Vermont Mom’s Favorite Vermont Breweries

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are kind of a lot of breweries in Vermont. And they’re good. Really good. World-class even. Who knew!

As of May 2019, there were 56 operating Vermont breweries or brewpubs.

In 2011, 2012, and 2014, Vermont was ranked as having the most breweries, nanobreweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs per capita. You could visit a different Vermont brewery every weekend for a year and still not hit them all!

Visitors come to Vermont to enjoy the breweries on over 15 different Beer Trails. Some Vermont brewers have even been credited with creating their own “IPA revolution”.

With so many breweries, it can be hard to pick a favorite – or to visit them all! But, we’ve come up with a list of our favorites so you can get started!

Glossary of Terms:
IPA – India Pale Ale
DIPA – Double (or Imperial) IPA – more hops and higher alcohol content than an IPA
NEPA – New England IPA
VPA – Vermont IPA
ABV – Alcohol by volume, this is the percentage of alcohol in each beverage

Here are our favorite Vermont breweries (in no particular order):

Burlington Beer Company

Location: Williston, VT

Favorite brew: Strawberry Whale Cake

Why we love it: It’s fruity, fresh, seasonal, and delicious!

Do they serve food? Yes!

Is it kid-friendly? Call ahead to inquire.

Idletyme Brewing

Hallie and her family enjoy Vermont breweriesLocation: Stowe, VT

Favorite brew: Pink & Pale

Why we love it: This is a grapefruit lover’s dream! This brew has been described as light, slightly sweet, and delicate.

Do they serve food? Yes, a full menu that’s simple and seasonal.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, Idletyme is family-friendly and has a cool atmosphere. A kids’ menu is available for kids under 12.

Rutland Beer Works

Vermont breweries have a large selection of beers to offerLocation: Rutland, VT

Favorite brew: Better Dayz

Why we love it: Double IPA with 8% ABV. It’s a light beer that tastes refreshing and you’ll put on a good buzz.

Do they serve food? Food is available at their brewpub, Hop’n Moose Pub at Rutland Beer Works, but is not available at the production brewery.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, very! The menu is full of appetizers and pizza. Kids love the jumbo pretzel.

Alchemist Beer

Location: Waterbury, VT (not open to the public) and Stowe, VT (visitor center, retail, and tasting)

Favorite brew: Focal Banger

Why we love it: Heady Topper might get all of the attention, but Focal Banger has that classic IPA taste that is hoppy with a really smooth finish. It’s an American IPA with 7% ABV.

Do they serve food? No, food is not served but there is a retail store where you can purchase merch.

Is it kid-friendly? You can stop into the visitor center in Stowe with kids. There’s also an open lawn area outside of the brewery, that isn’t specifically designed for kids, but does provide kids with an area to run around.

Long Trail Brewing Company

Kids enjoy Vermont Breweries when they're embarrassing their parents.Location: Bridgewater Corners, VT

Favorite brew: Trail Hopper

Why we love it: This American IPA is sharp, crisp, and almost tangy. Very flavorful for having 4.75% ABV.

Do they serve food? Yes. Burgers, fries, etc.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, kids are more than welcome in the restaurant but not on the brewery floor. The outdoor seating along the Ottauquechee River is especially nice for kids.

River Roost Brewery

Location: White River Junction, VT

Favorite brew: Mas Verde

Why we love it: A smooth New England IPA. Some even describe it as tropical!

Do they serve food? No.

Is it kid-friendly? No.

Liambru Tasty

Location: Proctor, VT

Favorite brew: Sinister Surfer

Why we love it: Double dry-hopped IPA with 8% ABV. It just tastes good – perfect for summer!

Do they serve food? No.

Is it kid-friendly? The beer is brewed at the Rutland Beer Works production brewery which is not open to kids.

Fiddlehead Brewing Company

Location: Shelbourne, VT

Favorite brew: Second Fiddle

Why we love it: It’s flavorful, smooth, and hoppy but still tastes pretty light! Exactly what you want from a New England IPA!

