A Day at the Local Swimming Hole

Nothing Like a Swim

Swimming at DAR in Goshen

Swimming at the DAR in Goshen, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Summer for us means a few trips away, a week of camp for each boy and many days of waking up in the morning and figuring out the day based on an algorithm of weather, health and how much energy the boys need to expend versus what I have to balance with work commitments.

It is hard to explain but easy to do. The upshot is swimming. All weather being fair, we calculate the amount of time we have for the project and then I pack snacks.

Swimming at Plainfield Pond

Cooling off at Plainfield Pond in Plainfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

When I have just a little time, we go directly to Northampton’s Musante Beach (Leeds, MA). For just a few dollars – or about $60 for the summer (depending on if you are a town resident or not), we can enjoy a life-guarded beach portion of the Mill River. The water is cold and clear. The current is unnoticeable unless like me you notice that it keeps the water nice and clean.

For all you parents, yes to bathrooms and life jackets, if you prefer them. Also, yes to the occasional ice cream truck- arm yourself with a few singles…if your kids are little you will enjoy how close the parking is to the spot where your kids will get to start playing.

Given a few more hours, we are likely to head to Puffers Pond near UMASS in Amherst. The kids love this oversized pond. Its water is perfect swimming temperature- chilled only when you get in and out. There is not that much sand to play with at the pond but it is nicely packed in for kids who like to drive their trucks around.

Sand Castles at DAR

Building sand castles at DAR in Goshen, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

For parents of swimmers, there is no lifeguard on duty- or as I tell my kids, mama is on duty.  The upside side- yes to water wings, inflatable rings, rafts, pool noodles! You can even put in a canoe or kayak. Head’s up to parents: it can be a bit of a hike from roadside parking to parked on your blanket & there are port-a-pottties only.  It is all worth it, to find yourself in a sweet New England swimming hole.

Other places we land for a swim are the DAR (Goshen, MA) and our beloved Hampshire YMCA (Northampton, MA) on off weather days.

What about you? Where do you go when you want to jump in a lake?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

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A Day at the Eric Carle Museum

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

The highlight of our trip was the Art Studio. Henry was pleased to sit down and make a collage with tissue paper and liquid starch. Just like "the real Eric Carle."(Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Our most pristine days have been reserved for traditional summer activities like turning on the sprinkler, slurping popsicles and tossing food on the grill. It takes a heat wave to tear us away from simplest of summer pleasures like swimming with friends and running through the splash pad. We are relishing every moment of these lazy summer days. Three boys, three school schedules and a handful of careers between two parents, summer’s slower pace has been a gift.  The recent heat wave slowed us down a bit too much, though. Once again we looked for air-conditioned refuges to perk us up.

We made a long awaited trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. I’ve been waiting because I want my boys to be able to have the attention span and appreciation for some time in the galleries. I was so happy to see they offered a little activity to help the youngest kids give the art the attention it deserves and not just buzz through at breakneck speed. Before you enter, pick up a clipboard, pencil and gallery treasure hunt map. Kids can find animals A-Z in the West Gallery, which houses Eric Carle’s work. My boys most enjoyed seeing the glass cased presentation of the materials used to make some of their favorite illustrations – paint, tissue paper, scissors and brushes.

Theo exploring light, color and magnification in the studio. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The central and east galley exhibits will change but we had fun exploring the art of Barbara McClintock, especially the pieces that showed her process, changes and final presentations. We are now sure to check The Heartaches of French Cat.  Tomi Ungerer was an artist whose work I have seen without being very familiar with his own story. Most of this went right past my boys’ little brains but we did see the familiar Flat Stanley and Moon Man.

The highlight of this trip for younger kids will most likely be the Art Studio. The daily project will change. Henry was pleased to sit down and make a collage. A few manipulatives and magnet boards with different materials, colors and textures engage kids of all ages. My kids would play with magnets on the frig all day – we even installed a magnet board in their room because I need to occasionally open the frig door and disturb the artwork. There was a moment I thought they were just going to move in to the Art Studio and never leave – not a bad plan considering the air-conditioning was included! Instead, I decided that I would make them some magnets with new colors and shapes with my fabric scraps at home.

A few manipulatives and magnet boards with different materials, colors and textures engage kids of all ages. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art hosts special events year round. During the summer it is open Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm,  Saturday 10am-5 and Sunday 12-5pm. The museum is only open Mondays during school vacation periods, so check the website for details. We used our trusty Forbes Library Museum pass to get in. Ordinary admission $9 per adult and $6 per child. If you have visited before, what did your family enjoy the most? If you haven’t taken this trip yet, I hope you do!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Tuesday Market

The Tuesday Market

Northampton’s Tuesday Market is one of the many things we love about living walking distance from downtown. However, it’s a treat we have to wait for Spring and Summer to bring to us.  In season, I walk over with the kids nearly every week for music, shaved iced in exciting flavors and for artisan cheese. Yes, that’s right local, artisan cheese – best dairy ever, for those that partake, of course (It’s true that if your kids like cheese samples, you will have to watch them closely… I’m just saying.).

Farmers’ Market Season is kicking off, which means pretty soon there will be roadside tomatoes – real drive-thru food.  Pull in, grab a tomato or two, some corn and stick some cash in the box. My kids love this errand – it is the speediest, get them back to playing and swimming soonest, grocery shopping ever.

Northampton’s Tuesday Market we love for the opposite reason.  It is our town square, suddenly come alive with bands, book readings, and occasional side shows of pedestrians turned dancers. It is the most leisurely, communal, let’s stay a while because this is as good as home grocery shop of the summer. The market’s slogan tag line is Live Music, Live Farmers. My kids and I enjoy chatting to the real live farmers about the plants, the veggies, the fruit, the syrup, the cheese and the flowers. Everything tastes good. Everything smells good.

Lux Deluxe was the band this week. Their lead singer had the good sense to admire Theo’s vintage Star Wars t-shirt – over the microphone – making Theo puff up his five year old chest with Star Wars pride.

When I say the Tuesday Market is child friendly, it is an understatement. Every week Tuesday Market staffs its tent with interns who help kids with craft projects so you can shop. This market is not on a street, it’s on the sidewalk between Thorne’s and the garage, set well back from the street. If you are my kids, you will spend time with a rock that draws as well as sidewalk chalk. I brought the sidewalk chalk so you have more than one color (I promise, next time I will remember kids!).

