Why We Live Here

Eight summers have come and gone since we have lived in Vermont, and every year we discover something or somewhere new nearby that solidifies why we made the choice to raise our children here.  Maybe it’s becoming integrated into our really great elementary school, maybe it’s the delight of still eating JDubbs’s homemade maple syrup months later, or maybe it’s the thrill of stumbling upon someplace new–a running trail through the woods or a scenic path I never knew existed–that has us looking at each other triumphantly and affirming, That is why we live here.

Such is the case when, through the guidance of a good friend, we discovered an actual stairway to heaven.

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In this instance, heaven is a crystal clear swimming hole at the foot of a nearby waterfall that is crossed by a covered bridge.  Seriously.  I did not just spew a bunch of quintessential New England-y elements at you and blend them into one hyperbolic metaphor for somewhere that almost feels like Vermont personified.  Places like this really exist, when you live in a world that still has much to be discovered.

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Not only does it exist, but for some crazy reason, we had it all to ourselves!  Where are all the people, pushing and shoving and generally overrunning a perfect location such as this?  How could this place possibly be a sanctuary just for us?

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This is why we live here: clean air, clean water, and a little slice of heaven all to ourselves, hidden among any corner, just waiting for you to stumble over it and wonder how on earth you had never noticed it before.

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If you need us, we’ll be off collecting fallen leaves or meandering through a corn maze or doing something equally bucolic.  You can’t deny there are so many reasons why we live here.

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And we’re going to appreciate every single one.

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Being Brave

Some days require kids and parents alike to take a deep breath and put on a brave face, ready to take on a world full of changes or first steps in a new direction.  Days like the first day of school, big doctor’s appointments, and making new friends require an extra squeeze or hand hold, and can be difficult for everyone involved.  But some days only require bravery for Mom or Dad, as their little ones embark on new adventures courageously and enthusiastically and we’re the ones left needing our hands held.

For example, any day that requires taking three children near a body of water alone, even if the water is only knee-deep.  While the kids luxuriate in literally exploring new territory–territory that was below much deeper water earlier in the summer but thanks to sunny days is now basically a wading pool–Mom stands on the sidelines, reminding herself that such exploration is good for them, and that a giant sinkhole will not in fact open up beneath them and swallow them whole before her eyes.  On high alert, while letting the distance of their orbit increase beyond normal boundaries for the sake of autonomy, Moms and Dads sometimes just have to sit back and watch, and to some degree, be brave.

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In some ways, being a helicopter parent is so much easier; your adrenaline isn’t nearly as high due to the fact that you are confident you are secretly a ninja and could use your body as a human shield should crisis arise.  Although it is mentally exhausting to be on duty 24 hours a day, it may be less frightening than watching your kids walk across the river for the first time to THE OTHER SIDE, MOM!  LOOK!  WE DID IT!  But if you take that route, how will they ever know the thrill of adventure, the pride in accomplishing something they were literally never capable of doing before?

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While being a mom is so much about keeping kids healthy and safe, there’s also something even healthier about teaching them how to make safe choices and to let them take a risk.  Of course, calculated risks with safeguards to ensure their safety, but the kids don’t need to know that.  They won’t feel quite so accomplished if we point out that their accomplishment wasn’t that big a deal in the first place.  To them, that wading pool is a rushing river, and to courageously reach the other side, where only Daddy’s skipping rocks could reach before, is an enormous achievement, and should be applauded as such.

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Sometimes being a mom means being a cheerleader on the sidelines of an ever-increasingly scary world, but we all have to be brave sometimes.

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Raising kids who savor life and all its challenges is worth it the stress, but it’s not always easy for us to be the brave ones!  Baby steps aren’t just for little ones–sometimes Mommy and Daddy need them, too.

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Exploring The Freedom Trial

JDubbs and I grew up (mostly) in suburbs just outside of Boston (JDubbs was born and raised in Sacramento until he was 10), and it is my inestimable pleasure to expose my kids to the history, art, excitement and glory that is the city of Boston, especially in the summer.  When Jax began to show an interest in the American Revolution last winter, specifically Paul Revere, JDubbs and I knew a trip to Boston and the Freedom Trail (that links the many important historical sites throughout the city) would be on our list of things to do this year.  A warm summer day, our family of five, a stroller, some bottles of water, and we were off for a historical adventure!

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The Old North Church and its surrounding plaques, memorials, and statues to Paul Revere and the other significant Patriots of his day was just the right combination of history and fun.  Jax was interested to see things he had only read about in books come to life, and the girls, JDubbs and I learned a thing or two as well.

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Then we followed the Freedom Trail out of the North End, and crossed over to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which was built after JDubbs and I had moved away from Boston.  It was something new for everyone and what’s not to love about green spaces, a carousel, splash pads and fountains amidst the buildings and bustle of the city?  It was the perfect kind of fun for my country mice!

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This fountain was everyone’s favorite, right outside Faneuil Hall, with the water coming up sporadically in various patterns, reaching enormous heights!  Jax had absolutely no fear and charged straight in.  Little H stayed on the outskirts and loved every second, although she didn’t actually get wet.  Em decided to be brave and went in after a bit of hesitation, only to get a jet of water in the eye and run out screaming!  She spent the next ten minutes shivering and crying until JDubbs bought her a tapestry from the farmer’s market to dry her off.  So, mixed reviews from the kids, but I loved it!