Do they serve food? No.

Is it kid-friendly? No.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Location: Waitsfield, VT

Favorite brew: Sip of Sunshine

Why we love it: It’s got a tropical fruit aroma with a citrus spike. Smooth, hoppy, and bitter.

Do they serve food? Yes, a wide array of food is available.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, but children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Foam Brewers

Location: Burlington, VT and Hinesburg, VT

Favorite brew: Built to Spill

Why we love it: Built to Spill is a double IPA with citrus, pineapple, and tangerine notes.

Do they serve food? Yes, snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, and crabs are available at the Burlington location.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, kids are welcome to dine at the Deep City location in Burlington.

Lost Nation Brewing

Location: Morrisville, VT

Favorite brew: Saison Lamoille

Why we love it: This brew is a slightly lower alcohol version of the classic farmhouse style. It’s a hazy golden beer with notes of fruit and spice.

Do they serve food? Rustic, pub inspired fare served by Honest Food Chef, Erik Larson.

Is it kid-friendly? Kids are welcome to dine in the taproom.

Vermont Pub & Brewery

Location: Burlington, VT

Favorite brew: Forbidden Fruit

Why we love it: This light, refreshing fruit beer is fermented with over 500 pounds of real raspberries!

Do they serve food? Yes, starters, salads, and burgers.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, a kids’ menu is available.

14th Star Brewing Co.

Location: St. Albans, VT

Favorite brew: Valor

Why we love it: Valor is a hoppy Amber Ale balanced with a citrusy hop flavor and aroma. It has a clean bitterness and a slight caramel sweetness.

Do they serve food? Yes, burgers and sandwiches.

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, a kids’ menu is available.

Hermit Thrush Brewery

Location: Brattleboro, VT

Favorite brew: Sunset Lake: grapefruit and rosemary

Why we love it: It’s brewed with wild Brattleboro mixed culture yeast, grapefruit juice, and fresh rosemary.

Do they serve food? No

Is it kid-friendly? No

Four Quarters Brewing

Location: Williston, VT

Favorite brew: 4 Non-Blondes

Why we love it: This is a blonde ale with chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, and coconut.

Do they serve food? The taproom is currently closed, but please call to see if it will open after the publication of this post

Is it kid-friendly? When the taproom is open, children are welcome.

Comment below and let us know your favorite Vermont brewery. We love to check out new spots all over VT. And, let us know what we should try first! Summer is the ideal time to sample all the VT brews. And please drink responsibly.

Vermont Mom's Favorite Vermont Breweries

Homeschooling in Vermont: The Hows, Whens, and Whys to Get Started

My family is starting to plan for our third year of homeschooling in Vermont.

With the recent Covid-19 pandemic, it looks like many Vermont families will be joining the ranks of homeschoolers this fall. I have heard from a few families that they don’t know where to start, in terms of preparing for homeschooling and making sure to approach the endeavor in a legal and organized fashion. Don’t worry, friends. I am here to help. And while this information and the dates I’ve highlighted are Vermont-specific, I think there are helpful nuggets for any homeschooling family.

girl doing counting schoolwork at homeI’ve got five things you should do or notice when you decide to pursue homeschooling in Vermont. 

1. Start at the VT Department of Education Home Study website

There is so much information on the website. You can find all the forms you need to submit to enroll your child (or children) into a homeschooling program, as well as examples of the minimum course of study and end of the year requirements. These two standards are a great guide to know the goals of your course of study. Not to mention, you can complete the entire home study enrollment process online! 

Important Dates to Remember from the Home Study website:

March 01 – You may start enrolling children for the upcoming school year. This marks the date rolling enrollment begins.

May 01 – No current year enrollments will be accepted after this date. This means that as of May 1st in the current year, your child needs to finish the year where they are already enrolled. If your child is completing 1st grade in a public school as of May 1st, they must finish the year where they are and you can enroll them in homeschool for their 2nd-grade year. 

