This Little Family Went To Market

One of the best things about living in the Upper Valley in the summertime?  Farmers Markets.  If I wanted, I could go to one almost every day.  And if I did, I know a couple of cuties who would be more than happy to accompany me!

My kids love farmer markets.  They love the sights, the smells, the sounds, and don’t forget the food and the entertainment!

On this day we were at the Hanover Farmers Market, and between the cookies, cheese and pesto–mmmmm, pesto….—my kids had enough energy to gallop across the Dartmouth Green, dance to the live music, and of course, hula hoop.

Did I say hula hoop?  Indeed I did.  There is a vendor there who not only makes handcrafted hula hoops, she also tosses a few on the lawn for the kids to enjoy.  Brilliant marketing on her part–I’m not sure how I made it home without one.

One day we will probably move closer to Civilization, maybe even venture over the Vermont line, but if we do, I will be sure that we find another area like this that gives my family the opportunity to support and celebrate the community and local businesses, eat fresh produce, play outside, and just have fun, all in the name of healthy living.  If there is anything better than a farmers market in the summertime, I’m not sure I’ve found it.

My kids can’t think of anything either.

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Bubble Bribery

Jax is such an obedient little guy–we can train him to do just about anything with the right bribe–and potty training was no exception.  He is so praise- and reward-driven that with the promise of food, presents, or prizes, he happily toes the line.  So when he started waking up with dry overnight diapers, we figured with a few dollar store prizes we could get him to quit wearing them altogether, and we were right!  After a quick trip to the store for a reward of his choice, both kids came home with a new bubble toy, just in time for that glorious warm spell last month.

I’m not sure that Em has figured out yet that bubbles taste yucky.

No matter what I said, she still kept thinking she needed to put the wand in her mouth rather than blow through it.  But after a little trial and error, she figured it out.

Big brother, who is nearly three and a half, has the whole bubble-blowing thing down pat.  But I swear, the fun never wears off, even after hours of practice!

The simple pleasures of every day with my kids.

It was one of those days that is ingrained in my mind with mental pictures as well as these photos.  I will never forget how lucky I am to be home with them, and to spend my days this way.

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Simply Busy

I like sharing these simple activities that are good to keep the kids busy, but are teaching them a little something, too.  I’m going to tag and title them “Simply Busy” so that you can find them when you need an activity to help fill that twenty minute gap that can be so easy–or absolutely maddening–to do.  You can check out all my tags in the bottom of my right sidebar.  I’m grateful I found this one here, at The Snail’s Trail!

So what are we doing today that is so simple, and yet, so fun?  Playing with marbles, using our fine motor skills, and cooperating.  Man, that’s a tall order for a simple task!

Filling a plastic jar with marbles, using a spoon and without.

At first, the kids filled their bottles using just their hands.  Em’s bottle had a larger mouth because she was getting frustrated, but even so they both found this activity rather simple.  I quickly figured I’d have to challenge them a bit more, otherwise they’d lose interest.

Just add soup spoons and it got a lot more interesting!

Getting the marbles out of the bowl was challenging.  Keeping them on the spoon was challenging.  Getting them in the bottleneck without cheating was super challenging!  Not so frustrating that they gave up, but just enough to keep them on task.  Jax was frustrated, but determined.  Em was pretty much incapable but wanted so much to be doing what her big brother was that she kept at it.  Peer pressure is going to be nothing on this kid–she’s been keeping up with him since she could sit.

And when this part finally lost its luster, I gave them a plastic egg carton (I’m sure cardboard would have done just as well, but the plastic made I nice sound), and they tried to separate them equally into all twelve egg spots.  Or they’d try to race and see how fast they could put them in, or just shake the carton like a maraca.  It made me excited for when they’ll be old enough to play Mancala!  At this point I stopped directing them and let them just play, and before I knew it, it was time to call them for dinner.  Aren’t the simple pastimes sometimes the best?

Oh, and remember, even two-year-olds stick random objects in their mouths now and then.  Don’t forget to keep an eye on them!

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Searching For Signs Of Spring

On March 20th, the first official day of spring, the sun was shining and the birds were indeed chirping.  Mother Nature was without question celebrating the end of winter, and so were we!  My mom was on her way up for a three day visit, and we had a morning to kill with the woods in our yard and on our street beckoning for us to come and play.