Speaking of others, the market sponsors a program called FoodStampsX2. The market accepts WIC coupons and doubles the value of up to $10 worth food stamps, which are now known as SNAP benefits. Donations to this program are accepted weekly at the market. This week those who donated were treated to a delicious honey miso noodle salad. SNAP benefit customers can head to the friendly Tuesday Market tent  & use the debit swipe machine  - the same one you can use if you forget cash  - to get farmers’ market tokens that can be accepted by every farm for delicious, local, real, live food.

The market is open every Tuesday of the season from 1:30-6:30. We think it is the best thing since sliced bread – and yes, you can get bread from El Jardin there too.  I think you should sign up for the market’s newsletter so you can preview next week’s delicious treats! Go here to find out more, www.northamptontuesdaymarket.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary

Searching for Spring

We picked up a map and headed straight to the vernal pool. It’s wet enough right now to be connected to the pond. It is full of amphibians and hatched eggs right now. Frogs big enough to be seen a few yards away are impressive to anyone, especially to small boys. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Spring has taken its sweet time coming our way. I grew up in a city, and now I live in a smaller one with my family. As a child my mother would take us out of New York around the change of seasons. She said she missed the small seasonal transitions you can only notice in the country and the woods: leaf buds unfurling in springtime, and the first tint of color on autumn’s leaves.

It has been damp this spring without much sun in these parts. Our snow covered mountains are gone. Occasionally, the minivan is warm in the morning, but recently we went searching for more encouraging signs of spring at Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. It’s really just a hop down the road from us, but it was our first trip.

There are several different trails to follow at the sanctuary — short ones for small people, or people who have to be at work later that day — and longer ones for weekend mornings and sturdier legs. If you go into the Visitor’s Center you will get some good advice, but first take a nice long look at the white board detailing all the recent animal sitings (which includes deer ticks right now, so long pants tucked into rain boots are a good plan.) We picked up a map and headed straight to the vernal pool. It’s wet enough right now to be connected to the pond. It is full of amphibians and hatched eggs right now. Frogs big enough to be seen a few yards away are impressive to anyone, especially to small boys.

We didn’t have my oldest son Isaac with us on this trip but we are going to go back and try the Quest. It was perhaps a little too challenging for the younger kids on their own to accomplish this wildlife sanctuary treasure hunt, and I truly think they will enjoy it more if they are working together without much help from an adult. Older elementary school kids would be able to do it independently.

As for spring, we did find it: leaves unfurling, shiny green moss, birds squawking, and buds blooming. We feel a little more settled that New England’s snowy winter is behind us. We can crawl out into nature again. I will be celebrating by sending the boys out to play in the neighborhood while I pack away winter boots, hats, gloves and scarves for next year.

If you decide to go in search of spring this weekend, you should know there is a small fee to enter the sanctuary, but it is free to Mass Audubon members. That reminds me to tell you that right now annual family memberships are on sale for $29.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Forbes Library Children’s Department

Back and Better Than Ever: Children’s Department at the Forbes Library

The Forbes Library new Children's Room reopens after a brief closure to install new carpet, a new circulation desk, new furniture and new technology! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Make no mistake that spring is coming, but until it stays over 55 for four days in a row, my body will continue to believe it is winter. We all have our winter routines. Just recently one of ours was disrupted by the temporary closure of the Forbes Library Children’s Room in Northampton, MA.

The library is one of our regular haunts. In winter we crave routine destinations that are close to home. We want the coziness of home without having to look at the same four walls. For this we walk over to the Forbes Library, where they have been raising funds to refurbished their children’s library for as long as we have lived here. This past weekend we made our first pilgrimage over since they layered on the fresh paint.

When we arrived, the kids made a dive for the toddler toys they miss at home, while I look for books. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

When we arrived, the kids made a dive for the toddler toys they miss at home, while I look for books. Then they skipped over to the drop-in art table while I looked for more books. Henry will color for hours and Theo loves the puzzles and blocks. My oldest son, Isaac, disappeared into the youth lounge, with its new comfortable chairs and an entire wall of magnetic poetry. We will reel him out when it is time to leave. — The kids color and then take a trip to see the fish. They make conversation, as is their way, wherever we go. I ask for early reader help from one of the librarians – this mother’s quest to keep her boys reading is going well so far. Our stack of books piles high and lands heavily in our blue flowered library bag.

The kids color and then take a trip to see the fish. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

As we pack it up for today, Isaac checks the events calendar for things involving Lego’s, chess games, a book group for kids his age. As we exit the library, the air outside is cool, but the sun is bright. It is the in-between time. My boys will play in the mud this afternoon but as the sun sets, it will be hot baths and settling in with books in their pajamas while my husband and I toss dinner together. Routines are pleasant. They give us room to adventure and room to relax.

Thanks to our library, we are reading Flat Stanley, Ginger Pye and Harry Potter. What are you reading at your house these days?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

The Northampton Parents Center: A Welcoming Oasis For Families with PreK Kids

An Almost Farewell Ode to the Northampton Parents Center

Theo, my youngest child, turns five in a just two months. The fall will mark the beginning of his school career as I send him off to kindergarten each day. No longer will I have long stretches of morning or afternoon to fill with a small person. While at times I cannot wait for our new reality to begin, I’m going to allow myself a moment of nostalgia here with you. Having a child under 5 has been part of my identity for nearly 12 years. When my oldest son Isaac turned 5, I had a new baby. When Henry turned 5, I had a three year old. Now this smallest one is growing out of library story times and play gyms. We went to the Hampshire Regional YMCA last week to enjoy the under 5 open playtime and Theo was checked at the door. He is still eligible, but he is towering over the other kids. Of course, they let us in, but I was surprised at my reaction. I didn’t realize how big he looks to everyone else. He is still my littlest one.

Since Theo has been in afternoon preschool this year, we discovered the Northampton Parents Center, three large rooms located in the basement of Edwards Church.  Sometimes we go multiple times in a week — other times we are absent for days or weeks at time. But the Northampton Parents Center is always there for us. Theo is aging out of it quickly. I’m perpetually asking him to watch out for littler children — and he does quite nicely, but I see how tall and big he looks. He is craving the company of other kids these days more and more.

In the winter time, I feel like hibernating. This month has brought snow upon snow, parking bans, school delays and cancellations. The Parents Center stays open as much as possible. Theo enjoys the riding toys the most  — they are all set up in the church basement to go around the loop with gym mats and pop-up tents in the middle of this preschoolers’ roundabout. He loves having a place to go move his body — to jump and shout.