July 01 – You are considered no longer enrolled in Home Study if your fully completed new enrollment forms are not received by this date.

m&m counting game for homeschooling*Rolling enrollment is accepted as long as the student is enrolled elsewhere (public school/ private school) until you have received an official Home Study enrollment completion letter. This means that unless you have a medical emergency or mental health concern, you should not just pull your child out of school without completing the home study enrollment first. You can decide to take your child out of school and homeschool at any point BEFORE May 1st, you just have to first complete the proper paperwork. 

2. When you are working on your Home Study enrollment application, it is essential to think about your child’s learning style, your teaching style, and your curriculum needs.

Since you’re opting out of public school, you can let go of everything that goes with it. You don’t have to follow a schedule that looks anything like a school day. You get to do what works for you and your family. You are able to focus in-depth on topics that your child is most engaged in. Don’t forget that field trips and local happenings can supplement your academic plan. You can teach fractions with measuring cups and recipes too. When you’re homeschooling, the most pressing limitation is your own imagination. 

boy practicing mathA quick Google search for homeschool curriculums will result in hundreds of options from free to very expensive. In my family, we try to focus on core skills that need to be covered and then pick curriculum and resources where we need help. My husband loves talking about history, geography, and politics so it is easy for him to teach those subjects. I love teaching reading, writing, and spelling so we don’t need to purchase a curriculum for those topics. We need support in math and science and often spend our homeschooling funds on those topics. There are online learning options, workbooks, project kits, and more. Homeschooling is so flexible! 

When you’re planning your schedule, I’ve found it best to keep in mind when you’re able to be present for your children and when they are at their best. It is also important to keep in mind their learning style. Some children will want to do all their work right away every morning and have more time for activities they choose and other children will need their work to be more spaced out over the course of the day. 

3. Write your Minimum Course of Study (MCOS) in your Home Study enrollment application.

The MCOS lays out your plans for what content you will cover over the course of the school year. When I started homeschooling, another mom who was an experienced homeschooler told me to just write the minimum number of topics you hope to cover! This is because whatever you include in the MCOS, you’ll need to show your child’s growth on. You can always do MORE than what you put on the MCOS and then report on all the amazing enrichment and extra areas you covered! But if you do less than you proposed, there might be concerns with your end of the year assessment and you’ll be scrambling to explain why you didn’t cover those items. 

blocks4. Plan for the end of the year reporting right from the beginning of each school year!

You have options for how to report your child’s progress, and some require more preparation than others. You can have a teacher assessment be performed by a certified teacher. The teacher will review your MCOS, your child’s work samples, and meet with your child to determine yearly progress. They will then provide you with a letter to submit. 

Another option for the end of the year reporting is a portfolio. When I first heard of this option, it seemed overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. At the start of the year, set up a place to collect and store examples of your child’s work. In my house, we have a binder that we throw work into all year long. We also keep a homeschool folder in our Google photos drive and on Facebook. This makes it easy to drop photos and work samples into our portfolio all year long. 

5. Research local homeschool options for supplemental activities.

For families homeschooling in Vermont, there are tons of Facebook groups for homeschooling families that can offer suggestions and may even want to team up on some activities. With a little research, you can find activities for field trips and other amazing enrichment activities. Several museums and organizations in the area have homeschool days or times where you can participate in academic programming to enrich and supplement your child’s home education. You can also find alternative homeschool options like nature or farm programing. I have personally used the Farm School program at New Village Farm, but I know there are others like Crows Path or through the Middlebury Area Land trust. I’m sure there are more I haven’t even heard of yet!

Just like anything, there are pros and cons to homeschooling, and often those depend on an individual’s family values and beliefs. 

