Hunting Season: The Hunter’s Spouse’s Survival Guide

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I’ll preface this post by saying I’m brand new to figuring out how to survive my husband’s hunting season scene.

We have owned our beautiful property for almost six years, and this is my husband’s first year hunting on it. I’m incredibly thankful he’s local and only walking into the woods behind our house.Hunting season safety- child wearing a red cap and walking into a forest

I think something about the pandemic caused the survivalist side of my husband to bloom. In the event that food becomes as scarce and valuable as toilet paper, he wants to be able to hunt and provide. Let me tell you, it is incredibly impressive (and a turn on- but don’t tell him that).

I have heard stories of spouses disappearing for the months of November and December for hunting season. I’ve heard the deer camp stories, and about the insane time commitment, and the massive preparation that hunters undertake to ensure they come home with that venison stew meat.

Thankfully, my husband is still a new hunter so aside from the hour he spent at the sporting goods store (not an ideal waiting time or place for toddlers, FYI) he hasn’t devoted much time to the process. I feel pretty lucky to have extra time with my husband. This may sound sentimental, but that’s only part of the story. I need him so I can divide and conquer our little pack of kids to address their negative behaviors.

As a stay-at-home-mom, I treasure the time my husband is home.

His presence means extra time I can spend in the shower, without fear of one kid throwing the other down the stairs. Or, the extra time I can spend in my workshop crafting new holiday season signs and gifts. Or, extra time I can spend diverting my youngest away from my snack food towards my husband’s leftover pizza. Seriously, why can’t my toddler just eat his own food on his own dang plate, particularly when it’s exactly the same as what I have on my own plate?!

So, back to my husband waking up in the middle of the night during hunting season to bundle up and head out into the wild. Once I got past the initial safety concerns of coyotes, fishers, bobcats, bears, foxes, raccoons, raptors, and whatever other wildlife is in our backyard that we haven’t seen or heard, I refocus on spending another day alone with the kids.Dog lying by the fireside during hunting season

To some, my life is a dream. To me, it’s pretty dreamy- however, I get tired just like the rest of you working 9-5 jobs, except I‘m parenting and homeschooling, and my shift is pretty much 24/7 forever. My patience wears thin every day just like how I felt when I had a full-time job on any given Friday evening. I’m just as ready for that weekend to rest and relax, except instead I get to repeat the same arguments and snack fights with my toddlers.

So, how am I making it through this first family hunting season without my husband to help with our kids during an increasingly stressful time as the pandemic knocks on our front door again, and outings and play-dates are no longer safe?

  1. Build a fort. That’s right, a good ol’ fashioned blanket fort in the middle of the living room floor. This was one of my favorite activities as a kid. My daughter LIVES for forts. She loves to curl up underneath and binge whatever Netflix show or movie she’s obsessed with at the moment. She grabbed a bunch of books today and tried reading to my son while they were both in the fort together. My youngest, however, likes to turn our forts into obstacle courses he can jump over. Inevitably, the blankets fall down, both kids get upset, and the tears flow. Most importantly, it gives my kids a good 6 minutes of fun and entertainment.
  2. Binge Christmas movies. Welcome to the post-Halloween time of year when our Christmas spirit just appears. We are a die-hard Thanksgiving family. Typically, Christmas doesn’t come out in our house until the last piece of pie is finished and dishes are done after quality family bonding. This year, however, due to all the chaos and disruption, we need a little extra Christmas music, lights, and good-hearted movies that make us feel warm inside. Thank you, Netflix for providing free Christmas movie content I can turn on for the kids to binge. Now, I just need to find the DVD for The Polar Express and I’ll have my kids’ attention for days.
  3. Bake. We have been on a steady rotation of baking sugary desserts for a little while now, but I think chocolate chip cookies are on the menu this weekend. My kids absolutely LOVE baking. They love measuring and pouring the ingredients into the bowl and making a huge mess. I’m not sure I trust my toddler with the flour anymore though. She just saw a scene in a movie of flour throwing and commented how much fun it looked. I’m not trying to create an unnecessary mess here. Full disclosure, they aren’t actually that helpful and mostly get in the way while baking. However, with the right attitude, they love it, and it provides great entertainment for another 8 minutes.
  4. A walk in the woods. Just kidding. This was our normal go-to activity before hunting season, but due to the topic of this post, we’re postponing our walks in the woods until hunting season is over.

There are many more activities to choose from and maybe I’ll get to those next year when I’m not completely worn out and trying to nap during the kids’ quiet time. We might even attempt our monthly trip to Costco today, because who knows what will be left in the store by the time my husband comes home. Pandemic shopping, that’s a story for another day.

At the end of the day, I love supporting my husband in whatever adventure he wants to try.

Trust me, it’s not always easy. Hunting though is a great new opportunity for him to have his own self-care in the woods. For example, he came home this morning to the kids screeching and one kid crying. I almost wanted to kick him out the door so he could hold on to some sanity for the both of us.

jet flying over the mountains of Vermont Realistically, this may not be a resource guide, but rather a simple reminder to those spouses at home surviving through hunting season- you’re not alone. I think this can be a fun time to explore new ideas, new goals, and new adventures of our own.

How about you? What traditions or activities do you have to get through hunting season? More importantly, what kind of venison recipes do you have and love?!

Hunting Season: The Hunter’s Spouse’s Survival Guide

Finding New Thanksgiving Traditions in COVID Times

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Thanksgiving traditions are on the cutting board this month as I redefine my expectations for the holiday, 2020-style. Just like everything else this year, COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plans, our lives… and our traditions. Finding new Thanksgiving traditions is on my mind.

A stuffed Thanksgiving turkey on a platter.Many of the things that used to define Thanksgiving now make us recoil at the germy, COVID-laden thought. Volunteering to provide food and comfort to others less fortunate, gathering with friends and family, traveling to share meals, passing elaborate platters around and around, cozying up inside. Yuck.

Vermont has done well in limiting the spread of the virus, but our numbers have risen of late. The pandemic is of ever-increasing concern. State officials issued a number of new controls in last week’s executive order; they warned Vermonters to limit gatherings and consider staying home for the holidays. They suspended the travel map and implemented a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning or traveling to Vermont. Multi-household gatherings are now prohibited. The closures and isolation of April may be making a swift return.

Given the almost lifelong uncertainty of the day-to-day, can we even make “new traditions”?

By definition, traditions are time-honored, regular occurrences. And they’re not new. I suppose “new traditions” is an oxymoron but I’m going with it. I still want to celebrate, take an active approach to finding new Thanksgiving traditions, and lead my family in having a Thanksgiving that is definitely different, and at least okay.

The question arises: what can I do to find family activities that are fun and memorable for them and possibly even for me – maybe even find some “new traditions” that are worthy enough to keep around next Thanksgiving, when we hope things will be normal again? I’ve always loved this holiday, and I want it to continue to be meaningful for me and my family.

Try a New Local Product

A coop grocery sign asking if holiday plans are different this year and suggesting customers buy their foodOur former Thanksgiving crowd would have missed our perennial favorites if we didn’t serve them in prior years. Now that there’s nobody to lament that cranberry jelly (still in the shape of the can) is missing from the table, is it time for us to experiment with something new – and why not make it local? There’s that boxed stuffing that always caught my eye in the grocery store but I couldn’t buy because I made my own. Those down-home cherry cobbler bars that I couldn’t buy because I couldn’t stray from magically producing the home-baked trio of apple, pumpkin, and pecan every year. Those artisan marshmallows that lots of people put on sweet potatoes, but my crowd likes pecans and brown sugar. Let’s switch up our menu a little.

Redefine Dinnertime

This year, nobody is expecting guests to make their way to the dinner table from points far-flung. In fact, the State of Vermont has forbidden out of state travel without quarantine. Great Aunt Bertha is staying put. Let’s face it, everyone who is coming to dinner is probably… already here. Why not try a noon time, farm-style “dinner”? It’s a lot less exhausting to clean up when you haven’t already had a 12-hour day. Plus, there’s no crime in having at least a full eight hours to digest before bed – an added bonus to finding new Thanksgiving traditions. Somebody just has to get up early to pop in the turkey to be ready for noon.

Or Forget Cooking Altogether… Try a New Restaurant!