The second room is more subdued for when we are in a laid back frame of mind.  The room is set up with a rice table, homemade playdough brought in by parents, puppet theater, and wooden train track. Mostly, it is full of kids and their caregivers. I can take my knitting, drink some tea, chat with moms, dads, grandparents (all of us this winter overwhelmed by the snow removal), shaking our heads at how much it does take to wear these kids out.

Swansea Benham Bleicher, the coordinator of the Northampton Parents Center, manages to learn the names of all these kids who drop in and out, some hardly pausing to draw breath. She is welcoming to all families and takes time to get to know everyone. There is coffee, tea, and snacks for kids and grown-ups. She runs a brief circle time at the end of every playtime. The kids shout out for their favorite songs. Theo loves the Go Bananas song. Thursdays includes a music class — it can be busy, but if your kid loves to sing or dance, it’s worth it.

Both room have baby safe zones, so if your little one needs to get down and crawl, their are spots set up for them to explore where they will be safe from trike driving preschoolers.

I can hardly believe Theo is about to age out! I can’t wait to go back with friends and their small ones just to visit. The unstructured playtime gives kids the perfect amount of freedom to explore and play while parents connect, warm up and forget about being stuck in the house for a while.

The best way to find out more about the Northampton Parents Center is to visit.  Located at 297 Main St. (lower level), the Parents Center is open Monday-Thursday from 9:30-11:30am, whenever Northampton public schools are in session. Kids 0-4 with their caregivers are invited. I know you will get a warm welcome.

This Saturday, February 12th, 2011 from 4-7pm, visit the Northampton Parents Center for a free potluck dinner and family fun night!  Bring a dish to share, and prepare for an eventful evening!  NPC music teacher Felicia Sloin will perform at 5:30pm.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Bowling Alley

We Went Bowling!

Wow. My kids have been home from school way too much of this winter. It’s wearing me out!  When my three boys can go outside to play, snow days can be sweet. They play. I bake. We play board games. They beat me at Mario Cart again. But ice storms and below zero temps are really not that fun.

To shake off our mid-winter blues, my mom and I took the boys to Spare Time in Northampton. We hadn’t tried a bowling adventure for the whole family before now. The older boys have been to bowling birthday parties, and Isaac even joined an after-school bowling club. My youngest son Henry was a preschooler then, and when we picked Isaac up around 5pm, Henry referred to the bowling alley as “Pretend Wii Bowling.”

Mmm, not quite. It was time to put Wii bowling in its place. Spare Time is a very kid friendly bowling alley in Northampton. We were a big crowd — eight in total — on two lanes, and there are plenty of specials and deals to make it more affordable. We rented shoes and bowled two games. The staff put up the side bumpers on the lane for the kids. They also brought my youngest son Theo a little bowling ramp. He could hoist his 6lb ball up to the top of the ramp, line up his shot & roll it down the ramp. I gotta say, he was really pretty good. My 6yo son Henry used the ramp at times too, and at other times bowled it properly.

It was bitter cold. We spent two hours moving around, jumping, shouting, cheering and clapping. And everyone around us was doing the same.  They were being the perfectly loud and bouncy for the bowling alley. It was perfection on a cold winter’s day. Did we just find our winter sport?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

 

A Day at the Boston Museum of Science

Stir Crazy at the Holidays

Four year old Theo listening closely to bird calls in The Birds World exhibit at the Boston Science Museum. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

For the first few days of school vacation, everyone just sacks out. The boys head to their own little corners to enjoy the break in routine. We celebrated the Christmas holiday with dear family, and the boys were showered with new Lego kits, Playmobil, books and projects… then cabin fever set in and we were forced take control of the situation.  After the winter storm and winds we decided to whisked them away to the Museum of Science in Boston, MA.

Our three boys not only love math and science, but love talking about how much they love math and science.  While at the Museum of Science we took them to the amazing and loud Electricity Show (you should have seen how my 6yo son Henry handled it despite anxiety and sensory processing disorder).  We played with soapy Moebius bands in the Mathematica exhibit. And we played Laser Foosball in the LaserLab exhibit (a much preferred quieter version to a traditional Foosball table).

All the effort getting into Boston from Western MA paid off… they loved the museum! The current special exhibit featured K’nex and offered hands-on interaction. We loved the working amusement park rides in the exhibit, and the boys were able to contribute their own structures to the expanding K’nex city. If your kids are bananas for K’nex, that exhibit moves on in the middle of January, so hurry!

Here’s what you need to know:

Henry and Theo on the Apollo Command Module Replica. Life in zero gravity! (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

I will give you tips based on what I did and will do next time.  First, we saved some money and hassle by not trying to park at the museum and decised to take the T instead. We drove to the Alewife Station in Cambridge, MA, less than one hour from downtown Boston, and kids ride the T for free — it is possible that taking the red line to the green line was the highlight of the trip for the littlest ones. I’m a New Yorker, so the T is not my native tongue, but it is easy enough to navigate.  Your green line stop is Science Park.

You will need food. Pack snacks; at $5.00 a slice for pizza, you will be happy that you carried an extra bag. If you go in poor weather, use the coat check. Lighten your load so you can have the most fun playing. There is a small section of lockers — you could stash your snack bag in there. We are stroller-less these days. We used to stick heavy bags in the stroller, but no one sits in one any more… the lockers were a great find.

If you have a membership at the Springfield Museums, you can use it at the Museum of Science and the Boston Children’s Museum. If you don’t have a Springfield Museums membership, consider getting one because it is more affordable than admission if you have a family of 4 — and you can use the reciprocating membership at participating science museums nationwide.

To round it out, we spent our whole day playing. If you go, you will too. Let me know what your favorite exhibits are.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Children’s Museum in Holyoke

Children’s Museum in Holyoke

It’s winter here. The ground is cold, but not yet snow-covered. The days have been getting shorter and we’ve hit the point at which they will grow longer again. We spend our time at home with playdough, legos and K’nex. My two older kids, Henry and Isaac, are at school. Weekends have been filled with cookie-baking and holiday traditions of many kinds. Henry is tired from school. Isaac is busy with friends and homework. I still have a preschooler home most of the time, even while I learn to parents a soon-to-be adolescent. It’s my youngest son, Theo who requires keeping busy during these winter months. He wants and needs to run, jump, climb, crash, spill and splash. At a friend’s house, he begged for the pool so he could float some boats. The thermostat said 17 degrees. I shuddered to think of it, but I do see his point: cabin fever.