Deciding to homeschool was a sacrifice for my family and the first year was difficult. It took us time to find other homeschooling families that we connected with and programs that were a good fit for my son, his learning style, and our budget. There have been times I wished my son had access to some of the public school activities and programs. 

mom and kids cuddlingI highly suggest reading The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart. It totally changed my outlook on homeschooling. For us, the pros have outweighed the cons. We have been able to individualize learning for our children and we have more flexibility in our schedule. We take learning at their pace and learn in many different ways. Overall, our family has been healthier and happier since we decided to homeschool. 

If you’ve decided to pursue homeschooling in Vermont, take a deep breath, because you can do this! And if you’re a seasoned homeschooler reading this, what other tips would you share for new families?

Homeschooling in Vermont: The Hows, Whens, and Whys to Get You Started

Truth Is, I’m Still Not A Fun Mom. Part Two.

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I’m still not a fun mom. I told you this about a year ago, and I’m here to say it again.

How do I know this? My children clearly let me know. How do I REALLY know this? My children’s friends have said it too.

Do I care? No. Being the Not Fun Mom is fine with me.

fun mom snack in bathtub

As gathering restrictions related to Covid-19 have loosened and our children have been able to hang out with their neighborhood friends more, I have settled back into my Not Fun Mom persona.

I want to be really clear here… my kids are great kids. And for the most part, they get along all the time. For the most part only, since they are kids after all, and random tiffs are bound to happen. Their friends are also terrific. I have no problems with these children. I just need them to know that I am not here to play, or entertain, or to be their friend.

How am I certain I’m not a fun mom?

I’m particular. And my husband is even more particular. We like our yard (entire property really) a certain way. We also don’t like gum stuck to our grill (yes this has happened on several occasions, and our children don’t get gum). Our children know this, but the neighborhood kids do not. And why would they when it isn’t their home? Our kids know not to dig in the dirt at the end of the driveway that my husband works hard on, or to rearrange the deck furniture that I just organized. So, when my kids have friends over, I’m constantly telling our kids what not to do. I would never directly scold another child for my idiosyncrasies. My own kids are fair game.

Noise control. Without fail, my children will walk outside and make as much noise as possible. Part of it is simply being a kid, but I know deep down a larger part is that they want the neighborhood kids to hear them so they will come out and play. I get it, I wanted to play with friends when I was their age too. But do they have to be so loud?

Rules. My children let me know I make far too many rules. My biggest one when they go outside and I’m inside is that they stay in the yard. To me, it’s pretty simple. It’s about safety. I want to be able to see or hear them if I’m doing the dishes, laundry, or working. When they leave the yard, I can’t hear or see them. This is where I’ve heard from their friends that I’m not fun. They’ve never said it directly to me, but I have overheard it from the kitchen window while they are in the driveway. Which provides another compelling reason for me to keep my kids in the yard. I hear all the gossip, and I firmly believe children shouldn’t have big secrets from their parents. Again, they are all great kids, but to them, I’m not being fun.

protective mom

I say no. A lot! No, they can’t leave the yard. No, they can’t go play in the water. No, they can’t have a specific snack. No, they can’t ride on the bike trail when I’m not outside with them. I’m convinced the neighborhood kids always hear me saying NO!

I even recently caught them whispering about me saying no. Does that mean I’ve officially arrived as a parent? Where’s my crown?

What do I do to help myself take a step back?

The thing is, I don’t mind being a Not Fun Mom. I really don’t. My children’s safety and well-being are not negotiable to me. I do realize, however, that I need to allow my kids to develop some independence. And I have taken some steps to make myself pull back.

A timer for myself. When my kids stop listening to me and invite the whole neighborhood over, I set a timer. I won’t go out immediately and remind my children what they originally went out to do. I give them 30 – 45 minutes before I do the first gentle reminder. It’s hard for me, but good for them. They need that time with friends.