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From there we picked up the Freedom Trail again and walked through the Boston Common to the Public Garden, with a stop in Granary Burial Ground to see the graves of Paul Revere and John Hancock.  We stopped to say hello to the ducks from Make Way For Ducklings and some of their ancestors, but the line was too long for a tour on the Swan Boats.  Instead we got ice cream and watched the people and cars go by from a quiet spot on the lawn.

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After that, we took the T back to our car (the kids’ favorite part!) and headed to Auntie Amanda’s and Uncle Chris’s house for a sleepover before Legoland the next day.  This was one of my favorite memories from the summer, and we have had many extraordinary adventures!  I love exposing my little country mice to all this magnificent city has to offer!

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When The Sun Goes Down

Labor Day has come and gone and I can feel the days getting shorter, the mornings more tense as we all adjust to earlier wake-up calls, fewer snuggles and hurried breakfasts.  I already miss the lazier pace of summer, when the time after dinner wasn’t just a precursor to bed, but a wonderful and tantalizing window of opportunity for the day to continue.  I miss evenings at the beach in Maine, when the big kids and I could follow in Em’s footsteps from the year before and leap from rock to rock toward the end of the jetty at Drakes Island.

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It’s not often Em gets to show big brother the way, but that evening it was especially pleasant.

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Back on land, JDubbs and Little H were enjoying the summer evening, too.  I think he even found a bit of buried treasure!

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After we were reunited and as the tide continued to go out, tide pools emerged for some last minute nautical exploration.  Little H finally warmed up to them and all three kids happily searched for some new sea friends, something we hadn’t had much luck with all week.

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On the contrary, I–being the resident photographer–had had more than enough luck all week, and as the sun went down found more and more opportunities to capture life and light, two of my very favorite subjects.

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The kids kept moving along with the sun, and the challenges of shadows and reflections kept me thoroughly entranced until we all had to admit it was finally time to head home.

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While I’m missing the pace of the end of summer days, the adventures of this school year are already making themselves known!  As determined as I am to appreciate all ages and stages, I will always have a extra-fond place in my heart for summer nights.

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Family Photos Maine Montage

In an effort to move these Maine blog posts along–which I can’t skip because the memories and photos are precious to me but I’ll admit, there have been quite a few of them!–I’m going to combine three glorious days of Maine extended family fun into one gigantic family photo montage.  We loved sharing our vacation with our family, as did our kids, and were especially glad to celebrate our nephew’s Tommy’s birthday and to have everyone experience these locations that are so dear to our heart.  Therefore, enjoy!  Montage time!

Old Orchard Beach

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Kennebunkport, York, Wells

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Drakes Island at Sunset

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Ogunquit

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There are so many things I can say about how blessed we are to get to experience this precious life in such a glorious way, but I think the photos did it better than I ever could.  Much love to our family and thankful for these wonderful memories with them!

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High Tea

Jax started 1st grade today, and although I am brimming with pride over his accomplishment and happiness, this post isn’t about him.  It’s about my lovely little Em, and how I cherished today, our last full day at home together.

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All five of us dropped Brother off at school this morning, like we will for Em on Wednesday on her first day.  Afterward the girls and I grabbed Em’s best friend Viv and, with Little H in tow, headed to a little slice of heaven known as The Song Garden for a celebration in everything it means to be home with this girl: happiness, beautiful treasures, pretty dresses, and making small moments very grand just with her presence.  Little H is on board with this type of extravagance (with her sneakers on just to keep it real), and we are slowly encouraging Viv to join us in this uber-girly joie de vivre.  The girls were really excited, and that includes me!

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The experience began with a walk through the flower garden to the Tea House itself, where a full tea party awaits any visitor, but particularly a party of four ladies with fancy on their minds.

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The amazing part is, this place is just set up like this at all times, waiting for people to come and make themselves a cup of tea.  There are gorgeous, romantic, nostalgic trinkets everywhere, some for ambiance and some for sale, and you pay for the lemonade, tea, coffee, biscotti, or baked goods you consume in a cash box using the honor system.  If this isn’t a morning well spent, I can’t think of any better.

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With a cozy bed laden with a well-loved quilt and a child-sized table set up for a tea party with the porcelain dolls seated there, I really needn’t do anything to entertain the girls, and happily sat back to drink my pink lemonade, pinkie in the air.   All I needed was a copy of Anne of Green Gables and I pretty much would have been in pure heaven.

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Later, while Little H napped and after Viv had gone home, Em and I finished a chapter book we had been reading, snuggling on the couch, and made lunch together, which we ate–in the mode of the day–on fancy placemats while we chatted about school.  She is so excited and ready to go, a bit hesitant about being brave and sharing the sparkle that is her, but I know she will find good friends with whom to share all this wonderfulness (and Viv right in the classroom next door).

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She’s going places! I’m just grateful I’ve been able to be present enough and with her for so long to appreciate the amazing little person she is.  Now time for life with just Little H…what will that be like?

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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.

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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.

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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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