Let’s face it. I’ve always been a little envious of people whose Thanksgiving plans mean dinner out. No cleaning, no setup, no dishes, no exhaustion! With a smaller group, this may be the year to let someone else serve dinner. From Barre to Woodstock and all around the state, the Vermont Fresh Network, a non-profit organization that connects people to local food, has published this handy list of Vermont inns and restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Game Night

As if a pandemic weren’t enough, now there’s another reason to keep those teens from running off. Murder mystery games are popular among the older set and I’ve always wanted to try them. Or a game of Clue – hey, maybe nobody will be up for learning something new and we would fare better if we keep the Thanksgiving-day “murder” simple. Either way, if there’s ever a chance for a captive audience of my teens, Thanksgiving will be the day. With no outings, even if murder is off the table, there will be plenty of time to play Monopoly from start to finish.A photo of the corner of a Monopoly gameboard

Take a Turkey Day Stay Trip

Doom, gloom, and Zoom – these are the only things before us, it seems. With school and screens powered down for the long weekend, it’s a great time to take a little trip to explore another part of Vermont. I would love to go check out the art scene in Brattleboro, soak the day away in the hot tub at Top Notch in Stowe, walk the city parks around Burlington, or be part of Jay Peak’s Return to Jay. Plus, if Vermonters have any extra money at all to put toward a little fun, our tourism businesses desperately need us.

Move into a New Class

Yoga, dance, pilates… lots of group exercise studios have Thanksgiving morning classes. I’ve always been envious of the people who could attend Thanksgiving morning classes. My kitchen is at its busiest in the hours before noon. But not this year. If you are cooking less, or for fewer people, why not start your day by giving thanks for the opportunity for self-care? In the end, your family may thank you.

Give Yourself a Break from Finding New Thanksgiving Traditions

Go ahead. Throw caution to the wind. It’s been a tough year. Perhaps we have spent too much time inside, too much time contemplating the same pod of people over our screens, and too much time eating without intention. Who says Thanksgiving 2020 can’t be the anti-Thanksgiving? No big meal, and no sitting around. Take a hike, go for a long walk – with or without friends or family. You deserve it. Who says we have to hold it all together?

COVID has given us the unlikely opportunity to make Thanksgiving entirely our own. How will you approach finding new Thanksgiving traditions this year?

Finding New Thanksgiving Traditions in COVID Times

How to Survive A Vermont Winter: Tips for Newbies

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I might be biased, but there is a lot to love about Vermont from our tight-knit communities, to the glorious snow-capped mountains, to the maple syrup… just to name a few.

person walking through snowy woodsVermont is a beautiful place to live, especially if you enjoy rural and smaller urban communities, outdoor activities like skiing and hiking, and have an appreciation for winter. I’ve been here for 13 years, and there have always been families from other states looking to move into Vermont. However, Covid-19 has resulted in a larger than usual influx of people itching to move from a big city to our comparatively quiet state; all you have to do is investigate the housing market right now and it’s evident, Vermont is the place to be these days!

With many people coming from other states and climates, I thought I would compile my best tips for how to survive a Vermont winter- and here we go!

People always ask, “What do you need to wear to survive a Vermont winter?”

winter drivingIn a nutshell, LAYERS. Layers over your clothing and under. Preferably made of wool or some synthetic fabric that stays warm while wet. Long johns, snow pants, boots, hats, mittens. It is recommended that your kids wear one more layer than you are wearing. Wool socks are essential! Some people really like things like Yak Trax, that attach to the bottom of your boots to help give you traction on ice. We all know ice can make driving treacherous. But it’s worth noting that ice also makes walking dangerous, and extra traction is one way to stay safe.

It’s also advantageous to buy several hats and sets of mittens for your kids and as well as a backup pair of snow pants. Despite writing their names and initials all over everything, hats and mittens really do go missing more commonly than one might think. Also, having two pairs of snow pants ensures that if one pair is left at school or is wet, you have another pair! It may seem like a waste of money, but once you’ve been trapped inside the house for days with your whole family during a snowstorm, it will seem like a bargain. I like to buy backup winter boots for my kids too, as well as backup pairs of snow pants and mittens and some hats. I try to get as many as I can second hand at Boho Baby, Goodwill, or Once Upon a Child. Or I trade hand me downs with friends.

baby in winter hatSchool kids in Vermont go outside for recess as often as possible in the winter. Depending on your district and the age of your children, going out for recess in single-digit weather isn’t uncommon (for kids older than preschool age). You definitely need them to be prepared with a warm coat, snow pants, boots, hat, and mittens!

That said, even though we Vermonters spend a lot of time encouraging our kids to go outside and play, you also need to take precautions when it gets dangerously cold. If it feels like it’s below zero, your kids won’t be out for recess. If you have kids who walk to school or wait for the bus, and you can avoid having them do so in subzero temperatures, do so! A five-minute walk in -10 degrees F or lower can be dangerous. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite and make safe choices!

It’s worth mentioning that while drinking alcohol might make you feel warm, it actually lowers your core temperature. It also may make you less aware of how cold you’re feeling. Please be cautious about drinking alcohol when you will be spending time outdoors in the winter.

Best tips for driving in the snow and car care that will help you survive a Vermont winter

1. When they plow roads in Vermont, the goal is not to have entirely clear roads, just passable ones. This will make sense when you’ve lived here long enough.

2. You’re going to need to give yourself extra time to reach your destination when it snows, and you need to be prepared to drive for the weather conditions. This means driving under the speed limit, giving extra space to the car you’re behind, beginning to stop sooner than you usually would, and if you hit a slippery spot, take your foot off the gas and steer through it. If you’re new to winter driving, remember that the most important part of defensive driving is TAKING YOUR TIME. If it typically takes you 15 minutes to get somewhere, plan on 30 in inclement weather. And remember that weather can be clear and road conditions can still be hazardous. Slow down, take your time, and plan on conditions changing throughout the day.

3. Two words: snow tires. If you’re commuting, they are a must. They don’t necessarily need to be studded, but snow tires are one of the best investments you’ll make if you live in Vermont, especially rural Vermont. All-wheel drive helps, but I’d say 98% of Vermont residents agree: it is not a replacement for snow tires. All season tires aren’t good enough either unless you’re already a seasoned snow/ice driver.

4. Get an AAA membership. It is totally worth it. Needing to be towed after you slide off the road even one single time will cost more than an annual AAA membership.

5. Keep your gas tank at least ¼ full. Not just because you may need to re-route or because you’ll want it if you get stuck, but when the gas tank is less than ¼ full, the cold can cause condensation in your tank, and not only could corrosion occur, but your fuel line could freeze. Not good!

6. Have your car prepped for everything. Have a snow brush in your car at all times. Keep a small snow shovel and blanket in your car as well. Extra windshield wash is also a great idea. Other things you may want to include in an emergency car kit would be: flashlight, extra wool socks, extra hats and gloves/mittens, an extra battery brick for your phone, and high energy snacks. Kitty litter is also commonly recommended in case you get stuck and need traction under your tires on slippery surfaces. Travel with baby wipes and bottles of water; they will both freeze if left in the car, but both can be invaluable.

7. Consider having your car undercoated or rust-proofed to prevent corrosion from salt used on the roads.

8. Keep a set of jumper cables in your car and know how to use them. Cold temperatures contribute to battery draining, so this is a great idea. Even if you aren’t driving daily, your car should be started at least once a day when temperatures dip into the teens, and especially in subzero temperatures.

9. Know the laws! It is illegal in Vermont to let your car idle for more than 5 minutes. So, keep your idling to a minimum, and DON’T let your car idle at all in your garage or when your car exhaust is blocked by snow to avoid the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

-Also, before driving, clear the snow off your car really well. You can get ticketed if you don’t because snow and ice chunks can fly off your car, blinding other drivers or causing damage.

-Pay attention to your town or city’s parking bans. Cars can’t be parked on the side of the road if plows are going to do their job effectively. If you don’t move your car during a parking ban, your car may end up plowed in, ticketed, or towed.

10. Cold temperatures cause your tires to deflate because cold air takes up less space than warm air. Watch your dashboard symbols and keep your tires inflated.

11. Find the location of your car’s backup camera lens (if you have one) and keep it clear and clean. It’s useless covered in slush.

