Search Results for: Montshire

The Montshire

Jax, Em, and I went with our friends to the Montshire Museum in Hanover.  We played in the water exhibits.  A super fun way to spend a hazy Friday.
 Andrew, Nia, and Matthew playing in the stream.
Jax and his true love, Harper
Exploring the landscape
You know, sometimes where we live isn’t so bad after all.
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Staying Cool (And Smart)

August is here, and with it some extreme temperatures that have taken our daily adventures to air conditioned or watery places.  One of our favorites is the Montshire Museum, not only because its ever-changing exhibits keep the whole family interested (praise the Lord), but also because its outdoor water play helps us beat this crazy summer heat.  What my kids don’t know is that while they are there, having a blast, their brains get slightly reactivated from their summer slumber and the learning cobwebs get shaken off just a bit.


Something as simple as watching ping pong balls drift downriver, with various eddy pools and small elevation changes, is really fascinating for my kids.  They love running to the beginning of the stream, cranking out a new ball, and watching the process over and over again, noticing how small changes have big consequences.

PicMonkey Collage

Em’s favorite part every year is tinkering with and assembling different sprinkler systems.  This year she and Jax worked together to solve their problem.  They actually worked cooperatively without fighting, probably because Em was on her own turf and who can complain when you’re “accidentally” soaking your sibling while having honest fun?

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Little H loved going here for the first time as a two-year-old.  Watching her experiment with cause and effect was particularly gratifying, with a little help from Em and Grammy.  She was so content to pull and push levers to watch how the water level changed, and if she got big sister wet in the process, well, that was just a bonus.

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Of course my kids can never go two hours without a significant meal, so after they had had their fill of water fun, it was time for lunch in the shade, away from the crowds where we could talk and maybe make some new itty bitty friends.

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At this point, the kids had pretty much dried off, so Grammy and I managed to wrangle them inside for a different kind of fun.  One of the things I love about museums is that they don’t even realize they are absorbing anything educational; they’re just having a great time.

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Keeping cool (and smart!) is the only way to go this summer!

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A Dino Named Sue

One of the highlights of our summer has been getting up close and personal with a local T-Rex named Sue.  I mean, really close.  It’s been awesome.


This isn’t our first foray into the world of fossils, but having Sue in our own backyard where we can visit her as often as we like (total visits as of now: 2) is something special.  Oh, and by the way, we didn’t name her Sue.  That’s her official name.  Although, as JDubbs liked to point out, the paleontologists’ initial diagnosis was incorrect, and it is actually a male tyrannosaurus skeleton.  So, in fact, she is a boy named Sue!

After getting our fill of dino-fun, it was business as usual at the Montshire, where Little H is now old enough to do more than just observe, but can actually participate in all that the museum has to offer.  Overall, I’d say she is a fan.  She could have just stayed right here all day, rolling golf balls down ramps.  Note to self: add PVC pipe to her Christmas list.


But we did venture outside and explore some of the excellent water fun, and as always, my dorky heart goes pitter-patter watching my kids embrace the opportunities to explore their world around them .

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Nice to meet you, Sue!  We’ll be back!

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Christian & Erika Rock Vermont, Part II

As I explained, Christian and Erika spent a week of their summer vacation with us, and once Jason went back to work I had to find a few things to do with five kids every day!  It would have been a bit daunting if Christian and Erika weren’t such great helpers with my kids and were so grateful and excited for a week full of fun.  These five love each other so much!  We packed every day with good old family fun, and the days really flew by.

Scavenger Hunt Around Woodstock, Vermont

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Explored Vermont Institute of Natural Science


Stayed Cool At The Montshire Museum

1 Went Bowling


Camped Out On A Rainy Day And Even Went Snipe Hunting!



Had The Best Time At The Upper Valley Aquatic Center

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I really don’t know who got the most out of the experience–Christian and Erika, who had a great time, my kids, who loved having their cousins around every day, or me and Jason, for having a chance to really get to reconnect with these two great kids who have grown and changed so much over the past few years.  Without question, we will be doing this every year.  It was our pleasure and just cements in my mind why we left California to be closer to family–there’s nothing like growing up with your cousins!

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Em the Engineer

In my attempt to be funny yesterday, I may have given a certain someone a bum wrap.

Yes, she is sweet and darling as well as slightly demonic, but there is another part of Em that I didn’t mention at all, and that is, of course, that she’s smart.  Smart in a completely different way than her brother, who was brilliant in his verbal/linguistic, letter-loving way.  Em knows her letters and has decent phonemic awareness, but this girl has other facets.  She is a visual/spatial, puzzle-loving, block-building little engineer.  She plays in a completely different way than her brother, and the dynamic is fabulous.

I noticed this particularly earlier this summer when Em and I spent the day with our friends at the Montshire Museum in Hanover, NH which has a fabulous outdoor water playspace.  It’s a science museum, so it’s not just fun–their little minds are engaged and going a mile a minute–but I couldn’t help but notice how differently Em played than her brother, focusing on elements of the space that Jax barely glances at.

There are about six fountains that spray water up and dozens of PVC pipe in various sizes, shapes, angles, width, and craziness that the kids can attach to the fountain–and then to each other–to create amazing fountains that spray in an array of angles.  I couldn’t believe how she just dived in and stuck the pipe on the fountain, making the water go everywhere.  Then I marveled at her little mind as she created and destroyed, eager to make the vision in her mind a reality.

