I am a stay-at-home mom. We live over 400 miles from our family. We have not had a baby sitter in over a year. Between all three kids, ages 6, 4, and almost 1, we are usually woken at least once and sometimes as many as 5 times per night. And we homeschool. So you can see that my life right now is fully dedicated to raising these little critters. There is no off position on this parenting switch. And anyone who has kids will tell you that at these ages, the kids’ main job is to figure out the boundaries of their worlds. All morning. All afternoon. All evening. ALL DAY LONG. As much as possible. Thus, on any given day I may say the word “no” and its variations upwards of 100 times. 1000 times? 1,000,000 times?
I have read the parenting books and articles and watched the video clips and sat in on the lectures that talk about “redirecting” and Disciplining Your Child Without Saying No. And I try to use those techniques. I really do. I don’t want to be the one to crush my kids souls!
I do think, however, that kids need to hear the word “no” and just learn to respect that it is a boundary without a lot of fluff. For one, sometimes the answer is no for a very good reason. I was making muffins this morning and when I told Joseph not to play ball near the oven because it was hot there was no wiggle room. Also, these days in America, even with the economic woes most families are experiencing, the things that kids my kids’ age want are cheap. I’m talking sweets and toys. Most of us can probably financially afford to say yes to the lollipop most of the time. But I don’t think we should. It is not good for their bodies and it is not good for their souls. So, I say no. A lot.
This weekend, however, I got to say yes, yes, yes! We rented a cottage at The Inn at Valley Farms, a 105-acre working farm in Southwestern NH that encourages guests to jump into the farming experience. The cottage, set off the road, was very clean (Mom, you would have loved it!) and the front door opened out onto big rolling hills. So, we were able to let the kids go wherever they wanted.
For Joseph, it was the swingset.
For JohnJohn, it was wherever Molly was.
We all loved running over to the turkeys and cows.
We drove down Friday after Joe finished work and got there just in time to chat with the owner of the Inn. She was really friendly and knowledgeable. And when she realized we hadn’t had a proper dinner yet (one can only go so far on Z bars) and that we hadn’t had a chance to shop, she brought us out a pint of strawberries and a pint of cherry tomatoes from the garden and two beers for Mom and Dad from a local brewery! We heart Jackie!
She spoke with us for almost an hour while the kids ran around in the dusk with her dog, LuLu. Their laughter was so loud I thought Joseph was going to throw up. It was a great start to the weekend.
After a one-interruption nights’ sleep we met Saturday head on. Joe, who has long nurtured the idea that he’d someday like to have a small farm, had been invited to join Jackie’s brother, Chris, who owns Walpole Valley Farms with his wife Caitlin, and about 10 other volunteers in “harvesting” chickens. That is, he spent from 7am to 3pm in a chatty and harmonious assembly line helping to kill and prepare about 400 chickens for market. I am mostly vegetarian so it was not my thing but the kids and I were encouraged to visit the workers to learn how it was done. I was glad we did. Molly jumped right in asking some questions, checking out everything up close and she even grabbed my camera and took some awesome shots, including this one:
In all honesty, it was rather comforting to see the animals killed in such a humane and respectful manner. If I were to ever want to eat a bird, I’m all about the Walpole.
We left Joe and headed out for, and I am not exaggerating here, the best mocha I have ever had in my life. I loved it so much I forgot to get a picture of it. When we went to Burdick Chocolate in downtown Walpole for a mid-morning snack, I ordered a decaf mocha and the kids each had a croissant, which were also awesome. We added to that a yogurt with fresh fruit and lavender honey so I could feel like a good mom and sat in silence for about 5 minutes (which is an eternity with three small kids). I think I used the word “divine” when I described it to Joe later. And I meant it. I was so happy with my Mocha that I told the kids they could get whatever they wanted in the chocolate shop next door. They surprised me with their restraint and just asked for one white chocolate mouse each. Go, me, who just keeps saying yes! I bought a bunch of caramels “to bring to Joe” as well as a bag of chocolate covered cashews. Burdick Chocolate is the best chocolate I have ever had. There I said it. If you learn one thing from this post it is where to buy the best honey caramels you will ever have. Buy them right here.
Saturday got better from Burdick’s! The kids and I drove south about 20 miles to The Retreat Farm in Brattleboro, NH. The Retreat Farm was really a magical experience for us. We are used to big city zoos where you can barely see or hear the animals. So, it was with amazement and disbelief that I listened to the awesome staffers who explained that not only could we go near the animals, but we could feed them, pet them, cuddle them, scratch their backs and then feed them some more. Yes, yes, yes!
The chick room was a big hit. Joseph spent 45 minutes in there without breaking his concentration once.
We fed Carlos, the Ox.
We fed Emus. We fed sheep.
We watched as a mama pig nursed almost a dozen piglets, then shook them off when she needed a break, and then smiled right at us.
We went into the chicken coop, where we collected eggs, and then got to bring them over to the nursery to learn where they incubate them, for how long, and how they hatch.
Then we held some more chicks.
As we walked from animal to animal we were followed by, “Mischief”, as we named her, a baby goat. She was all over everything and I really enjoyed how much like a toddler she was – – up, down, eating Molly’s skirt, jumping on the desk, jumping out of her pen, nudging Joseph, rubbing up against my legs.
We finally got tired and after a quick stop for cheese, bread, and olives at the Grafton Cheese Company, we drove back to the Inn at Valley Farms to meet Dad. From there we hung out at the property visiting the animals and vegetables some more, went out to dinner, and hunkered down for a much needed rest.
Sunday was almost as great a day as Saturday. The kids got to play as long as they wanted.
After a homemade farm to table breakfast made by Dad, with fresh eggs, milk and veggies, we said goodbye to the Inn and Walpole Valley Farms and went back to The Retreat Farm to introduce Dad to our new friends. We loved it so much we nearly closed the place.
Back at the Retreat Farm we did everything the day before. Plus, we said yes to playing in the sawdust (although that was really more Dad than me that said yes to that).
After a quick dinner we drove home. But not before we said yes to some ice cream. And lots and lots of hand wipes (this one’s for you, Mom;)).