A Big Trip


I know we’ve had some radio silence here on the bloggy. Long story, more details later…but here’s the reason for the most recent quietude.

I took Silas and Petra to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. BY MYSELF.

Grandma Betty hadn’t ever met either of the children–shortly before Silas was born, she became too unwell to travel, and she lives in the dead center of nowhere–not easy to get to with babies. I hadn’t seen her in over five years, since my grandpa died. Last summer, I kept trying to arrange to go up there, but one or the other of us kept putting it off, until it was too late and summer was over. This year, I wasn’t going to let the whole summer roll by. I could have convinced someone from the family to join me, but I got an insane deal on Jet Blue, and just couldn’t pass it up while everyone checked their calendars. JC couldn’t come because he has a new job (more on that later).

It was a pretty crazy journey. The kids were completely great about the whole thing–even though it was totally insane and exhausting. We flew into Boston, where I rented a car (awesome service from Thrifty, by the way). The flight was fine–I was worried because JC sent me this article the night before we left–but we did fine. If it weren’t for the car seats, we would have had no trouble at all. I decided to take our car seats with us, because it would have cost me $200 to rent two car seats. Most airlines (Jet Blue included) will allow you to check or gate-check carseats and strollers…but that meant I had to haul two carseats through the airport. I bought a collapsible cart on Amazon and used bungie cords to hold them onto it…the TSA seriously hated that. If I’d had another adult with me, it would have been no big deal, but as it was, I just didn’t have enough hands. Kindly strangers helped me out at every step. We got through it.

Silas said, “I think airports were not made for children. Or other people.”

On the plane
On the plane

Once we had the rental car, we drove to the Public Gardens, which Silas wanted to visit because he loved Make Way For Ducklings. Boston roads are crazy. I thought my GPS was going nuts because it kept saying things like, “Take the right two lanes to merge left on …” And then I’d get to the intersection and realize, no, that’s actually how this road works, somehow. Boston drivers, also crazy. We only spent one afternoon in Boston, in part because we had other and better things to do, and in part because it was so daunting to get around.

We rode the Swan Boats, which was absolutely worth the $3. Silas was so thrilled about seeing the places from the book–he recognized the island, bridge, and boats from the illustration.

We spent that night at my uncle’s house outside of Boston. He loaded us up with snacks and gave some pointers on avoiding the morning traffic…and then we were on our way to New Hampshire. That took a long time. Did it ever. Every time we stopped, it was a struggle and an argument to get the kids back in the car. Petra is at exactly the wrong age for car travel–too old to just conk out when we begin rolling, but too young to entertain herself for very long with books or other quiet toys. Every time she got bored (about every twenty minutes), she’d shout, “Potty! Pee!” until I stopped to take a potty break. And then she wouldn’t pee. After about six of these stops, I finally said, “Petra, you didn’t pee the last time we stopped. We’re going to keep driving for a while.” She was silent for a couple of minutes and then shouted, “Poops! Poops!” It was another false alarm, but I couldn’t help but admire her stakes-raising.

One of our many breaks, at a park just across the NH border.
One of our many breaks, at a park just across the NH border.

My grandma was, of course, completely delighted with Silas and Petra, and they with her. She’s on oxygen 24/7, and she was worried that they’d find it frightening, but they seemed not to notice it at all.

She took us to a great playground–they actually had a sandbox, which are rare in playgrounds these days. She wasn’t able to run around with them, but seemed to enjoy watching them burn off some crazy energy.

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She read to them, endlessly. I loved that, because I remember her reading to me when I was little–that’s probably what I remember the most from visiting her as a kid. Being my kids, they, of course, could not get enough.

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The kids enjoyed exploring Grandma’s home. She and Grandpa traveled extensively during their life together, including a trip around the world with their four children (who were then 6, 8, 15, and 17 years old). Their house is full of artifacts.

Another explorer all set for adventure.
Another explorer all set for adventure.

They literally had a museum in the back of the house. When I was a child, they were antiques dealers, and many of the objects still have labels and price tags in Grandpa’s distinctive handwriting.

When I was a kid, I remember that there was a lot in the house that I wasn’t allowed to touch. I was nervous about my toddlers being there for several days. They were very careful with things, and Grandma was much more relaxed about them than I expected her to be. She even took Silas into the museum and let him pick out a (terrifying) Mexican mask to bring home.