12. Cell service in Vermont is spotty. Make sure you know your route before you get on the road. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to arrive. Keeping an actual Vermont state road map is a must for when you don’t have reception for your GPS or phone, or when GPS takes you to a road that is closed for the season and you have to find an alternate route.

13. If your child is in a car seat, put layers OVER the straps to keep them warm. Putting snowsuits or heavy coats on babies or children creates huge gaps between the child and the straps and in the event of an accident, the straps will no longer protect your child no matter how tight you think you’ve tightened them. See this video for details! Put blankets over your child after they are strapped in the car instead, or put their coat on backward, with their arms in the coat after they’ve already been strapped in. For tiny babies, lined car seat covers with elastic that goes around the seat itself and does not interfere with the straps work really well.

14. You should wear lighter layers in the car too, especially for long trips. Adult straps work the same as those in your child’s car seat and a bulky coat could be dangerous for you.

15. Even though you should wear light layers, pack more layers for each passenger in your car. Always act as if you’re going to be pushing your car out of a ditch. You never know when you’re going to need to, and you want to be prepared!

house inWhat do you need to consider as a homeowner to survive winter in Vermont?

Cold temperatures not only affect your car and what you should have with you when you travel, but they also affect your home and how you care for it as well. Here are some things you need to be aware of to keep your home safe during Vermont winters.

  1. You need to keep track of how often you clean your dryer vent.

We all know that lint collects on a screen in your dryer and you should peel that layer off after every dryer cycle. During the winter, when you are wearing heavier fabrics such as wool and heavy cotton, your dryer collects even more lint than usual. Since lint is flammable, it is absolutely imperative you keep track of how often you clean your dryer vent so you don’t have a fire. You can do this yourself; there are plenty of videos online to teach you or you can hire someone to do it. It is recommended that you clean your dryer vent at least every 2 years.

One final thought about dryer vents: if yours is low to the ground outside like mine is, just make sure you keep it clear of snow.

2. Keep your gutters clean.

If you haven’t dealt with leaves or ice melt before, then this tip is for you! Clean the leaves out of your gutters when you notice them before the snow comes. If you don’t, you’re going to end up with a lot of water backup whether it is raining or just melting when things thaw. If the water backs up, you can end up with mold growth or the water re-routing to areas you do not want it to! The last thing you want is a leaky roof, so please pay attention to this advice.

3. Keep your chimney in good working order.

No matter what your heating source, keeping track of your chimney’s status is critical. Having a crumbling chimney, one that takes on water and gets moldy, or one with plants growing out of it is going to be a problem. While fixing any problem with your chimney may be costly, the domino effect of what happens when your chimney is in poor repair will be much worse.

Fireplaces are cozy additions to many Vermont homes. If you have a fireplace, the safe thing to do is to get your chimney flue(s) cleaned and inspected once a year when you aren’t using your chimney.

4. If you have a wood stove or wood-burning fireplace, buy your wood a year or two before you intend to use it. Wood needs time to dry, because wet wood is useless when it comes to heating your home.

5. If you have a gas fireplace or a pellet stove, be aware that they get HOT to the touch. Get a safety screen for it or put a play fence around it if you have kids.

6. Clear your sidewalks, decks, roofs, mailboxes, and fire hydrants daily.

If you aren’t used to shoveling snow, you may not think to clear more than just your driveway. However, there is more to think about when it comes to shoveling and clearing snow. For example, your town, village, or HOA may take responsibility for plowing or shoveling sidewalks, but you should be prepared to do so if they do not. You should shovel out any fire hydrant near your property, at least 3 feet out from it on all sides in case of emergencies. As far as mailboxes go, if they aren’t shoveled out, your mail carrier can’t deliver your mail. Do them a favor!

If you haven’t shoveled snow before, you will learn quickly that it can be heavy!

Leaving too much snow on your deck or on your roof if it doesn’t have a steep pitch can compromise the structural integrity of your house. Even if you have a snowblower, get a shovel for that deck and consider getting a roof rake too if your home’s roof has a gradual pitch.

7. The snowplow will plow you in.

There is no way around this. You will have a heap of packed snow at the end of your driveway once the plow has gone by. I like to go out and create a path to the end of the driveway and shovel this heap first while I have the most energy and then work my way back toward the house and towards the unpacked, lighter snow.

8. Don’t turn off your heat when you go on vacation. If the pipes get too cold while you’re gone, they will burst.

9. If you’re moving to a rural area, you may want to consider having a generator in case of power loss. If you have one, install it outside your home.

10. Have a list of emergency numbers posted in a convenient place, including the name of someone who can fix your furnace. The minute you don’t have the number you need on hand, you’ll need it.

Are there any other suggestions I should consider as I embark on my new Vermont winter adventure?

  1. Well, having a humidifier never hurts. The air gets dry in Vermont. Prevent nose bleeds by running one during the winter.
  2. If you have a dog, regular ice melt/salt isn’t good for the pads on their feet. You can go the ‘paw bootie’ route, but investigate your options with ‘paw wax,’ too.
  3. Speaking of animals, if it is too cold outside for you, it’s too cold outside for your pet to stay out there longer than a couple of minutes to do their business. Get a pet sweater if you like to walk your dog but if the temperatures are dangerously low, snuggle with your pet at home instead.
  4. Don’t spend your entire winter inside. We have snowfall and cold temperatures the better part of 7 months out of the year. You’ll go stir crazy if you stay inside. Seasonal affective disorder is real and getting out during the day can help avoid triggering it. Embrace the weather and find a winter activity your family loves to do. Get fitted for skis, buy a sled, or invest in some skates. Spend your time building snowmen and making snow angels. Read up on the tracks animals make in winter, and do some investigating. When you’re done, be sure to come in and drink oodles of hot chocolate.

No matter where you’re coming from, we here at Vermont Mom want to welcome you to our great state! May your first winter in Vermont treat you well!

How to Survive A Vermont Winter: Tips for Newbies

Grandma – Fond Childhood Memories of my Grandmother

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My grandma was one of my favorite people as a child.

I miss spending time with my grandma. She is currently in hospice care in Ohio and I live in Vermont. Due to coronavirus concerns, I have decided not to put my family at risk, so I can’t go visit. However, I can focus on my fond memories of my grandmother and remember all the good times I had with her while growing up.

I liked days when my teacher mother had in-service days. That meant I got to spend the entire day with my grandma.

The day always started off with a breakfast of eggs and toast served in the recliner in front of the television. I ate while watching Nickelodeon shows, such as Double Dare and Legends of the Hidden Temple. After breakfast and television time came playtime. My favorite activity was using the entire coffee table to build domino tracks. Paper dolls were my second favorite activity. My grandma kept a shelf of toys specifically for the times when her grandchildren came over to play.

family at a graduation ceremony

Lunch at my grandma’s house typically involved a frozen pizza. They were special because my grandma bought a different brand than my mother. Hi-C was the drink of choice. If I was lucky, the afternoon brought a trip to the nearby shopping mall. My grandmother never learned how to drive, so this trek involved crossing a busy road by foot and then cutting through a residential neighborhood. It was so much more exciting than simply driving to the mall. I remember one day when my grandma bought me markers at the mall and I felt like I was the luckiest kid alive!

Thanksgiving was always held at my grandparents’ house.

Everyone ate on a long series of card tables set up in the living room. We chatted and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while trying to keep my grandfather’s obnoxious Dalmatian, Pepper, from stealing any of the food. The food was the same every year, and I always looked forward to our family traditions. I knew my grandma would make two different stuffings because no one agreed which version was the best. When Santa appeared on television at the end of the parade, that was our cue to start eating.

Christmas was also celebrated at my grandparents’ home.

There was always plenty to eat. I particularly enjoyed the orange cookies that my grandma baked. Now I bake a batch myself every December. Frosted sugar cookies were also a favorite treat. I enjoyed the predictability of seeing the same decorations every year. The only thing that changed was which Christmas present the dog chose to chew up. I always hoped it would belong to someone else!

author sitting on the couch with her grandmother

I admired my grandma for remaining calm in the face of calamity.

I’m fairly certain that she is the only member of my family who has never raised her voice in my presence. If a problem came up, my grandma would quickly find the best solution and then just get on with it. I swear that nothing fazed her. She was not the sort of woman to run screaming from bugs or rodents. I always felt like she was the glue that held the family together.