Gentle reminders. Reminders to myself that my kids aren’t hurting anyone or themselves when they bend the rules a little. Because this really is what’s most important right? They need to be kids. I need to remind myself that they aren’t little adults and they don’t think like me. They just want to be outside exploring and having fun. They will need to become independent, so why don’t I loosen the reins a little bit? As I said, this is a good group of kids and I have to gently remind myself to take a step back.

Say yes a little more. Or maybe just say no a little less. Either way, I need to open my eyes up more to what my children want rather than what I want. As long as they are having safe fun, I should be able to step back.

fun mom city

Ultimately, I’m not worried if kids think I’m fun, but I don’t want to be known as the mean mom either. I also want my kids and their friends to learn how to make safe, healthy, good choices without me there yelling about what’s right. Eventually, they will all be independent and living on their own, and my job is to prepare them for this, not to make them dependent on me to make decisions for them.

This is my hang-up, not theirs. I need to remember that their childhood does not need to resemble mine. I played quietly by myself (mostly because I had no close neighbors and I was an only child). I didn’t make messes. I didn’t have a lot of rules, because I didn’t push my parents on their parenting parameters. Or so they tell me.

Each year I’m finding that I’m still not a fun mom as a direct result of my hang-ups. Maybe it’s time to let go just a little. Just maybe.

Truth Is, I'm Still Not A Fun Mom. Part Two.

My Doctor Can’t Make Me Lose Weight: My Body My Choice

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A few months ago, I felt like I had my first real adult doctor’s appointment. I’m currently 37 years old. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had doctor’s appointments my whole life, but this was the first one where the doctor weighed me, checked my blood pressure, and had to tell me things weren’t quite where they should be.

I knew I had gained weight since having my children even before I saw the number on the scale. I knew my exercise was nil and I knew the only beverage entering my mouth was coffee, coffee, and more coffee. Binge eating after the kids went to bed was standard.

I had gone up a pants size so I was wearing GLORIOUS elastic waistband pants and leggings!

sweatpantsI knew that my new lifestyle was not good for me, and hadn’t been since the birth of my second child… five years ago! Incidentally, that was the last time I had been seen by a medical professional for a basic check-up. I don’t recommend this, by the way.

I knew in the back of my mind that my overall health needed tweaking, but it wasn’t until I actually heard my doctor say the words, “You need to lose weight and your blood pressure is a little high,” that those years of not taking care of myself really stood out to me.

scale numbersI guess it was the white coat that did it for me. What can I say? I can’t help but give in to the persuasion of someone in a uniform.

I left the appointment with the direct knowledge from my doctor that I was overweight and that my blood pressure, for the first time in my life, was high.

I got home with this knowledge in my heart and something amazing happened… absolutely nothing.

Yup, that’s right. Life went on exactly as it had before that appointment. I didn’t change my eating habits, I didn’t change my exercise routine, i.e. I didn’t start one at all, and coffee was still my only drink of choice. I stuck close to my sweats and leggings and didn’t really think anything about what my doctor had said.

I remember sitting a few times and wondering, what’s wrong with me? My doctor just told me that I need to make changes and I don’t feel any drive to do them. I don’t care that I have to lose weight.

That’s when it hit me what a hypocrite I’ve been for so much of my life. I remember times when I would hear that my dad or other parents of friends had heard from their doctor that their diet or physical activity needed adjusting and it wouldn’t change their way of doing things. It used to shock me. I remember thinking, a trained professional is telling you that you need to change your course of action or your health is going to degrade, why aren’t you doing it? Wouldn’t that knowledge scare them so much that they would want to make the change?

And now as I sat there on our couch, children in bed, millions of crumbs of Doritos all over me, I learned that the answer is simply no.

Meredith in front of mirror
The scariest picture I’ve taken of myself!

Nope, I’m not scared, and no, I don’t feel compelled to change.

As I write this, however, I am two weeks into slowly making changes to my lifestyle to benefit my health and lose weight. That appointment was eight months ago and the change that I’m making has nothing to with anything my doctor told me. His recommendations may be somewhere in the back of my mind, but I can honestly tell you that this change came from me, and from what I’ve read and experienced, positive changes in lifestyle have everything to do with the fire in your own belly to get them started.