I’ve been looking for a few spots worthy of the preschooler’s outing: either in the morning before his afternoon preschool starts, or on Fridays, which for Theo are currently school-free, stay at home with mom days. The Children’s Museum at Holyoke is a fantastic winter spot for preschool aged kids looking to get out some energy. Henry is on the younger side for 1st grade, and I will absolutely return during one of our vacation weeks because I think he’d enjoy it as well.

The first thing to know is that the museum is not big. You can take a preschooler there for an hour or so, so you don’t have to wait for the weekend when it may be more crowded. We picked up our library passes from the Forbes Library in downtown Northampton so it was a free visit for the two us.

What Theo loved the most was the over-sized water table. It is really more like a water-course with multiple levels. He is at an age where engineering the course of the flowing water was interesting to him and he set about it very diligently in a scientific way. I am at an age in which I am pleased to sit down on the bench and take out my knitting while he did that for as long as he liked (about 25 minutes – I counted just out of curiosity.)

There is a 2-3 story indoor climbing structure. As a playground, it isn’t much — but in the dead of winter, while stuck inside, it really captured my little guys’ attention. I kept sending him back up over and over to see how long I could keep his body moving — again, me with the knitting and verbal encouragement from the bench.

There were some areas for pretend play such as an ambulance, a restaurant and grocery store. Theo buzzed through these a bit in favor of more physical activities but if your toddler or preschooler is deep into pretend and dress-up, they’d be very satisfied.

Other exhibits that attracted Theo were anything that he could call science. He has learned from his brothers that science is cool. He played with the gravity maze for such a long time — arranging and rearranging tubes to make ping-pong balls travel down a complex path — that I began to wonder if I should make one whole wall of his bedroom magnetic. We’ve bumped into that same gravity maze at the Cup and Top Cafe in Florence, MA where it will entertain him while I chat with grown-ups and drink my tea before it gets cold.

The Children’s Museum at Holyoke is open Wednesday – Saturday from 10-4 and on Sundays from 12-4. There are bathrooms, water fountains and the ground level has indoor picnic tables that look like you could pack a quick bite if there is no birthday party or field trip taking up the spot. In warmer weather, we will go back and hit the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round as well. It was a lovely trip and a sweet reminder to me that I still do have a very young child at home and taking him on his own adventure is very satisfying for both of us.  For m0re information visit: www.childrensmuseumholyoke.org.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Trash Museum

I Love Trash!

The Trash Musuem has educational kits for loan, including a worm composting bin. This kit includes material to discover how compost is made by vermicomposting worms. The kit is available for a month loan. Click on the photo to discover the other educational loan kits the Trash Museum has to offer. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Late autumn here in New England and the light is leaving us. The sun is down almost as soon as we have eaten our after school snack. Everyone in my house becomes slightly grumpy as the light fades and we spend less time outdoors. The boys know their screen time allowance goes up and I fight my own lack of energy to keep us out, about and moving.

We turn inside ourselves a bit: we craft, we bake, we bang on our instruments to make a joyful noise in the midst of the settled routine feeling we have this far into the school term. At times, the boys are grouchy, like Oscar the Grouch grouchy.  So, we went to the Trash Museum In Hartford, CT.

The Trash Museum is free to visitors and open Wednesday – Friday from noon-4pm. It is the perfect day trip for families with young kids at home, or for a mama like me who was struck with multiple half days and professionals days this Fall. The Trash Museum is a sweet low-key outing. Younger and older kids will have an opportunity to engage the available curriculum about recycling, composting and waste reducing. We arrived with some friends in a bit of a gaggle and the museum seemed well prepared to greet us -and mentioned they receive visits from preschools, elementary schools and homeschooling families.

My kids played a nice long round of I Spy in the dump sculpture. We then had a chance to talk about other ways of dealing with trash. They played in the recycling center, where they got to make the conveyor belt go themselves and had our first introduction to composting worms. One of the staff took time to sit down on the floor with the five children we brought. Anyone who was brave enough could hold the worms. She gave a positive, age-appropriate lesson on the values of composting. I think all five kids really appreciated the attention. There were many areas to explore. My littlest boy would have happily stood in the observation deck all day, where you can watch actual trucks and dudes with trucks compacting, trash, sending recycling down the conveyor belts. It was more like living in a Richard Scarry book than anything else we have ever experienced.

I know it may seem far afield from Western MA, but the Trash Museum is 6500 feet of education and fun. It was a great afternoon. The kids were warm, busy and very engaged. For all the caregivers, it is a straight shot down I-91 and there are multiple coffee shops between here and there.

I’d love to hear from all of you. Where do you take your kids in the winter months that is fun, free – nearly free – and they don’t moan and demand more television?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Botanic Garden of Smith College

Pet-Free Till Now: The Botanic Garden at Smith Works its Magic

Koi pond in the Stove House at the Smith College Lyman Conservatory. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We’ve been a pet-free family for almost 15 years. The first three years of our marriage we worked so much that having a pet would have been animal cruelty. I was finishing my degree, writing some huge thesis and drinking too much Chai. Matt was working a few jobs and writing.

We added a child, then two more kids, one with some extra needs. Pets are beyond us.

Theo, my youngest, has some fear of animals. Ever since he was a baby he has seemed unenthusiastic. I remember taking Henry to a little petting zoo farm when we lived in Connecticut. He was a happy three year old running around pointing at goats, sheep, chickens and making all the appropriate sounds. Theo, at age one, just wanted to crawl back inside mama. I had to wear him on my back — he hid under the cape of the Ergo. By the time he was two, it was pretty clear he didn’t like it. “No, no, farm! No, no horses, neigh!”

As he grew older, I realized he was fearful of dogs, but no more so than my oldest who outgrew it and now loves dogs. I kept thinking Theo would just outgrow it, but this summer I discovered he was afraid of cats, squirrels and chipmunks too. At my in-laws he was refusing to go downstairs alone for fear of a very ancient, sage cat who does not care about his existence. Outside at friend’s house, a chipmunk raced by his feet and he sobbed for 10 minutes.