I remember my grandma being there for me.

I knew that she would be in the audience of every one of my dance recitals. When we needed someone to beat us at miniature golf or bowling, my grandma stepped right up. I felt so special when I got to ride in the truck with my grandparents and go to dinner, just them and me. I got to enjoy exotic treats, such as French vanilla ice cream. I envisioned myself as a sophisticated grownup on these trips.

As a child, I thought that being a grandma was the best job in the world.

I liked that my grandma could leave a jigsaw puzzle set up on a card table in front of the picture window whenever she wanted. She had time to cook whatever food she wanted. She got to spend lots of time with us grandchildren, but got to send us back home at the end of the day. She could watch The Price is Right instead of being stuck at school. I looked forward to becoming a grandmother someday.

a grandma loves her family

Even though I can’t be with my grandma right now, I can still wrap myself in her love. I hope I will be as great a grandmother one day!

Grandma - Fond Childhood Memories of my Grandmother

What I’d Most Like to See Return From My Childhood

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I was born in 1954. People had telephones attached to a wall, you paid extra for long-distance and you paid more per minute for your calls. When I was very small, it was fancy if you had a private line, as opposed to a party line, where more than one household shared a telephone line. The average house, for a family of four, was 1300 square feet. If you were diagnosed with cancer, it was often a death sentence. Women had to be married to get birth control and abortion was illegal. Girls were taught not to be too smart, boys wouldn’t like that. Most women worked out of necessity. Careers were for the fathers.

Well! That all sounds awful. I hardly touched the surface. What about gay rights, race, and religion? I grew up in upstate New York. There were clubs in my town that didn’t allow Jews to join and my family is Jewish.

This might make you wonder what was so good about the “good ole days”? There are some things I would like to see return from my childhood. Here goes…

Childhood freedom

Maybe this was a means of survival for a mother who would have thrived with a career, but instead, she was home with the kids. I would like a dollar for every time our mothers said to get out of their hair and go outside and play. We didn’t have play dates, we went outside and there was always someone to play with. We went everywhere in the neighborhood without adult supervision. Our neighborhood was surrounded by woods, and we had many adventures in those woods. Our mothers, note I said mothers, had no idea where we were. We just had to show up at home before dinnertime.

What did I get from that? Independence. We had to make things up. Creativity. I lived in the world of “make-believe” for hours on end. We fought and figured out how to survive. Our games were played in empty lots or neighbor’s yards. I knew no one who played games in leagues. I shudder at what my stepdaughter spends on field hockey for my granddaughter.

Oh, wait. The boys had Little League… of course, the boys. However, Little League was local… and there was no going out of town, no staying in hotels, and no paying fees to be in the league.

Being a kid was simpler.

When a parent is shelling out the kind of money they do for their child to play in a league and play hours away from home, there is a lot of pressure for these kids to show something for the money and the effort their parents are putting into their child’s sport. I think parents and kids both would benefit if this system would return from my childhood.

My love of musical theater

When TV had three stations, it was not on for hours at a time. There were other things that occupied our household. My parents played musicals on the record player all of the time. Musical theater became a huge theme throughout my life. I joined the drama club in high school, and those drama kids became lifelong friends. One of them just called (not texted) to tell me to watch “What the constitution means to me” on Amazon Prime. I will do that and I promised that we would “discuss” when I did. Years later, I met my husband in Burlington’s Lyric Theatre. Some of our best friends are Lyric people.

high school theater friends because the universal presence of theater should return from her childhood.Communication skills

I am not afraid to talk with people. I have been doing it all of my life. There was no texting. When I wanted to communicate with someone, I called and actually spoke to that person. We would also simply go to someone’s house and knock on their door. We learned to be polite and ask if so and so could come out to play.

One day, I was in my home town with my daughter. We were in a park very near to where a high school friend lived. I suggested going over to see if he was home. Liza was aghast. She grew up in the age of play dates and arrangements.  She couldn’t believe that I would just show up to say hi. Jim was home and was delighted to see us. We had a great visit on his beautiful front porch.

author, a mom, hugging her adult daughterIf I had texted, we may have missed him, and we all would have missed out on a lovely memory. It struck me. I haven’t knocked on anyone’s door like that in years. It felt so innocent and spontaneous, and safe. To knock and know you will be welcome is a beautiful thing.

I often wonder if the lack of face to face, voice to voice communication leads to the high amount of social anxiety young adults experience today. People don’t get to practice social interaction. I asked my granddaughter when she was 14, how she spent her weekend. She said she hung out with her friends. Ok. I thought she got together with her friends. No. She spent the night texting her friends. We have lost the art of the written word, what kid knows how to write in cursive? Are we losing the art of face to face interaction as well? By the way, this story took place before COVID. 2020 is not going to help. Talking directly to someone is a skill I would very much like to see return from my childhood.

Appreciate what we have

I mentioned this earlier, the average house size for a family of 4 was 1300 square feet. Most same-sex siblings shared bedrooms, there were no master baths, the whole family used one telephone line, people owned one TV, and I could go on. You get the point.

What we considered a luxury then is an assumed necessity today. I can’t imagine a teenager who has to go without a smartphone. Heaven forbid! We thought it was the coolest thing if we could have an extension phone…same line, put into our bedroom. I never got that, and; no way would my parents ever agree to let me have a TV in my room.

I am not saying it isn’t nice that there are televisions in multiple rooms in the house, or that we all have our own telephones and the privacy of our own phone numbers. I am saying that we forget to be grateful for it.

Appreciating what I have is important and is something I wish would return from my childhood.Saying thank you and appreciating our abundances seems to have diminished since my childhood.

If we can take a step back and appreciate, encourage our children to do so, and encourage our children to take the time to write a thank-you note… not a text message, write the note, won’t we be better off? This is a return to my childhood that I would be especially grateful to see.

And if we can take several moments to be grateful for what we have, won’t that raise our awareness of those in our communities who are not as lucky? Here is an idea for the upcoming holiday season, have a discussion with your child. What do they treasure the most? Then… together, go out and purchase that treasure for someone who couldn’t afford it.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Are there things from the 50s, 60s, or 70s worth bringing back? What would you like to see return from your childhood?

What I'd Like to See Return From My Childhood

From Naptime Routine to Flexible Adventures

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A long, long, long time ago (okay, maybe ten months ago,) both of my kids were in a fantastic daycare that had them on a set routine from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. They had snacks at the same time every day, they napped at the same time every day, and they even pooped at the same time every day (just about).

Life was predictable and all I had to do on the weekends was not mess up the naptime routine.

No pressure, right? I mean, they’re my kids. I should be able to manage their naptime routine, right? Wrong. Every vacation I took, every extra day off I spent with my kids, I was always returning to daycare apologizing for any extra sleepiness the kids might have, and any crankiness they may have shown while trying to adjust back to their daycare routine.

Let’s be honest- we try hard to give our kids structure and routine.

I don’t know about yours, but my kids thrive on predictability. However, since transitioning to stay-at-home-mom life compounded by a global pandemic and ‘Stay at Home’ orders- my kids’ naptime routine has become a figment of our imagination.

But guess what? My kids are still thriving! Even without their incredible daycare routine.

Of course, there was a little bit of a transition. We started with a subtle schedule of “library day,” “ballet day,” and “gymnastics day,” with all days strategically scheduled around naptimes. Despite my careful planning, however, every time we went anywhere the kids always fell asleep in the car! It didn’t matter if they closed their eyes for five minutes, or a full 45-minute car ride, they were wide awake when we got home. Naptime soon became my kids’ time for reading books and playing quietly in their beds, but hey- it’s still quiet time, right?

Naptime routine: kid friendly hike up to Silver Lake, Vermont to throw more rocks. Yes, that is the logic I continue to remind myself of when my kids opt out of mid-afternoon shut-eye. When it comes down to it, should I stay chained to their beds and naptime schedules and avoid any adventure and outings? Or, do I bring my nature-loving, spirited kids out on adventures?

In the time since we’ve given up structure and routine, we’ve gone for walks, hikes, picked strawberries, had lunch dates with dad, went swimming at Grama’s, played disc golf in the woods, explored paths to rivers and lakes, and done a bunch of other socially distant activities. The point being, our adventures and the smiles on my kids’ faces are worth so much more than the designated naptime routine I’d force them to have before.

