On Sunday, September 30, Sam and I loaded up the kids said, "See ya in two weeks!" to my parents and left White Marsh, Maryland for Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
First stop - The Norman Rockwell Museum.
Before I continue, I have to brag on Sam a little bit. When this man plans a trip, he plans the trip. We were equipped with a bound itinerary from start to finish complete with estimated travel times (including traffic) from destination to destination, phone numbers, hotel reservations, attractions with prices, coupons (pre-printed and bound right into the book - we simply had to cut them out), which stops accepted our reciprocal museum memberships, restaurant choices, maps, printed brochures, you name it. All of the attractions included were "possibilities," since we wanted to be able to spend more time on things we liked. The comprehensive itinerary allowed us to have a plan while feeling like we were being spontaneous. Basically, he's amazing. But he is not for hire. (I asked.)
This is important to note because the path from White March, Maryland to Stockbridge, Massachusetts goes straight up I-95. He even knew this was completely undesirable, and included alternative directions through New York beyond NYC via the Taconic Parkway. No tractor-trailers are allowed on the parkways, which makes the ride that much less stressful. (You know, you avoid the whole "Why are these two trucks pacing each other side-by-side going 15mph under the speed limit?" thing.) Not only that, but the Taconic Parkway was absolutely gorgeous, the entire length of which was lined with already-turning leaves. A preview of what was to come on our trip. The thing about the parkway is that there are limited places to stop, and even fewer places to grab a bite to eat...unless fancy, obscure hippie-type places are your thing. I'm not bashing these places, but my cheeseburger-loving children would not have been happy if we'd have offered them sprouts for lunch. On the last exit before the Massachusetts turnpike, we stopped at a charming diner (much more "our" speed) called O's Eatery on a little hill in Chatham, New York. I don't know who "O" is, but I took it as a sign given that my beloved Orioles (or O's) were, at the time, engaged in postseason baseball. We refueled with breakfast-for-lunch, a chicken parm panini, and chicken nuggets (of course) and continued on the last little bit of our trip.
Of all of the stops on our New England adventure, I was not sure how the Norman Rockwell Museum would be received by our children. Prior to our departure, Ben worked on a notebook of his own so that when we arrived at each stop, he would at least have a nominal understanding of where we were. My mistake was in skipping Norman Rockwell while I waited for a book on hold from the library....which never came in. Luckily, the museum was family friendly. Each child received a coloring book and scavenger hunt sheet with items to search for throughout the museum, which, once completed, could be traded in for a prize at the front desk. Because of this little scavenger hunt, they all got so much more out of it than I could have imagined. They were really looking into each piece of art. I learned a lot too. He was much more than a magazine cover illustrator. He was a genius, each picture containing so much detail it's really remarkable. Of course, there was no photography inside where the paintings are, but we got some great pictures on the grounds overlooking the beautiful hills (apparently known as the Berkshires) of western Massachusetts.
One of the security guards at the museum who was particularly fond of the kids (perhaps because they were the only people under the age of 65 at the museum, save for their parents) told us that the kids were welcomed to climb on the statues on the grounds. I remained skeptical as they twisted around them...I think the other onlookers were skeptical too. (Hey, there weren't any signs that prohibited it...so we were okay, right???)
This little room was downstairs and gave the kids a chance to read some books, create their own art, and display it for everyone else to enjoy.
The Bennington Battle Monument in Bennington, Vermont is a tribute to the Revolutionary War battle during which a force of New Hampshire militiamen thwarted the British from reaching their supply depot in Bennington, forcing them to march all the way to Saratoga, New York where the Bristish ultimately surrendered. It's considered a turning point in the war. (Although, I'd come to find out through our various tours, that each state claims to have a historic turning point in the Revolutionary War. I guess it was teamwork!)
It was a beautiful monument. Ben was especially enamored with it. We rode the elevator up to the top where the elevator attendant commented on Abby's "peace-sign" hairbow, how we need more peace in this world, and gave her the peace sign as she exited. I'm pretty sure she didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
Yikes! No make-up! Just an informal poll...someone told me this shirt looks like "Vermont." Does it scream "Vermont" to you? (I have no idea what that means.)
The views were absolutely amazing from the top. I couldn't tell you whether these are Vermont, Massachusetts, or New York...but it really doesn't matter. They're all equally gorgeous.
While all of the covered bridges were all awesome, we stopped at two of them to capture some pictures. First, my personal favorite - the one with the sign that charged a $1 for driving faster than a walk across the bridge.
Second, the allegedly most famous covered bridge outside the home of Norman Rockwell, on (you guessed it) Covered Bridge Road. Did you know that these bridges used to be called "kissing bridges"? Back in the days of courtships, couples would capitalize on the few seconds it took to pass through the bridge to steal a kiss while no one could see them.
"Hey Mommy, did you see me wave in that one?"
Perfect time for a little song.
Think we finally got one! Phew. That'll have to do.
One little random aside, another memory I will always have from this trip is how the kids literally argued over who got to hold Leah (all the while her little tongue hangs out). I hope hanging out with her is always so awesome.
Often, it became a game of almost tug-o-war over lil' Leah. Someday, she'll hate me for showing this chubby picture of her on the internet. She'll get over it. Look at that precious belly!
Well, gee, that got us through two whole days. I'm determined to chronicle this trip for my own sake, so please bear with me while I walk through it in painstaking detail (more than you care to know, I'm sure!). I don't want to pull another "birth story" on this adventure where a year later I struggle to remember the details from the momentous occasion.
Hope you all have a blessed weekend! I have so much more to write about, I just need to find the time!