No number of lab coats and clipboards will get you there.

For me, it was my lack of energy during the day and my lack of confidence in myself that made me want to change. I began to get sick of hating on myself and wanted to do something that I could be proud of every day.

exercise thingsThat being said, I’m only two weeks in. I’ve heard that for healthy habits to really take hold, I still have a long way to go. But whether I can keep up the good fight and gain some new healthy habits or not isn’t as important to me as the empathy I feel I have gained through this experience.

Putting your health first is a hard nut to crack.

I continue to struggle with it now. The guilt I feel when I take time for myself instead of being with my family, the ease of sitting, the emotional comfort I get from food- those are hugely compelling reasons not to move. Those things are all deeply, deeply seated in my brains. Long ago, I was judgmental about those who weren’t heeding their doctor’s orders and changing their habits.

But now I really understand how change isn’t automatic.

My drug of choice is food. Others may use cigarettes, alcohol, or harder substances. All of these addictions will hinder your health if not taken care of. And every doctor will tell you that overuse of any of these will put limits on the years that you’re alive. But those words will go in one ear and out the other unless you are ready to take the challenge.

Believe me, there will be a personal tipping point. It will come. There will be that moment when you look at yourself and think, what the heck am I doing? Or how did I get so far down this rabbit hole?

But that journey is yours alone.

Our doctors can give us ropes to pull ourselves out of the hole, but we have to be ready and able to accept them. If you’re reading this and have some advice from your doctor that you haven’t been heEding quite yet, don’t feel bad about yourself. You’ll get there. You’ll find that rope in your hands when you know that there are sturdy rocks to put your feet on.

Good luck in all your journeys… I’m going to go run and try not to think about Twinkies. Let’s hope I continue to want to lose weight and get healthy!

My Doctor Can’t Make Me Lose Weight: My Body My Choice

Tried and True Affordable Newborn Must-haves

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First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: it feels weird to be writing about seemingly normal things amidst a global pandemic and racial justice crisis. However, I am still getting messages from pregnant friends asking for what to add to their registries as baby must-haves, so here we are.

I don’t claim to be a parenting expert, but I am a second-time mom on a budget. I don’t have $1,500 to spend on a bassinet, and I’m not about to purchase a $40 onesie for my baby to have a blowout in. I do have a list of my favorite tried and true must-haves for the newborn months, none of which will break the bank. This isn’t absolutely everything you’ll need (I skip the basics like diapers, wipes, and bottles), but it’s a few ideas to get your shopping list started with affordable newborn must-haves.

photo of couple looking down at their newborn

Newborn Must-haves For Mom:

Water Bottle – Whether you’re nursing, pumping, or using formula, staying hydrated is important for your recovery. Some people have preferred brands, while I could write an entire post as a love letter to my free hospital water bottle. That frosted plastic mug, with a straw and blue lid, was my most beloved item of both postpartum experiences. I don’t know why, but I just drank more water with it. Plus, it’s a free gift with the delivery of a new baby! Who doesn’t love free gifts?

Hair Ties – You really don’t want spit-up in your hair when you’re already not showering regularly.

Gel Breast Pads These babies can go in the microwave or freezer and are great for relieving engorgement when milk comes in.

Pumping/Nursing Bra Combo – With my first, I had pumping bras and nursing bras. Quite a few companies now make them a two-in-one product so you don’t have to change multiple times per day. Genius!

Carrier or Wrap – Wearing babies is the only way I ever accomplish things, which is why it’s one of my newborn must-haves. Whether it’s eating a meal, working from home, or playing with my toddler, wearing almost always makes it easier. I recommend something soft like a wrap for the early days, but also love the support that comes with a structured carrier. Check out your local babywearing group on social media – they almost always have buy/sell/trade threads where you can get a deal on something gently loved.

woman in white tank top carrying a baby

Newborn Must-haves for Feeding:

Nursing Pillow – There are quite a few on the market, and I like the Boppy for its multipurpose use. You can use it for feeding, as a lounging pillow for baby, or sitting support as they grow. I have also used it as a neck pillow for myself on a long road trip. As a plus-size mom, I recommend the MyBreastFriend for its adjustable waistband.