At the end of the day, I’m hoping to teach my kids how to live with a flexible schedule.

The kind of structure that ebbs and flows and we can adjust accordingly if plans fall through, or if weather turns bad. See, before my transition to this more-carefree, less planned lifestyle, before this new way of living, my kids lived by structure- or predictable planned activities. If something didn’t happen the way they thought or expected it should, there would be an epic meltdown of ugly-cry proportions.

Tantrums are exhausting.

I’ve learned to communicate with my kids about any plans we have, to form back up plans for potential issues we may encounter, and how to quickly figure something out if all of that fails. At the very end of explaining everything, I usually conclude with, “And if it doesn’t work out, it’s okay! Sometimes that happens.” Now, my daughter uses that phrase when telling my husband what is planned for the day. It makes me happy to see she’s opening up to modified plans. I’m sure when she wants to go swimming and it starts raining, she’s less than enthused. However, she’s already mentally prepared for the possibility of changing plans, so she’s already thinking of the many alternative activities she can do at Grama’s instead of swimming.

I may have two toddlers, but the frequency of toddler tantrums has decreased since I started using my new lack-of-a-naptime-routine flexible schedule methods.

Boy throwing rocks into the lake instead of nappingFunny enough, I’m the one that does not handle change well.

That’s why it’s important to me to teach my kids that it’s okay to be flexible, and it’s okay for plans to not work out. It’s important to find the positive no matter what comes your way because you can always adjust and have fun anyway! This is definitely an easier said than done lesson, but if I start teaching them now at almost four and almost two, they might learn the lesson before they’re graduated and out of the house. Fingers crossed.

So, nap vs. no nap?

At the end of the day- it’s what works for you and your family. No matter what anyone says, do what’s best for you and your family.

From Naptime Routine to Flexible Adventures

Using Caffeine For ADHD Symptoms in Kids

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Caffeine is not just in coffee. Today we find caffeine in energy drinks, candy bars, tea, and soda. The natural boost from caffeine releases dopamine in our brains, which adults with ADHD swear helps them stay focused. But is caffeine safe and does it work to improve ADHD symptoms? 

Does caffeine improve ADHD symptoms in kids

caffeine chocolate

ADHD- MIllions of Children and Counting

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a commonly diagnosed, neurodevelopmental disorder, and chronic condition that affects millions of kids and adults. Boys are diagnosed more frequently than girls and symptoms can appear as early as age 3. Hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating, troubles in school, low self-esteem are some of the common symptoms of ADHD, but there are three subtypes: 

  • Predominantly inattentive: The majority of symptoms relate to the inability to focus on a particular activity or interaction.
  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive: The majority of symptoms are excessive or abnormal activity and impulsive behavior.
  • Combined: This is a mix of inattentive symptoms and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms

Boy in a field of sunflowers.

The causes of ADHD are unconfirmed but doctors list premature birth, family members with ADHD, exposure to environmental toxins like lead, and exposure to drugs, smoking and/or alcohol in utero as potential contributing factors. Although many parents report experiencing a worsening of symptoms with sugar, artificial food dyes, and screen time, these have not yet been proven as definitive links but are recommended to be limited for the child with ADHD.  

Caffeine for ADHD and Hyperactivity? Sounds Like A Contradiction…

kid with tea caffeine for adhd

It may seem counterintuitive to use a stimulant for a condition that can result in hyperactivity and impulsivity, stimulant pharmaceutical medications (psychostimulants) are actually the most commonly prescribed for ADHD. According to WebMD,

Stimulants appear to boost and balance levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These medications help improve the signs and symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity — sometimes effectively in a short period of time.

Different types of stimulants may be prescribed- either fast-acting or long-acting and often dosing and specific medication have to be adjusted several times to have the best effects for the child. Side effects of stimulants may include an increased risk for psychiatric problems, weight loss or difficulty maintaining weight, and heart issues. 

Caffeine is also a stimulant and also appears to normalize levels of dopamine in the brain. A 2013 study from European Neuropsychopharmacology shows that caffeine may improve the attention spans of people with ADHD

Another review, from the Journal of Psychopharmacology, goes on to recommend the use of caffeine for adults with ADHD. The use of caffeine in children witH ADHD is much more conservative than when they try it in adults. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says many children already exceed safe levels of daily caffeine in the diet, mostly through soda intake. It is unclear if the positive results for adults using caffeine for ADHD treatment would be the same in a child’s brain. 

young girl in a school uniform holding a white mug.

How Does It Work? 

The effects of caffeine vary from person to person. For some, it causes agitation and anxiety and others feel calmed by it. One major concern about using caffeine in food products to manage ADHD is dosing. Food products with caffeine can vary in the amount of caffeine they contain, even different brands of coffee are going to have a different dose of caffeine per cup. And there are concerns about overdosing on caffeine, especially with children already taking stimulant medications. 

There are risks involved with taking any stimulant, be it a prescribed pharmaceutical or regular use of caffeine.

People with anxiety disorders, heart conditions, kidney disease, or liver disease may be recommended by their physicians to avoid all stimulants, including caffeine. Caffeine can also lead to trouble sleeping, lower appetite, headaches, or tics. If you or your child experiences any side effects, talk to your doctor.

What Do Parents Say about Caffeine and ADHD Symptoms in Kids? 

coffee, caffeine

The anecdotal response from parents also varies. You can find a number of parents touting the benefits of caffeine for children with ADHD online. One mother online reported giving her 8-year-old, unmedicated child diagnosed with ADHD, a cup of caffeinated tea in the morning and she immediately noticed his attention span and general attitude improved. She continues to do this daily. Is this result from the tea, or is it the result of the child believing he received medicine (placebo effect)?

Other Treatments For ADHD Symptoms in Kids 

meditating for adhdThere are alternatives and complementary therapies to help manage ADHD symptoms besides caffeine. The use of counseling, behavioral therapy, massage therapy, mindfulness and meditation, dietary supplements, herbal medicine, and acupuncture have all been used to help kids with ADHD. As a complex, neurodevelopmental condition, kids will likely benefit from a holistic approach to managing their symptoms and creating a foundation to educate them on how to manage themselves as adults. 

Takeaway

Using caffeine to treat ADHD symptoms in kids has enough scientific backing that it’s worth a conversation with your child’s physician to see if he or she thinks it may be an alternative worth exploring for your child. It is not recommended to try caffeine for ADHD on your own, especially if your child is already taking pharmaceutical medications for ADHD. Talk to your healthcare provider and discuss if caffeine may be something to help manage ADHD symptoms for your child. 

Have you tried caffeine for ADHD with your child? I’d love to hear about your experience.

For more information about ADHD see the ADHD Resource Center from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Using Caffeine For ADHD Symptoms in Kids

Advent Calendars – Not Just For Kids – They’re Fun For Adults, Too!

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My children love to get advent calendars at the beginning of every December.

Advent calendars help them count down the days until Christmas. They also give them a little surprise every day so they don’t explode with the stress of waiting until their favorite holiday. However, why should children have all the fun? Here are some fun advent calendars for adults to enjoy.

Alcohol

Parents can treat themselves to a little drink after the kids are in bed with an advent calendar featuring alcohol. If you like wine, try Costco’s wine advent calendar. It contains 24 half bottles of wine from around the world. If you prefer beer, try a beer advent calendar from Give Them Beer. It includes 12 highly rated craft beers. If you want hard seltzer, check out one of the many advent calendar options at Aldi’s. New this year, it comes with 24 cans of hard seltzer featuring 12 different flavors.

Beauty Products

The Body Shop offers advent calendars filled with 24 different beauty products. They offer different options for different budgets. Also, check out Sephora’s advent calendars. There are so many different goodies included, like nail polish, makeup, perfume, or sheet masks. They are sure to have something for everyone!

Puzzles

Gibsons has an advent calendar full of jigsaw puzzles. It includes 22 mini jigsaw puzzles along with glue and ribbon to turn them into ornaments for your tree. For a different type of puzzle, try an advent calendar full of metal wire puzzles. It includes 24 different puzzles with varying levels of difficulty.