I am a humanities girl at heart, but even I enjoy this kind of delve into the scientific realm.  The art of observation is not lost on me, and it does more than thrill young children.  The mere acts of looking, listening, touching,  and smelling, which are so mundane as to be unconscious to us adults, are actually beyond stimulating and exciting to kids, and my three- and one-year-old bought in on this springtime expedition hook, line, and sinker.

First, we sat on our steps and observed.  What did we hear?  What did we see?  Jax was quick to make things up, but once he realized this activity was not just a game but actually served a purpose, he quickly changed his attitude and got with the program.  Birds, clouds, animals, grass–everything became very interesting, and the kids became very present in their surroundings.

Quite literally!

The hunt began for things to touch, see, hear, and smell.  We checked in on the bird’s nest that has rested secure in a fallen tree since Hurricane Irene last fall.

Jax loves to wonder: where did the birds go?  Were there eggs in there when the tree fell?  Would they come back?  I sincerely hope some animal moves in their someday–it would be the highlight of the year!

Em was definitely the more adventurous of the two–maybe because this is the first spring she can really understand, and maybe because Jax has the jaded superiority of a three-year-old.  “Those are pine needles.  That’s moss.  That’s tree bark.”  Whereas Em found the entire process miraculous.

Jax was more interested in what kind of animal probably lives in here:

He opted for skunk, so now we call it The Skunk House.  In my limited, based-on-Animal-Planet kind of knowledge, I saw no evidence of any type of animal habitating there, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be soon!

The other main attraction of our Signs of Spring walk, as it is every day, is the waterfall that spouts from the culvert across the street.

Notice the ice still lingering around it?  We went down there a few days later and it was all gone.  Nothing explains the wonders of nature to kids better than when something just “disappears,” even if it is ice.  The water cycle, right before our eyes.

After we traipsed about for a bit, the lure of the unpaved road and its muddy splendor was too strong to resist.

So sticky and gooey that his boot got sucked clean off!  Just stuck his dirty sock in my pocket and carried on.  That’s how we roll in Vermont during Mud Season.

Jackson’s favorite sign of spring was “squirrels chattering.”  At first it was “seeing a rainbow,” but when I reminded him that we had not, in fact, seen a rainbow, he chose something a bit more accurate.  We did a similar walk a few days later, this time armed with good friends, two magnifying glasses, a bug catcher, and a kiddie camera–it was just as big a hit as it was before!  I think taking the time to observe and enjoy nature and our surroundings is going to be a recurring scene this year!  We’ll see if any remarkable discoveries come our way!

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Making Lemonade

Recently we had one of those good idea/bad experiences that rubbed me the wrong way, but the kids had fun, so in the end I wasn’t sure how I felt about it kind of days.  Since I try not to use this blog to criticize others or complain–unless I’m using pseudonyms–and since if you live locally you may very well know exactly where I was and to whom I may be referring, I will just follow Thumper’s advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”  So where we were and when will remain a mystery, and why I was aggravated will be also, and those grouchy people will miss out on some possibly great PR by me not spreading the good word, as I love to do.

Anyway, sometime ago, there was something held at a mystery local school which allowed young kids to come and beat the winter blues by riding their tricycles indoors.  In theory, it was awesome.  A great idea.  Loved it.

And my kids really did love it.  My aggravation was not shared by them–they thought it totally rocked.

We had to leave after about 45 minutes because of circumstances inflicted on us by said annoying grouchy people, but overall we had a great time as a family and I think that’s what really counts anyway.

We like to make lemonade out of lemons in these parts, and all we need to have fun is each other.  Enough said.

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Counting On Rainbows

This is a good counting, sorting, and color-identifying activity; Emmy was content to identify the colors and sort through pom poms, but Jax loved it all.

First I took 10 different color pieces of paper and wrote the numbers 1-10 on them.  Rainbow order is fun, but not necessary.

I found brown eventually.

Then Jax stacked bristle blocks on the paper.  Each paper had the corresponding number of bristle blocks.  One on 1, two on 2, three on 3, etc.

After that we sorted through my stash of pom poms and  he put the correct colors on each paper.  This is when Em danced around happily yelling, “Green!’ and “pink!”  Surprisingly, she’s usually right.  When did she grow up so fast?