In the Succulent House, prickly cacti made the boys stay close! (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We have a problem, which is why nothing surprised me more than when we had our first ever animal breakthrough at the The Botanic Gardens at Smith College, in Northampton, MA.  Theo fell hard for the koi in the pond in the Stove House.  He sat there patiently, kneeling on the narrow pathway, begging, “Fishies, come jump out of the water and say hello to me, Theo. I like you! I will take care of you!”

We tried to move on, but he kept running back to the pond. Eventually, the big fish, whom Theo called Momma Fish, swam towards the surface near Theo and made a fishy-kissy face. Delightful! Thank you, Momma Fish.

We were then able to fully enjoy the rest of the Botanic Gardens. Henry and Theo enjoyed pretending to be monkeys as they were able to recognize the jungle plant found in the Palm House. Following the paths, looking the the oversize leaves and blooms was warm adventure on a chilly weekend.  Another favorite spot was the Succulent House, where the prickly cacti made them stay close to mom and dad. We got to show them lemons, oranges, and other fruit hanging off the branches

We got to show them lemons, oranges, and other fruit hanging off the branches. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Although it is getting chilly outside, we toured the Rock Garden. These hearty plants like the weather.  It was lovely to explore this outdoor garden before it was snow-covered. — We plan on returning for the Fall Chrysanthemum show in a few weeks (Nov. 6th-21st). In the meantime, Theo and I walk up frequently to the Botanic Gardens sell hello to Momma Fish. We are talking about perhaps a fish of our own. “I will wake up early on Christmas morning, at 6:30 o’clock,” says Theo, “and I will tell Santa I am wanting a fish pet for Christmas today.”

I hope you decide to visit the arboretum and gardens at the Smith College  with your kids.  The conservatory is open daily from 8:30—4 o’clock. There is no admission fee, but donations are graciously accepted.  If you’re driving in, find out directions and where to park here. A nice idea before you go would be to visit their Kid’s Corner on-line and to take a look at their Conservatory Map and Virtual Tour so you can get your bearings before your visit.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at Historic Deerfield

Historic Deerfield: That Museum Town

Visitor's center at Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

My mom and I had a little time on a sunny day a few weeks back and took the kids to Historic Deerfield. To be very honest, I felt like it might be a tough sell. I have three boys. They are 4½, 6 and 11½ years old.  My oldest has been very tween-y lately. My youngest has been very sleepy, running himself ragged at the Parent’s Center and then preschool. He is often heard saying on the weekend, “I just want to do what I do,” in other words, “let me be.” And Henry, my 6 year old, likes to know exactly what everything is ahead of time. Historic Deerfield is a village dedicated to early New England Colonial History. It is also just a neighborhood with homes, streets, sidewalks and a post office. This is a bit much for my 6 year old to take in, but I convinced him to trust me.

I’ve been meaning to tell you all a secret. My local library has a collection of museum passes. They usually admit 4 or 5 people for free or at a discounted rate. Your local library may have a similar program. It’s incredibly easy to use. You check out the pass with your library  card and return it to the circulation desk 2 days later.

Making and baking apple pies in the open hearth kitchen. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

After picking up our museum passes at the Forbes Library, we went to Historic Deerfield.  On our way to the visitor’s center we saw a demo of a craftsman steaming felt hats into shape. The old iron was heated by flame, steam was everywhere. Hat-making looked dangerous and the boys were hooked. We took our pass to the visitor’s center, got our bracelets that would be our tickets for the day and got some very solid helpful advice from the staff about the best spots to visit with the boys. We settled on the Open Hearth Kitchen, the History Workshop and the Apprentice’s Workshop.

We walked into the open hearth kitchen where cakes were cooking in cake pans inside dutch ovens on the hearth. The kids enjoyed chipping sugar off a cone and grinding it in the mortar and pestle. We poked around the kitchen equipment making a little matching game for ourselves: the whisk was made of twigs, the toaster was a spinning piece of cast iron that was set hearth-side. I will return with Henry to take an open hearth cooking class so he can really get his hands on all the equipment.

Child-sized loom in the History Workshop. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The Children’s History Workshop is a play and pretend area for families. There are costumes, an open hearth kitchen with pretend food, a mini one room school house with the type of desk that has a chair attached. My children have never sat in these before, although I remember sitting on its more modern counter-part in my little school as a child. The kids played with the slates and chalks giving each other silly dictations and pretending to write in fancy script. The staff person there helped the kids make a jar with the ingredients for split pea soup which we brought home. She also let them use the child-sized loom. Nothing surprised me more than my boy children loving the loom. They loved the pedals, the yarn, the swift rhythm of moving the shuttle back and forth. It was hard to tear them away.

We did pull them away to the Apprentice’s Workshop. Seems like we hit a pretty quiet day in the workshop; there was not too much happening. There was  a full size loom which was impressive to see. There was a second smaller loom which Isaac used, hopping on and following the posted pattern. The joiners’ workshop and the pottery studio are places I’d love to go back to; as well as, walk through some of the historic homes – very quickly, I’m sure, with three kids, but I would still love to see the interiors. We pulled them away from weaving for a second time in an hour. Henry asked if we could go back to that museum town again soon – that’d be a yes. When you visit, there is a helpful family guide and schedule of family events on their website. The staff in the visitor’s center were very helpful as we were trying to decide how to plan our time with the kids – so take a minute to ask their advice. We truly had a wonderful time and now I want a child-sized loom in my home for keeping them busy, quiet and productive during the winter months ahead.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

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A Day at the Norman Rockwell Museum

An American Weekend: The Norman Rockwell Museum

Outside the Norman Rockwell Museum

We celebrated Labor Day weekend here in New England with family.  We had a full house and more than our fair share of Bub’s BBQ to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday and his retirement, a bit belatedly but with full fan fare. We planned a family trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.   Sadly my little ones were a bit under the weather, but my oldest and I went along with the rest of the extended family to enjoy the museum.

I was a bit concerned that my 11 year old boy child would be bored at this museum. He had begun giving me that sullen look, hoping he could fake illness. It was too late for that though. He’d already eaten heartily and bounced around the house. It was a sunny day and with the promise of a Berkshire chocolate shop hidden in my back pocket, we forged ahead. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; all the same,  I was happy to see the museum admits guests under 18 for free, so I didn’t have to venture much, just the journey. I will say that again, in case you missed it: children under 18 free, all of them! Thank you, Norman Rockwell Museum. Taking kids to a museum is hard. Parents want to do it. We want to do it well, which means doing it often and in short spurts that kids can tolerate. Allowing kids into an art museum for free not only welcomes kids but encourages families to try it out, see if it can work.