Books

For readers, create your own book advent calendar by wrapping up 24 titles on your to-read list. This is also a good option for families because you can customize it to your tastes or focus on one theme. For small children, you can wrap picture books that you can read as a family when you unwrap them each day. If you want to get fancy, you can find plenty of tips on how to create a book advent calendar on Pinterest.

advent calendar

Caffeine

For caffeine lovers, try a coffee advent calendar. The one from Onyx includes 24 different single-origin coffees. There are also many options for tea lovers. Adagio’s advent calendar includes 24 different teas. You have the option of either loose tea or teabags.

Candles

For a unique treat, check out the many candle advent calendars on Etsy. There are options for all sizes, prices, and scents. Yankee Candle also makes a popular candle advent calendar. For crafters, try making your own candles for this advent season!

Classic Chocolate

Adults will also enjoy a classic chocolate-filled advent calendar. However, it’s worth splurging on quality chocolate. Godiva makes a very tasty advent calendar filled with 24 delicious treats. Lindt also offers a variety of different chocolate-filled advent calendars. If you have a refillable advent calendar, visit your local chocolate shop to fill it with your very favorite flavors.

What advent calendar do you want this year?

Advent Calendars - Not Just For Kids - They're Fun For Adults, Too!

Diverse Political Opinions: the Importance of Respect

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Yes, I said it. That dirty word starting with a “P”. Get your mind out of the gutter, I said dirty, not inappropriate. Politics. You have a right to formulate diverse political opinions based on your own experiences, judgment, and what might be factual information. You have a right to have an opinion, and not just once every four years.

Are you contemplating what side I’m on and if you’ll read past this sentence? Good! That is your right to choose too.

You may be thinking, “Who is this woman, and what makes her qualified to talk about politics?”

Good news, this post really doesn’t have anything to do with the presidential election, but it got your attention, didn’t it? Trust me, I’m not looking for a fight. This post is merely a reminder that you have a right to have diverse political opinions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Constitution protects so many human rights that it allows you to believe nearly whatever you want. Is our political system perfect? Absolutely not. We as a society could do so much better, but at the end of the day- YOU have YOUR opinion. And while imperfect, our Constitution really is an impressive document in so many ways.

I have known many people to get facts and opinions confused.

They are definitely not the same thing. To be honest, I even have an issue with the word “fact”. To me, fact means something absolute, something that is the truth. Well, what is the truth? It’s our perception of things we’re taught and what we’ve experienced. My dad used to say that “2+2 = 4, that’s a fact”. Well, is it? I’m not arguing that point, however, my stance is that it is a widely accepted “fact” based on someone’s research and analysis to create a mathematical situation where 2+2 = 4. Similarly, 50 years ago it was factual information to lay your baby to sleep on their belly. New parents today would have a stroke if their newborn was put on their stomach to nap.

Speaking of controversial sleeping methods, let’s talk about some other controversial topics.

There are many parenting topics that draw criticisms based on “fact” and often skew my personal social media posts because again, I’m not trying to fight. These include vaccinations, co-sleeping, car seats, winter coats, formula, nursing, lotions, behavior management methods, cry it out, rewards, MASKS, and… hang on- I’m exhausted just thinking about these ones. These are just the top topics that have caused me to fear being at the wrong end of the discussion, but why is that? Many of these areas have years and years of research studies to formulate “guidelines” or “safety guidelines”. There are laws, there are rules, and then there are “guidelines”. The foundation of my parental anxiety.

Diverse politcal opinions with ice cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, what is the point of me subtly mentioning these hot topics? To remind you and anyone reading this, the opinions you formulate are your own.

Feel free to share your thoughts, your ideas, your diverse political opinions with whoever will listen, however, do not force them on me. I have heard too frequently from my family, friends, coworkers, and in public yet socially distant spaces, that people sharing opinions put an emphasis on someone else’s opinion being wrong. I am here to comfortably report that no one’s opinion is wrong. Their actions may break laws, rules, and guidelines, but their opinions are formulated by their unique experiences and whatever information they have gathered.

When you cast that vote during election season- are you thinking about who would be a great leader and benefit our communities, towns, states, and country the most? Or, are you focused on who might make your life better, or even easier? Did I strike a nerve yet? I am definitely not suggesting one candidate over another, heck, I don’t like commitment and disagree with the extreme options I have been presented with. It’s like me giving my kids the option of a sardine pizza or dirt pasta for dinner (although, we all know someone who would choose either). At some point, I just want to hang my head and cry, hoping for a better solution so I can have ice cream for dessert.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, society as a whole would benefit from a little more kindness. If we can take a step back and consider the perspective of another person, then maybe we can start appreciating diverse opinions, including diverse political opinions. Maybe one day we can all meet in the middle and have some chocolate ice cream. Everyone can agree on chocolate, right?

Diverse Political Opinions: the Importance of Respect

You Can’t Hide from Politics: Why I Don’t Shield My Kids from Politics

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As a family of four in Vermont with a newly adopted habit of binge-watching fantasy tv shows, it would be easy enough for us to look the other direction when anything “political” comes up. But the truth is that while we may not be immigrants seeking asylum in this country, we are hurt watching children be separated from their families. While we may not have been sickened by Covid-19, our friends have been and ultimately, we’re all impacted by decisions the government does or doesn’t make to protect us during this global pandemic. And while we may not live where the wildfires are happening, we couldn’t hide our worry when the wildfires this fall made it difficult for my girls’ asthmatic uncle in Colorado to breathe.

We’re surrounded by politics and as often as I’ve considered bubble wrapping and sheltering my kids from the hard news of the day, I know we need to teach them to understand and live with politics. There is no point in me shielding my kids because you can’t hide from politics in this world.

Political map of the worldAfter the acrimony of the last presidential election four years ago, I didn’t want to participate, witness, or even think about anything political. I was pretty sure we’d all be better off just shutting down and hiding ourselves away. But when I looked at my kiddos, then 10 and 7, I realized I didn’t want to hide at all. Short of moving off the grid and isolating ourselves completely from society, there’s no way to hide from politics.

I wondered then, how could we possibly protect our children from all the negativity that inevitably comes with politics? Our discovery was, we couldn’t.

All our privilege as a white, middle-class family can’t shelter us from the impact of political hot-button topics such as climate change, police brutality, abortion access, and laws that harm members of the LGBTQ+ community. So, rather than burying our collective heads in the sand, and trying to hide from politics, my husband and I have learned to lean into politics. Instead of ignoring the world, we learn what we can and talk about what we know with our daughters. The public radio station is always on in our house and there’s a stack of (sadly, mostly unread) NewYorker magazines on the end table.

Politics seep into our lives when our kids read the cartoons or try the mini-crossword puzzle in the New York Times app and on the way, catch a headline. Politics occupy school where the kids participate in school shooting drills and stay in their class pandemic pods while they study history and science and read the latest fiction novels where characters grapple with the opioid epidemic, disability rights, and abuse. Politics are on display when we binge-watch an episode of Buffy in the evening and watch her get drugged at a college party before slaying some snake demon. We certainly don’t hide from politics.

sign that says "vote change the world"Each time the girls want to talk about something they hear or witness, we dig into the issues with them. We debate, hug, read, or watch something to tell us more. We live with the messy politics of the world and try to figure it out together. There is no hiding from politics in our home.

When our words don’t feel like enough, we act on our politics in ways big and small.

We attend protests; the girls know where to grab our “Revolution Love” protest sign if we don’t have time to make a fresh one. When our “Refugees Are Welcome Here” poster fell off of our door, we replaced it with a wreath that says Black Lives Matter. The girls have read the letters I sometimes write to the editor of local papers, they help me write postcards to get out the vote, and they wait patiently (well, sometimes) when I speed dial one of our congressional or local representatives to express my concern about something in the news. We talk about who to donate money to as a family. When we need a break from words, we find an organization that’s planting trees in our community to combat climate change, and join them in the fun. We vote. This year, I decided to start working at our local polling ward. We know we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but our political actions spread throughout the year, we hope, help us make things in our world a little better.

buttons that say "2020"When politics all start to feel like too much for us, when the anxiety starts to rise in my chest, my youngest daughter, now 11, has taken to removing the phone from my hand to stop me from reading more news. “Take a break, Mama,” she tells me. So, we sip some tea and step back for a bit. She’s wise in other ways too. When I asked her what I should write here today, she told me:

We should thank politicians for helping to run our world. They help settle disputes and talk about issues that are important in our lives, like climate change and world peace.