What amazes me is that in all the times we’ve been here, Jax never gives this part of the museum more than a few minutes of his time.  Em was fully engaged, completely engrossed on the task at hand.  Her interests and talents are so different than his, but I’m discovering that that’s one of the best parts of having more than one child–celebrating their uniqueness and nurturing their individual spirit.

She sure is special.  Our dynamic, fabulous, amazing Em.

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The Artist

Being a parent in the Upper Valley requires me to think outside the typical activities box. There are certainly several places to take my kids on a potentially daily, weekly, or monthly basis, but everyone knows about those places: Billings Farm, VINS, the Montshire Museum, the train exhibit at Quechee Gorge Museum. Those places are packed during school vacation and on the weekends, and are at times expensive to frequent. To truly take full advantage of parenthood in the Upper Valley, I have to use word-of-mouth, social media, read blogs, scour newspapers, and wander off the beaten track to find the hidden gems of children’s activities. One such place, the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, NH, is without question one of my new favorite places to take Jax.
I heard about CAOS (appropriately pronounced “chaos”), AVA’s open studio opportunity for families and children, offered on Saturdays, through a friend. I’ve lived here for three years and I had never even heard about it! For $5 I can bring Jax to the gallery and enjoy two hours of creative expression and play, with the studio’s array of materials at our disposal. It’s not often that I can spend five dollars for a morning of fun, so we happily visited AVA last Saturday.
When we arrived, I was blown away by how beautiful the space was.  It is a perfect blend of old and new, from the art to the building renovation itself.  We were warmly greeted at the door and Jax was shown to the studio where he was given an apron and shown to his very own child-sized easel.
I was so impressed with the way that he was treated; everyone spoke to him, not to me. I love that. They referred to him as an artist and supplied him with a palette with paint and a paintbrush.
It was the least patronizing, most empowering welcome of his short life. “Oh, Jax! What a wonderful name for an artist!” the director exclaimed when she met him. “Well, Jax, if you’re going to be an artist, you must wear an apron.” For a sometimes shy with strangers two-year-old, Jax was put instantly at ease and was comfortable speaking with the staff and asking for help. I was hugely impressed and instantly comfortable myself.
Sometimes the word “gallery” carries a bit of a stigma of stuffiness and seriousness.  I could easily see why visiting AVA frequently could turn Jax into a little art-lover, comfortable in museum settings, which would be thrilling for me.


We didn’t take full advantage of all the materials out that day: pastels, modeling clay, dress-up clothes, scrapbook and sewing materials, all accessible to the children in a bright, airy space. We focused on the paint and Jackson was able to make three paintings.
This one is hanging in his room, and he loves to look at that bright blue squiggle and say, “Look! I made a heart!” and then turn upside down to admire his talent.  I love building his sense of self-worth.


The staff spoke to him about color and showed him how to clean his brush. He was more serious and still than I have seen him in months. I think he felt proud and grown-up to be treated this way and to be trusted with these materials. In the end, he was as thrilled as I was with his creations. We left AVA happy and fulfilled, with the certainty that this was time and money well spent. We will without question be back as often as we can to explore the studio and take advantage of one of the most valuable hidden gems in the Upper Valley!
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Wild Thing

One of the real joys of toddlerhood is their dependence on routine and how much peace it brings them: knowing what to expect every day helps ease the bumpy road of growing independence.  Since Jax was very little, I liked to have a few weekly outings that I could count on to break up the monotony: first Mommy and Me yoga, then 4th Trimester Mommy group, then Friday walks with friends, the Montshire Museum, Music Together class, story time in Woodstock, now gymnastics…  Not only does it bring them peace, it brings me sanity as well.  Knowing that I am not the only person who will interact/entertain my child today is a way of getting by.  A little more method, a little less madness.
So since this spring, our Mondays have gone (usually) like this.  Get up, get our act together and get out the door, then go to the Base Lodge for pancakes and then head into Woodstock for story time at 10 a.m.  Before story time, meander down Main Street, ogle the many giant trucks that drive through since it’s the only road to ski country (lots of logging trucks), then pop into the Woodstock Pharmacy for an animal.  It was a weekly thing, and sometimes we wouldn’t make it there, and sometimes he’d pick something random instead (like a paintbrush?), but usually he chose an animal and then it would come home to us and our menagerie.
I looked forward to Mondays as much as Jax did (and still do) and I was always intrigued about which animal he would choose.  They have everything, from dinosaurs to moose, and sometimes he’d surprise me with something completely random, like a guinea pig (which he makes whine like a dog and hop like a bunny.  I can’t really correct him because I don’t know what a guinea pig does, either).  He definitely has favorites and when he makes me build his animals a house–a daily occurrence lately–there are a privileged few who get to live at the top.  He’s an elitist.


The tiger has always been his favorite and when I asked him randomly the other day what his favorite animal is he said tiger.  The zebra and tiger used to have to go to sleep with him at night, but the zebra did something to make Jax angry, and has thus fallen from grace to the bottom level of Animal House.  The tiger, baby elephant, Peter Rabbit, and dog that looks like Baxter are the top dogs right now (excuse the pun).
This blog is partly to keep me busy, partly to keep my family up-to-date on our children’s lives, but also part baby book in that it will keep minute details of who are children were and what they loved as they grow up.  I cannot forget how much Jax loves these animals and the sweetness of the first time he shared them with Em.  He has 18 now and I have a very good feeling there will be a lot more where these came from.
As his imagination grows and he begins to play pretend with more regularity, I know these animals will be a big part of our daily routine.  Today when he asked me to make them a house, he asked for a house for “his friends.”  If they keeping making him smile his silly cheesy smile, I’ll gladly continue this weekly tradition.
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