Too fast for a picture, anyway.

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An Adventure

We had a final slice of summer here the other day; temperatures were in the sixties and the kids were itching to be outside.  Even as the last hours of daylight waned, I knew I would regret not sucking up every ounce of warmth Vermont offered me before the icy chill of winter forces us inside for the next six months.  So I asked the kids if they wanted to go on an adventure and they were shoving each other to get out the door first.

Adventures in the backwoods of Vermont don’t require a lot.  Just room to roam and a peppy enthusiasm for even the slightest discoveries.  Jax made few of those since he decided that a regulation-sized football was a must-have for all proper adventures, as was a winter hat on a balmy day.  Oh, and rain boots.

Quite the dapper explorer.

Em discovered not only a mossy stump to sit on, but also a pine cone.  And because she must do all things her brother does, she insisted on wearing her hood up as a hat.  Plus Binkie and white shoes after Labor Day.  The rebel.

It wasn’t long before I was begging Jax to join his sister for what now looks like a GAP ad, but really was being considered for a potential Christmas card.  If only he’d put down the football, and she’d spit out the Binkie, maybe I’d have something there.  Here’s what I got for asking:

What a look!

Whatever, kid.  Go sit down next to your sister and you can keep your stupid football.  Just be nice.

Not so much.  Click to get a closer look at their disregard for my desires.

This adventure had hit a bit of a snag, so I suggested we go look for some treasure.  Why not go check out the crab apple tree on our road, and see if any of them were still left?


Jax wanted to go investigate the crab apples to see if they were “nice and cozy.”  At this point in our adventure, he went from scowling little scoundrel to making me laugh nonstop.  He has started saying the darnedest things, as kids often do, and I found myself wishing that I had a tape recorder rather than a camera.  I just couldn’t get enough of his stream of commentary about every little thing.  He was so enthusiastic about going to get a crabapple and bringing it inside to put on our nature plate–his idea, not mine.  Good thing one of us is observant.  Then, once we all had one, the kids couldn’t get over the fact that they each not only had an apple, but they each had a pocket to put their apple IN.  How did I not know that pockets are they key to happiness?

Jackpot again.

Oh, and reflectors.  If you don’t live in a state where it snows so much that you have to tell your plow guy where your yard begins and your driveway ends, neither your nor your one neighbor may have reflectors lining your driveway.  But if you have young kids, you may want to invest in them, because believe me.  You’re missing out.

Spontaneous reflector kissing.  I can’t make this stuff up.

Don’t forget a close second, Reflector Stinkeye.

After I finally disengaged the children from their reflective lovers, Jax made the sweetest request I have heard yet.  “Mama, let’s make a hopscotch!” Oh, be still my heart!  Hopscotch!  I couldn’t draw the lines and numbers fast enough.

“Mama, no, not five.  Make ten.  Then it will be AWESOME!”

Yup.  Officially big.

He played hopscotch in those stupid rain boots for what felt like hours, lunging and hopping with all his might.

Em was content to search for the perfect rock and run around saying, “hop hop hop hop hop hop” while kind of skipping on her tippy-toes.  By this time it was too dark to photograph them in motion, so I just sat on the grass and watched them frolic.  I could not have been happier.

On the way back up the hill, content and eager to put our crabapples on our nature plate, (Just the apples, Mama.  Not the crabs), Jax had this random story to tell me.

Jax:  One day when we were dancing in the living room, a bug came in.

Me:  He came in because of the dancing?

Jax:  Yes.

Me:  What did he do?

Jax:  Well, he couldn’t talk.

Me:  Obviously.

Jax:  He just spidered and spidered.

Then he did appropriate spidery hand motions to illustrate the bug’s spidery moves.  Dance moves?  Who knows?  I can’t get enough of his tales.

We hustled inside, placed the crabapple on our plate of fall items, like acorns, leaves, rocks, and now, a crabapple, that adorns our kitchen table.

Em’s was lost, but Jax was so proud of the fact that his crabapple survived a zillion rounds of hopscotch.  I told him he was a rockstar.  He told me I was a hopscar.  I hope that’s just as cool.

Adventure over.  Time for pancakes for dinner.  Heck yeah.

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