My eldest daughter, now 14, also seems to get it. She told me:

Not thinking about politics is a privilege. If you’ve never had a Supreme Court case decide something about your rights, you’re privileged. We have to constantly be thinking about and advocating for our rights or they’ll be taken away.

My daughters make me proud, a bit weepy, and committed to doing more. Ultimately, when it comes to living with politics, I think a lot about what E.B. White once said:

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

There’s so much to savor about raising kids and it would be easier, to be honest, if I could just hide from politics. But raising kids reminds me that we have a duty to make the world a better place too, and engaging with the political is one way of making that happen. It does, however, make it hard to plan the day.

You Can't Hide from Politics: Why I Don't Shield My Kids from Politics

Daylight Saving Time: The Gift of An Extra Hour, Once a Year

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Spring forward, fall back.

Daylight Saving Time ends soon, and we will turn the clocks back in favor of brighter mornings, early darkness, and an extra hour, once a year.

The day we “fall back” reminds me of a day decades ago, when the late and legendary AP Language teacher Warren Allen Smith distributed a New York Times op-ed in a classroom in Connecticut. He asked my classmates and me to reflect upon Autumn’s Gift of a Tucked Away Hour. The “comedown” of fall, yet, with one hidden gift: an extra hour, once a year. An hour tucked away from when we lost it last spring.

Daylight Saving Time ends as early as it can this year. The first Sunday of the month is November 1, and to say I’m not ready to “fall back” (I’m already behind!) would be an understatement. But this weekend does pack a special surprise, that gift of an extra hour, that happens only once a year. This year I’m clinging shamelessly to my extra hour and wondering what it means for me.

What will you do with this weekend’s gift of a tucked-away hour? This year, I’m searching for something special – while knowing that I can’t get too lofty. My plans need to be realistic. I’m not going to learn Spanish, launch a new and everlasting diet plan, or in any other way change my life (or the lives of others). But there are a few things I could do…

Recover from Halloween

November 1 is preceded by the night of October 31, and as my son, age 17, and daughter, age 14, get older, memorable costumes are replaced by loosely-formed plans for socially distant gatherings and shadowy references to bonfires. One drives and the other still rides with me – either way, their social life on this night is cloaked in extra folds of worry about my son scaring little kids and my daughter getting wrapped up in friends’ Halloween drama. On Sunday, I’ll need sleep from a fitful night before.

Self-Care (it’s even #SelfCareSunday)

Summer’s cooling eucalyptus face peel may still feel good, and my very favorite Banana Hair Mask fills the shower with tropical steam. Peppermint foot lotion for the win and time spent supine at yoga or on the foam roller. Should I take a bit of extra time to prepare myself for winter? I certainly should care what I look like. Maybe my self-care goal will be to change out of my sweatpants instead.

Moms always find trails, it’s true

darkened path through autumn hardwood forestA walk, the earthy smells of leaves and cold dirt. So many of us are called to this meditation with the Earth. Maybe that’s what I will do with my extra hour. I wish I could say I would use this extra hour to get an early start up a mountain, and I had been training for this all summer and fall. Or I’ll be crushing my PR at the gym. But alas, that’s not to be. Maybe a walk will happen.

Extra time for patching and connecting

Will my extra hour give me time to connect with the friend from summer 1990 whom I think of from time to time? Offer an olive branch to the woman who was my dear friend for 20 years but suddenly, inexplicably, disappeared (She must have misunderstood…)? What about those people who aren’t on social media and must have been in my life at one point. Who are they again? Connecting takes so much energy.

Try out all those recipes

Easy one-pot Massaman curry, African stew, “the best” (certainly better than mine) baked beans – all those links saved from Facebook posts, magazines, websites, and blogs just continue to simmer in a crock-pot of random dinner wishes. Maybe this gift of an extra hour will give me a chance to give them a try. But don’t I cook enough?

Organize and update – a likely story!

A box of random high school memoriesThe author of the original New York Times column contemplated organizing the childhood photos of a man and a woman, her now-grown children, and throwing away old checkbooks. The digital revolution helped solve the need for these outdated relics but it didn’t make us any more organized. There are also three boxes of high school and college memories that my sister dumped under my bed upon the final sale of my late parents’ house. Those things haunt me, just like Warren Allen Smith’s assignment from 34 years ago.

This is all too much for just one extra hour, once a year. I could go into a whirlwind of accomplishment, but more than anything, it feels like it’s time to take a break. It hasn’t been an easy time.

I’ve never dealt well with this sudden shift of consciousness, and afternoon darkness which lasts all the way until the December 21 Solstice and then ever so slowly starts moving in the other direction. It’s a new way of life, visited upon us each year but always startling. The morning light is not bright enough to make a difference, and my day ends even earlier than usual. Each year, I watch this spoof movie trailer and laugh – and then cry.

The one bright spot is that the end of Daylight Saving Time gives us this gift of an extra hour, once a year. Every year at this time I think about Warren Allen Smith and his hope to inspire high school students, perhaps more as humans than as achievers. Maybe I should spend my extra hour thinking about my most memorable teacher, Warren Allen Smith, and the gift of love of words that he gave me. Cheers, Mr. Smith.

What will you do with the gift of your extra hour this year – if anything, at all?

Forest path in a hardwood forest during Daylight Saving Time

Let’s Not Talk Politics in My Household, Okay?

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We don’t talk politics in our household.

I understand that it is an election year, and talking openly about issues is important. But hear me out.

My husband and I have been married for 10 years, and together for 13 years. We have never once discussed politics. For us, our political opinions are personal decisions and we would never try to sway one or the other to suit our own beliefs. We each have our opinions (strong ones), and sometimes they align and sometimes they do not.

"opinion" written on paper in a typewriter

To be honest, I also rarely engage in conversations about politics with anyone outside my home. Part of my reason is that I don’t want to be defined by my political choices.

Another part is I am well aware that I’m not versed enough in politics and I don’t feel I have a fully educated opinion when it comes to political matters.

Most importantly, my husband and I don’t talk about politics around our children. This is HUGE for us. In our opinion, our 7 and 9-year-olds have no need to have political opinions. I also know that they are hearing a lot about politics outside our home whether we want them to or not.

It is heart-wrenching to us when our children come home and make political statements based on what they heard at school from another child. Another child, who most likely only repeated what they heard their parents say, rather than forming their own informed opinions.

I’m not saying politics have no place in conversations with our youth, but with both of my children not even being a decade old, there IS NO PLACE FOR POLITICS IN THEIR LIFE RIGHT NOW!

talk politics

I do want my kids to understand how politics work before they form opinions about parties, candidates, and hot-button political issues. We’ve begun introducing general themes around elections to both of our kids, but to be clear- at no point have we shared which political nominees we are leaning towards. I’ve seen family members and friends tear each other apart on social media, arguing about their political views. My family has used that as a learning experience with our kids to teach them that everyone has different opinions and that’s ok.

That it isn’t ok to call friends and family names because they believe differently (or even view the world differently). 

The question now is, “What is age-appropriate political information”? And truth be told I don’t know. I think it’s a household decision, and one that will vary widely. But I do know that in my household right now isn’t the time to talk politics. I do want my children to have a basic understanding because I never did. I want them to have that in due time though. Right now… let them just be kids. Let them stay out of the badgering that is going back and forth between once tight-knit families.

At the end of the day, I am me, and you are you. And I believe that my children should not know anything more about politics than if someone is a kind person, a generous person, a loving person.

Let's Not Talk Politics in My Household, Okay?

The Newbie Homeschoolers’ Starter Kit

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Oh heyyyyyy! Where my newbie homeschoolers at? Can I get a “Heck yea!” for Covid homeschooling?

Now I know I’m not homeschooling alone, based on a VTDigger article that stated that Vermont home study enrollments were at 1634 on July 15 as compared to 932 on the same date the previous year. That’s a lot of new homeschool families for our little state. So, where are you all hanging out (virtually, of course)? What are you all reading? Listening to? Let’s help each other out here.

mother with two young boys, homeschooling in front of a computer in the kitchen.

