp, to assist in preparing their stable of horses for their upcoming riding season. Our residents brushed horses, picked hooves, primped and fussed over the equines as they shook off their winter dust. It is keen to note that our residents having been schooled with months of equine care and horsemanship and they were confidently able to place all of their best practices as they took their show on the road.

Frye campus, being more geographically located in the forested area of our campus is engaging the new life experiences that occur in the dense woods of Northern New England. Different species of birds arrive daily. Turkeys are gobbling and Ruffed Grouse can be heard “drumming” on a not so distant log. Chipmunks and Red Squirrels are out and about foraging for the little ones tucked into dens in the walls and trees surrounding Frye. The streams that traverse through Frye are filled with the run-off of melting snow all along the south slopes of Frye Mountain. They are swollen with ice cold water and are full of aquatic life. These same streams will be rendered dry pathways by late August. It is a beautiful time of new life, mild weather, and hopes of things to come….much like the Ironwood journey…

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives!

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April 21, 2017

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Why horsing around is good for you: Spending time around stables proven to reduce stress

From DailyMail.com


Horsing around can make teenagers less stressed out, new research has revealed.

A study found that children who spend time with horses or riding have lower levels of stress hormones, according to measurements taken from their saliva.

Researchers looked at 130 teenagers taking part in an after school horsemanship course that lasted 12 weeks.

They spent 90 minutes a week learning about horses: how to care for, groom, handle, and ride the animals.

Each teenager gave six samples of saliva over a two day period before and after the 12 week programme.

Researchers analysed the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the samples.

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April 14, 2017

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Ironwood Maine

A collective exhale could be heard across campus last Sunday as we wrapped up the second Family Weekend 2017. The anticipation leading up to a FW is very high with emotions of excitement, and uncertainty. As the weekend wraps up there is a sense of sadness, and to some degree relief, yet it is usually a time when we see the residents refocus, regroup and genuinely place an emphasis on their individual programs as they strive for the next level of residency or have their eye on the prize of a graduation and going home.

While the most tangible and beautiful part of the weekend is the visible re-unification of families, there is a lot of work that goes on. As you know, many hours are spent in family therapies, group therapies and experientials. It is an understatement to say that there is much happening. Also, it can be very difficult at times. As exhausted as you were with travelling and the activities of the weekend, the kids took time to rest up this week as well.

The Sugar Shack has now closed up for the year. In addition to the samples you enjoyed at the shack, while touring the operation, all families left with an 8 oz. container of pure sweetness. We do hope you will enjoy it and that you equally enjoyed your child’s explanation of the work they put into in producing the end product. Our final tally was approximately 15 gallons of Pure Maple Syrup that will be enjoyed over the next couple months of Sundays!

The journey into spring and warmer weather continues. Sunset is approaching 7:30PM allowing many more outdoor activities after supper and always results in a happier, smoother day. The grasses in our fields are greening up, the horses are losing their winter coats, and the pair of geese have migrated back to our little pond…

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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