Kids are welcome to climb on the totem outside the musuem. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The museum itself is lovely. It rotates art from its collection of Rockwell’s works. We were able to see some of his later, more political work, which was new to me, as well as the traditional pieces that I think of when I think of Norman Rockwell, such as the Four Freedoms. I was pleased to see Isaac and his fellow 11 year old cousin getting the jokes and jabs as we perused all the Saturday Evening Post covers, more than a lifetime’s work.

The Museum goes out of its way to make itself a family friendly place. In addition to admitting all kids up to age 18 in for free, they provide an art space where kids can make their own Saturday Evening Post covers to hang on the wall.  Isaac and my niece were more interested in the scavenger hunt through the upstairs galleries. All the grown-ups had fun with that one, spying fishing poles, paintbrushes and other items all through the paintings in the upstairs galleries. Even better we enjoyed explaining to the kids all the old fashioned looking stuff they saw in the pictures: big box shaped cameras, wired telephones, antennae radios, and old-fashioned train cars that included dining rooms. We were able to visit the preserved studio space of Rockwell himself, which had been moved from Stockbridge to the Museum grounds.  Isaac, cousin and uncle all enjoyed roaming the grounds and clambering over the sculptures.

The museum was crowded. I felt happy to have ventured forth on such an American holiday to celebrate some very American art.  Chocolate Springs awaited!  Since my husband is an illustrator, and because I truly think my younger children will enjoy the art, we are planning a full family trip back that way soon. I’m sure it is just lovely at Christmas time. Read the rest of this entry »

A Day at Look Park

Northampton’s Big Backyard: Look Park in Florence

Kids can cool down in the Splash Park at Look Park. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The first day of school for my gang is in the books. We wave and kiss summer good-bye. We look ahead to our fall schedule with apprehension and relief: school days, homework, swim lessons, clarinet, collapsing into a heap at the weekend. And I realize, as I pack up snacks and fill out forms and do the calculus involved with different pick ups and drop-offs, I’ve not yet written about our extra backyard. Our own backyard is postage stamp sized, but Look Park is gloriously big, and is the place we end up when we need to stretch our legs, run extra fast and meet up with friends.

Bummer boats, mini golf, train rides and paddle boat rides are extra at the park. Pay half price on Wednesdays. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We go there for a few hours or entire day. We run through sprinklers, clamber on rocks in the creek, and play hide-and-go-seek-tag all over the play structures.  I’ve been known to occasionally indulge the boys in popsicles or ice-cream sandwiches from the snack bar. On half-price Wednesdays, we’ll ride the train through the zoo, then walk through it to feed the goats, then go for a bumper boat rides.  The boys love to bike or scooter around from one spot to the next,. It is in fact where my youngest discovered that he is truly good at biking, peddling away from me shouting,“I’m good at this! I’m good at this!”

Nearby creek bed for exploring. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

It was our first retreat when we moved here in last summer’s heatwave. We’ve been back time and again, for birthday parties, picnics and sports. Its shady play structures are the only ones we head to on warm summer days. Henry and Theo often lead us on hiking trails through the woods to discover pine cones and different views of the creek. It is the best place to take them when I am tired of kid wrangling and may need a fast retreat to the van to head home for dinner, bath and bed.

You’ll find us there this weekend for the hot air balloon festival. Hope for clear skies and bring your camera, the opportunities for pictures, should not be passed up. See you there!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at Chapel Brook

Welcoming Autumn

Pony Mountain's Ledge Trail. 5 out of 5 Bayne's recommend the Summit Trail. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne

I was a city girl.  We lived in Manhattan when I was child, but my parents were not from there. They were city mice in their own way. They had picked cities to live in most of their adult lives, but had childhoods that included fields, farms, woods as well as the start of sprawling sidewalks. It was the change of seasons that my mother missed the most. Annually in the fall she would take us for a drive, to see leaves, to find a pumpkin, to drink the cider and get apples from a farm in a paper tote.

The heat wave that was the summer of 2010 has given way to cool autumn breezes. On the first crisp morning with leaves blowing down our street, my children brought up the S-word … Santa. My mind was more on school. Each of us are ready, in our own way, to go with the season’s change, to say goodbye to summer and welcome autumn.  I find I still need to wear the boys out, but now I’m worn out from a long summer of being mommy the cruise director. I wanted an adventure that was not too far from home, sure to be a hit and relatively low out put for the parents.

Clambering on the rocks, my youngest child as a blur not touching the earth. He looks like that in person too. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We’ve been wanting to visit Chapel Brook Falls in Ashfield all summer. With our local drought, we knew the falls would not be rushing in late August. but we heard the scenery was lovely in any weather. The boys love climbing on furniture and scaling walls. I try to replace the furniture with rocks, mountains and streams as often as I can.

Chapel Brook Falls has three potential attractions. It was a cool day, everyone had been a bit under the weather, so we decided to come back another day to actually climb Pony Mountain, or perhaps enter through the DAR trail in Goshen, which would connect to the falls around the base of Pony Mountain.  Saturday’s adventure simply was a small hike down to falls and enjoying the cool air, watching individual leaves float down to the forest floor and rocking hopping over the falls. On a hot day, we will return; late September is sure to bring us a streak of a few hot days. We could see where people might use the rock formations as launching points to enter the cool pools.

The boys scrambled from rock to rock. The place was very quiet on such a cool day so we let them practice skipping rocks in the pools and we followed the path downstream quite a ways until we, of course, got hungry and had to reverse course. The sun peaking through the trees made for the magical sort of light that you always picture deep in the forest – not a bad effect for a three minute walk from the parking lot.

If you are new to the area like me, it might help you to know that the walk to the falls is behind the designated parking area. As you park, you are on a roadway bridge. Crossing back over this bridge to the unmarked road on the other side brings the entrance of the falls into view. This may be more apparent when the falls are roaring, but less so when they are a quiet dribble at the tail end of a very dry New England summer. We walked up Pony Mountain to collect our trail maps. The two routes both advertise a short distance, but the ledge trail – in our effort to wear them out, we walked up the mountain a short ways, requires belay equipment. Should you take this hike with your family, you will want to follow the summit trail, and I plan to do just that in the next few weeks. I want to soak in every moment of the slow transition to Autumn.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation

Into the Woods

At the observation town of Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, MA. (Photo credit: Karen Baynes)

When the heat broke recently we headed to the woods in New York for a week. If you have ever been to the Adirondack Park you know what it means to cross the blue line on the map into 6 million acres of preserved land, watching the forest thicken and the peaks climb around you.