As newbie homeschoolers, I know that all of the info can be overwhelming, intimidating, time-consuming, mind-numbing… should I keep going, or nah? There’s a lot of homeschooling-specific info to comb through and it’s exhausting.

Instead of giving you a giant list of 50+ resources I’ve found and used, I decided to break things down into three categories and then give you the top two resources I’ve come across in each category. This should be a pretty easy read for you – nothing too heavy, nothing too long. Here we go…

2 Books to Read:

These two books were the first ones I grabbed when we decided to homeschool. All I can say is LIFE CHANGING. Seriously.

newbie homeschooler mom reading a book on a blue chair

5 Hour School Week by Aaron and Kaleena Amuchastegui

If you are practical-minded, go on and give this a read. It’s simple, conversational, and actionable. Not kidding, even the type is fairly large which was great for those dog days of quarantine when I felt like my brain was going to fall out of my head.

I’d read an article years ago that had made me question whether or not modern public schools were really preparing our kids for the future they’re likely to have. This book reinforced everything I’d taken away from that article and more. I now more clearly see how much my kids can get from me and shorter, structured interactions that I can provide doing homeschooling, versus spending 8 AM-3 PM in school five days a week.

This book also gave me permission (which I very much needed in the beginning) not to feel like I had to recreate a public school day in my home. Free play alllllll the way! I’m loving seeing what my kids come up with on their own without adult intervention.

The Call of the Wild + Free by Ainsley Arment

This book is simply gorgeous. If you read only one book about homeschooling – I’d suggest this one. It is all-encompassing and literally has everything you need to know as a first time homeschooler. The author eases you in with personal stories and relatable accounts, lays out the most popular styles of homeschooling, goes over arguments against homeschooling with rebuttals, and winds things down with the Wild + Free philosophy.

I cannot praise this book enough. I don’t usually buy hardback books, because, well I’m cheap, but I’m so glad I have this in hardback! I feel like it’s a resource I’ll come back to for years.

2 Podcasts to Listen To:

I would not survive without podcasts. These two are in regular rotation on my earbuds.

The Homeschool CEO Podcast

As a homeschooling mom who also runs her own business from home, this podcast hits on everything I’m looking for most days for support and inspiration (well, it doesn’t touch on celeb gossip and true crime, so not everything – but most things.)

The interviews are extremely helpful and I always find at least one nugget of wisdom, some inspiration, and usually a book to add to that list of books I’ll probably never get to reading.

newbie homeschooler mom folds laundry while she listens to a podcast

Homeschool Your Way

This podcast is put out by the big box curriculum we bought into this year, but it is not at all just a long advert for their products (which TBH is what I expected). They put out weekly episodes that are just right in length and feature a hosting duo that is fun and friendly.

I like that the topics are common and simple – perfect for a first time homeschooler. I don’t feel like anything is over my head or like I’m not there yet.

Bonus: not to be redundant, but…
I’m also loving the Wild + Free podcast.

2 Communities for Support:

If you’re looking for me on Facebook, you’ll find me chatting in these groups.

Not Your Typical Homeschool Hangout

This group is run by a pair of Vermont homeschooling moms and is chock full of resources and support. They are great at community-building and super consistent with engaging posts and useful content.

Lonely Mom’s Club

This group is not specifically for homeschooling moms, but I think we all know that homeschooling can be quite lonely for moms – especially in these Covid times. No small talk with other moms at pick up and drop off, no co-op meetups, etc.

The purpose of the group is to connect to one another through humor, support, and resources. If you’re a lonely homeschooling mom or just a lonely mom in general – go on and join.

Bonus: again, not to be redundant, but…
I am in LOVE with the Homeschool CEO Community, too

Now, if you’re not newbie homeschoolers and you’ve been at this for a while, I’m guessing you’ve noticed the glaring omission in this post – where is Brave Writer, by Julie Bogart? All I can say is, I’m sorry, I tried and I can’t get on board with the book or the podcast. Bye, Karen. Now, please don’t cancel me. I’m a lonely homeschooling mom and I need friends!

Are you newbie homeschoolers this year or are you a homeschooling veteran? I’d love to know your favorite books, podcasts, and communities where you find inspiration and support. Pop your suggestions down in the comments!

The Newbie Homeschoolers Starter Kit

COVID Morbidity and Mortality: Following Death VS. Sickness

“Why are we closing things down, when the mortality rate is only 1%? “ “Lots of people die from the flu- what’s the big deal?” “Death rates are going down.” 

As an emergency physician, I’ve heard similar comments about COVID morbidity and mortality since the start of the pandemic. My concern is that comments like these demonstrate a lack of understanding not only about statistics but also about the difference between the terms MORTALITY (death) and MORBIDITY (illness).

I know many of you have read articles and seen memes about how COVID deaths are counted and some of you feel they are being overcounted. One false explanation for hospitals supposedly overcounting COVID deaths is explained in the following COVID death misinformation meme:

false information about hospitals getting extra money for diagnosing covid cases.

As a physician who has filled out more death certificates than I care to recall, I will tell you that it is clear that COVID deaths are being drastically undercounted, not overcounted.

According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus resource and tracking, the mortality rate in the US is currently 2.7% although we don’t know the true number of cases of coronavirus so that number needs to be viewed as a guess rather than an absolute percentage. Most educated guesses in the US place the fatality rate between 1-3%. Still, that’s a small number right? Is it worth closing down our economy and altering our education system? Is it worth putting the mental health of so many on the line for? I mean really, what’s 2.7% (or even 1%)?

To some degree, the answer depends on who that % is to you. If it is a random stranger, maybe you would argue that all of our COVID precautions aren’t worth it. But if it’s your partner, your child, your mother or father or sibling, or yourself, maybe you care more.

Following the mortality percentage, there are usually specific risk factors that cause people to be in a much higher risk group for death or severe disease. You all know about age, immune compromise, diabetes, high blood pressure, but did you know that OBESITY is one of the leading risk factors for death from COVID? In America in 2019, 40% of our population is considered obese. 18% are considered morbidly obese. Obesity is an independent risk factor for severe complications or death from COVID-19.

But enough about death- let’s talk about the metric I am really interested in, which is COVID-related morbidity. Morbidity means being sick from an illness.

man who is weak and sickMorbidity encompasses short term and long term issues related to the illnesses that DID NOT LEAD TO DEATH. The percentage of people suffering from aftereffects of COVID infection is MUCH HIGHER than the percentage of people who die of COVID, in the range of 20% of cases. It bears repeating: about 20% of people infected with COVID will have short and long-term problems. In addition to this, we don’t know the long term consequences of COVID infection because this virus has not been around long enough for us to see these. Even in the short 8 months of worldwide COVID, we are recognizing more and more long term symptoms that persist long after the acute infection is over.

These range from heart damage (found in up to 75% of symptomatic COVID survivors), blood clotting disorders like stroke, and embolisms, neurologic problems including stroke, vision problems, long term psychiatric problems including depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, long term lung damage, chronic fatigue, chronic dizziness, and likely many more yet to be discovered.

These morbidities can strike anyone. You don’t have to have had a severe case of COVID or be hospitalized to have complications. Less severe disease resulting in chronic problems has been termed “COVID long haulers syndrome” and is being seen widely in populations all around the world.

Additionally, if you are young and healthy and get REALLY sick from COVID, you can end up intubated in intensive care for weeks to months on end, but because you started young and healthy, you don’t die. These people, who are profoundly impacted by severe disease but live, are not counted in the mortality numbers. This is not an uncommon scenario for young healthy people. It is not uncommon, and it is a highly impactful, very expensive scenario that none of us would want ourselves or our loved ones to be in.


The known mortality risk factors do not predict morbidity risk factors, or who will get severe COVID disease. They predict who will die. While it is essential to count deaths, we need to also be concerned about all the morbidity and be tracking those numbers, as we make personal and policy decisions surrounding socializing, mask-wearing, education, and opening states.

We need to ask ourselves, am I willing to risk MY loved one’s health, MY own health? Morbidity in this disease is far more random than mortality. We all need to do our part to protect each other from life-altering COVID morbidity which is a metric that is not being closely followed and certainly doesn’t make the news. 

COVID Morbidity and Mortality: Following Death vs. Sickness

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I’ll preface this post by saying I’m brand new to figuring out how to survive my husband’s hunting season scene. We have owned our beautiful...
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