This was in the bag that the TSA inspected...
This was in the bag that the TSA inspected…

We had a few nice walks on the property. Although the mosquitoes are often terrible there, the weather was breezy enough to keep them down. We explored the orchard and the barn, and played on the porch.

My aunt and mother sent the children some care packages so they’d have things to do to entertain themselves. Overall, the kids felt like royalty, I’m sure. But they were good as gold, so I didn’t begrudge them a little spoiling.


Grandma volunteers at the Forest Service, so we went there. Petra and Silas both loved the children’s area, which was very nicely put together. The other Forest Service employees were very kind to both young and old–I can see why Grandma loves going there.

05-DSC_7244 04-DSC_7238And what trip to New Hampshire would be complete without a day at Story Land? It’s a crazy campy little amusement park, just perfect for very small children.


Silas enjoyed the various things to climb on and pose with. Petra was in a bit of a funk, but she liked riding around in the stroller and having a hotdog for lunch. It’s the little things.

Silas was pretty thrilled about the “shows”–little 15-minute plays and magic shows and things. That’s my boy! Of course, even the young have standards…

For example, this is the face my children make…


…when they are watching this:

Why yes, that dragon did just say to "shake your derriere" at a family amusement park.
Why yes, that dragon did just say to “shake your derriere” at a family amusement park.

I was glad they didn’t like that particular show, honestly.

Oh, and Silas got to “drive” a car. I like to think of this as a photo of the future:

Note the terror in Petra's eyes.
Note the terror in Petra’s eyes.

We had a lovely time with Grandma, and I’m glad we were able to do it.

On our return trip, which I somehow managed not to photograph much at all, we spent a few days in Andover with Pam, a Harrisonburger friend who left us for the frozen north a year ago. I was so happy to see her and spend time with her! It also felt like magic to have another adult who could actually lift the children–like having a co-parent again, after several days of going alone. We enjoyed her company, and just went to the playground (a word Petra has now enthusiastically added to her vocabulary) and the park. It was so good to spend some time with her. I’ve missed Pam intensely this year.

Leaving Walden Pond. Photo by Pam Mandigo.
Leaving Walden Pond. Photo by Pam Mandigo.

A college friend, Meghan, who is a real live opera singer (!) met us at Walden Pond on our last day. It was so fun to see her–I hadn’t actually been with her in person in ten years, but she was as easy to talk to as if it had just been a week. Walden was not what one might expect–it was packed with families swimming and shouting. Silas was thrilled with it. Last summer, he was terrified of most water, but he dove right in. The day was incredibly gorgeous and refreshing–just what we needed to steel ourselves for the trip home (which was uneventful, but long).

Silas says, “I don’t want to go on a trip like that without Daddy again.” Amen, little brother. But I’m glad we went. The fact that they hadn’t met Grandma bothered me a great deal. I hated that I hadn’t seen her in such a long time. We needed to do this trip.

And now it’s over and I want to sleep for a week.


Aili Written by:


  1. emmalee
    June 28, 2014

    The pictures of Silas and Petra reading with your grandmother are just perfect.

    • June 28, 2014

      I had a lot of opportunities to get the best ones–they spent a lot of time doing that. 🙂 And thank you.

    • June 28, 2014

      A HUGE trip! Good for you for undertaking it, and it sounds so successful. As for sleep…an hour here, two hours there, before you know it you’ll have your week!

  2. Anonymous
    June 28, 2014

    OH my girl! you are so brave. So glad you had such a good time after you got to your Grandma’s house. glad you and the childern are home safe.

  3. Jason
    June 29, 2014

    Maybe next summer: take a trip to Little Deer Isle, Maine and ride a boat “all the way across the bay to Buck’s Harbor” and eat an ice cream cone. Technically you’d have to row the boat, but I think we can easily make an exception here.

  4. […] I had available. Once the doll was acquired, her accessories were prohibitively expensive. My grandma bought some patterns and made her dresses. Grandpa made her a lovely bed and even painted it to […]

  5. […] all over mama. JC absolutely pulled his weight, and then some. The difference between traveling to Boston/New Hampshire without him and doing this trip with him was just night and day. That said, when we had some down […]

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