We returned last weekend to the Pioneer Valley from our mountainous adventure in NY, with a few more mountains under my oldest son Isaac’s belt. He has now climbed six mountains over 4,000 feet, and a handful just under.  My younger boys made it up and down Chimney Mountain while in NY, a nice accomplishment for them.  The trail was just a few miles, but it was quite steep. The view from the top was very satisfying, as were the caves for scrambling and climbing.

We’d been home for only a few days and all of the boys had mountains on the brain.  I was looking for a satisfying climb I could do with the boys on my own, without needing to pack a meal, and keeping us in cell phone range. Being a birth doula, when I’m on call for a birth, one thing I seem to lack is Wow Them type activities that don’t exhaust me if I get called in – and don’t take me too far from where I need to go whenever it is time. There are times I’d be pretty happy to go to Look Park everyday, but sometimes we need a bit more.. so we took a small climb up Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, MA.

Dusty south side trail up the mountain. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

When we arrived at Mt. Sugarloaf we took the south side trail up, which I have to say is a fairly steep ascent. The dry weather made the trails is dusty to the point of being slippery. My four year old needed several hand-ups but managed it fine. Anyone younger may be in need of a hiking back-pack because it is hard to imagine a larger or heartier four year old than Theo. He is all Viking, I assure you.

Steep as it was, it took us only 30 minutes to get to the top. For a hill with an elevation of 652 ft, it has some kind of view. You can see farmland for miles, and the beautiful wide Connecticut River bending around Deerfield and Sunderland.

After our snack and climb up the observation tower, we opted to descend on the long driveway that climbs Mt. Sugarloaf on the north side. I was somewhat concerned that Theo would not be able to go slow enough on the steep descent, beating us to the parking lot by way of too many somersaults. But the nice wide drive way made for an easy climb down. The boys kicked acorns down the hill, ran to the side at the slightest sound of a car, and were suitably impressed by joggers, power walkers and grandmothers with strollers taking that route up the mountain. – We did see a longer, possibly somewhat steeper part of the north side trail.  When we return to Mt. Sugarloaf, we will try that out.

As soon as we reached the trail-head where we had begun, Henry and Theo asked to do it again – and if I had packed a meal, I might have let them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Berkshire Musuem

Mummified in the Berkshires

The performance of "The Mummy's Tale and Other Stories from the Great Beyond" sparked the boys imaginations! (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

As the heat wave continued, the boys and I packed it all up for a full day at The Berkshire Museum, including a performance of The Mummy’s Tale and Other Stories from the Great Beyond. My youngest child is four years old so I was unsure he’d be able to sit through a play. I was even a little nervous that he might be scared of the mummy, or more likely of the house lights going dark.  It turned out there was nothing to fear and so much to enjoy. Ancient myths are comics full larger than life characters – the very good, the ever so bad, all saviors, helpers, hopeless causes. Because of this, the boys just ate them up. They jeered at bad guys and cheered for happy endings. We all danced and laughed along with the young cast who came out after the show to thank the audience and gave the little kids high-fives and big smiles.

After the show, we wandered downstairs for Chow Time at the aquarium, which is held each Saturday at 12:30. We watched tortoises crunch salads bigger than their shells, turtles dive for earthworms and geckos go for jumping crickets.  After a quick stop at the touch tank to visit with the sea-stars, we headed upstairs.

Mummy Jigsaw Puzzle (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The current exhibit , Wrapped: The Search for the Essential Mummy, is open through the end of October. It’s an extensive adventure into the forensic science of exploring mummies.  The interactive science exhibits were fun, but what my boys truly loved was the art.  The performance had sparked their imaginations. We spent the afternoon examining hieroglyphs, tomb art, headdresses and necklaces. If you go, don’t miss the mummified animals – snakes, cats and more, wrapped to spend eternity with their beloved owners, I suppose.

We moved back down stairs where the Berkshire Backyard exhibit showed us how much there will always be more to explore in the amazing Berkshires. The kids and I tested our animal tracking skills – more successfully than ever this time. We flight tested feathers and even examined a working bee hive, which included access via a plexiglass tube through a window, to the actual outside Berkshires!

Dinosaur excavation (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Just before it was time to go, we had our own excavation in the dinosaur exhibit. Once goggled, the boys dug industriously in the pea stones dumping them in the trenches to uncover their own dinosaur discoveries. Theo insisted on digging for mummies or snake mummies, but kept finding dinosaur bones anyway. He was the smallest most aggravated little excavator around that day. “This is not a mummy! It’s a dinosaur!”

We left the Berkshire Museum with a few corners not yet explored and made note to come back for more adventures in the fall.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Springfield Museums

Heat Wave

The crew with The Grinch in the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museum. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

When we moved an hour north, I thought it might be snowier in the winter, but I didn’t think it’d be hotter in the summers. Here in Northampton we have been victims of several faker summer thunderstorms. The skies cloud over, we get ready to go do our rain dance of joy in the streets, the wind picks up, we hear a distant rumble, a few drops fall and then it all drifts away. Somebody else gets our rain, I suppose. A mother could go crazy like this, but instead we went to the Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA.

The Springfield Science Museum is a moderate sized natural history museum. As we’d been melting in the heat for days, the air-conditioning was like a shot in the arm. Am I the only mother at museums trying to slow my kids down enough to soak in a little information? The Dinosaur Hall, the African wing, the aquariums downstairs put us through our paces. For younger kids, there are plenty of eye-level exhibits and buttons to push. The Dinosaur Hall and African wing have a pleasant dark & quiet museum exhibit feel, with low lights and tall ceilings. Four year old Theo enjoyed being frightened by the life size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! (Photo credit: Isaac Bayne)

All the kids enjoyed a pretend safari through the African animals exhibit. The sound effects were quite realistic. The lion’s roar rumbled in the kids’ chests. Their eyes went big like saucers, and they hid behind me. Apparently, if approached by roaring lion, all my boys will try to hide behind my linen skirt and wait for me to put the big cat in timeout.

My children are deeply impressed by rocks; in fact, I can hear their voices now: Not rocks, mama, meteors! Meteors from outer-space! The boys spent a full 30 minutes comparing meteorite samples while we waited for the planetarium show. There were bits you could touch and other bits you could look at magnified. There were meteorite bits with amino acid in them, bits with water from space, and bits from meteorites to big to be moved without getting chopped to pieces.

Springfield is the birth place of Theodor Seuss Geisel and inspired many of his works. Sculptures of Dr. Seuss characters are in the corner of the Quadrangle green. Sculpture groups include Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat (pictured in part here), Horton Court, and The Storyteller. You'll also find the Lorax in another corner of the quad. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The basement of the museum contains a live animal center, featuring fish and critters from our native New England rivers and coastline and forests. We will have to return to the animal tracks exhibit because all four of us proved incapable of accurately determining whether the tracks over the woodpile were made by a rabbit or a fox. We made several guesses and were quite wrong at least four times.

We made our way out to the quad for a snack time. It was hot but that did not stop my boys from rushing to the Dr. Seuss sculpture. The pictures say it all. If Theo could have crawled up on Seuss’ lap, he would have.

I was just about ready to tear us all away, when I decide to brave one of the art museums, all alone with three boys on a hot day. GWV Smith Art Museum’s first floor promised Samurai stuff. We had to see it, but I was nervous that the museum staff be visibly annoyed. The boys bounced in as quietly as they could. The Arms and Armor of Japan are directly opposite the door. The museum guide took one look at us and knew what we had come to see. It then took us each a while to pick our favorite samurai. The boys then decided they loved all the swords the best as there was no way to pick a favorite samurai sword.

In the Art Discovery Center, families are invited to try on costumes, play games, explore Asian culture, hear stories and participate in craft activities. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

Henry, who is six, was completely taken by the Sculpture Hall, which was full of plaster casts of original classical works. When asked what he liked so much about the statues he replied, “I was thinking I could be one.” The staff invited the kids upstairs to the Art Discovery Center. Isaac spent his time photographing the walls, which are beautifully painted. Henry and Theo enjoyed the puppet theater, toys and books. Then they tried on some costumes which proved to be hilarious. At the very far end of the room, some very young staff members were hosting arts and crafts time at the the tables. Our afternoon of fun was winding down. We were sent home with pretty fancy coloring sheets that helped to soften the blow when I decided to pack us back in the van and drive north.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

A Day at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum

School’s Out

Engineer Polly Bartlett shows the boys how to operate the pump car at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

School’s out! The last time it was this hot, my family and I had just moved to Northampton from a sleepy Connecticut suburb, there were two weeks until school started, and we knew nothing and no one. We spent every hot afternoon at Look Park, running through the much beloved sprinklers. Now that it is summer again, we are more or less unpacked and ready adventures. My boys are 11, 6 and 4. The age span can be a challenge for us. My summer goal is to find places we can frequent that satisfy us all, build bridges between the boys’ different ages and temperaments and wear them out so they will sleep heartily at night.

I decided to surprise Matt on Father’s Day with a short day trip to Shelburne Falls. The Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum is home to trolley car #10. This trolley belonged to the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Railway company which closed up shop in 1928. It was saved by a farmer, used as a chicken coop and then refurbished in 1999.  It is a charming little trolley, with a shiny dark wood interior, the original frosted glass windows at the top and fresh exterior boards painted a perfect farm yellow. Our tickets were punched, the lights came on, the kids sat at attention for the short ride.

While the conductor turned the line around for our return trip, we had a bit of a history lesson from the guide.  We learned that car #10 was a combination car. It carried both cargo and passengers. One side hauled cotton, apples and vinegar from the farms to town and the other side carried passengers, usually workers or students who used the trolley to commute to high school in Colrain.  High school feels like a world away to me now, but I pictured my boys as teenagers, commuting by trolley in 1920, hopping on, eyeing the barrel full of apples in the cargo section, borrowing the fare from a friend, swimming in the Deerfield River to cool down once they reached home again.

Bridge of Flowers, built in 1908 by the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Railway company. (Photo credit: Isaac Bayne)

When #10 headed back, we found ourselves in a race with the pump car on the nearby track. Engineer Polly, along with a teenager and her grandpa were flying down the track pumping the handles, hair whipping everywhere.  My six year old assures me that we won, as trolleys cannot be beat. The boys were intent on riding the pump car, because they are the fastest ever. I thought maybe Theo was too young so Matt took Isaac and Henry first. Polly, our engineer, assumed control of our family for a short time, as she explained the purposes and rules of the pump car. Henry was to stand on the side and hold on to the bar in the center.  Isaac and Matt face forward and pumped side by side at the back. Polly pumped at the front and controlled the foot break.

On the way back, Henry was allowed to pump, as she determined he was both tall enough and old enough to follow the instructions. When I took Theo on he held on tight with two hands and kept his feet on the platform. He will have to grow a few more inches until he can pump without it bumping his chin, but he has just turned 4. Polly instructed him not to wave at daddy, as she wanted both hands on the bar. When we coasted in, Theo did not wave but gave a big smile, with a “hello there!” He was quite pleased with himself. All the kids got a “I drove the pump car” sticker.  Before we left, the boys crawled all over the yet to be restored little caboose. They climbed up to the upper seats, admired the wood burning stove & the “closet potty” in the corner. We poked around the museum for a bit, enjoying this store house of trolley treasure, with telegraph machines and electric trains running.

Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls, MA. (Photo credit: Isaac Bayne)

Since we were in Shelburne Falls, we crossed the famous Bridge of Flowers, which was built in 1908 by the trolley company itself. Just a few years after the trolleys stopped running, the town itself saved this bridge transforming it into a glorious garden. I expected to have a difficult time in engaging the boys in the viewing of a garden, but walking on a foot bridge over a river was entertaining for Theo. Henry was happy to direct my attention to the smell and colors of different roses and Isaac was pleased when I set the camera to macro and showed him how to photographs the flowers close up.  On the far side of the bridge, we visited the Glacial Potholes. My kids are easily impressed by geological formations (also known as rocks), and these were very impressive rocks which can be very safely view from the observation deck. The boys itched to get down and scramble in the river bed, but the glacial potholes are actual holes in the river bed left by stones swirling in the river when it swelled with the melting of the glaciers. We left with promises to find another spot for river scrambling and swimming. There are many hot days of summer ahead.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

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