Milk Catcher – Particularly in the early days, if you’re nursing or pumping, you could leak a lot of milk. Keep all of that liquid gold by using breast shells or something like the Haakaa. I was passively catching up to two ounces of breastmilk per day for a few weeks that I froze and used to start a small stash, and I’m an under-producer!

Formula – Even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding, it’s important to have a small amount of formula on hand, just in case. With both of my babies, my milk took a long time to come in and supplementing with formula helped keep all of us happy and sane. If you go to both Enfamil and Similac’s website, they will send you free samples of their most popular formulas.

Newborn Must-haves for Diapering and Hygiene:

Pre-Fold Cloth Diapers – The absorbency of these make the best burp rags. If you give birth in a hospital, it’s usually what they provide for rags. At the end of your stay, you’re welcome to clean out the drawers and take them all with you, too!

Diaper Clutch – This seemed excessive when I was gifted one with my first child, but as she got older it’s been great. Essentially, a diaper clutch is a carrying case you can remove from a bag that holds diapers, wipes, and a portable changing pad.  You can throw in the car for a quick trip to the store, or to carry around the house. The convenience factor alone has made this one of my most loved baby products with both kids.

Clothing and Blankets:

One word: zippers. If you get jammies, you want zipper jammies, not snaps. When you’re up multiple times per night for diaper changes and feedings, you want them to go as quickly as possible. Skip fussing with snaps and opt for pajamas that zip, preferably opening from the bottom up. If your baby uses a medical device that requires the use of a hole provided by snaps, try the double-zip jammies that a mom friend recently told me about. These open and close from the bottom and the top. There are lots of adaptive clothing options at the previous link.

Swaddles – Confession time… I am a muslin blanket hoarder. They are so soft and come in so many cute patterns and designs, I can’t resist them. I have a problem. Lots of people don’t like them for swaddling and find the velcro options easier. I personally like these for their multi-purpose functionality. We use muslin blankets for swaddling, playmats, car seat covers, nursing covers, burp rags, and more.

Sleep Sacks – When the baby can roll over, it’s time to ditch the swaddle. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no loose blankets in the bed with baby, which is why we use wearable blankets with zippers.

Nose Frida This thing is gross, but it sure works, which is why I give it to every friend and it’s one of my baby must-haves. This snot sucker works so much better than a bulb syringe. We give one to every friend that has a baby, and all of them are horrified. Within the first few weeks, they’re texting us to say they’ve changed their minds and it’s amazing. Trust me, you need one.

parents looking down at a newborn baby

Big Gear:

Swing – I am a “less is more” type when it comes to baby gear. I hesitate to put this on the newborn must-haves list, but I learned the hard way the first time around that it’s so important to have a soothing place to put the baby down. Especially during this work-from-home era, I have found the swing to be helpful when I need 15 minutes to make work calls or lunch for my big kid. I was able to find one on Facebook Marketplace for just $30.

Sleeping Space – You can use a crib or a bassinet, but you need a safe place for your baby to sleep. Many folks use a play yard, which you can find for under $40 used online. My favorite affordable new option is the Stow N Go bassinet from Fisher-Price.

Yoga Ball – an exercise ball has been a lifesaver for me with both of my babies. We had a rocking chair in the nursery, but the yoga ball was a portable option for soothing a grumpy little one. Grab your water bottle and a snack, put the baby in a carrier, get bouncing in front of your favorite show on Netflix during the witching hour, and you’re good to go! A yoga ball while wearing a baby in a carrier is also great for working at the computer when your baby needs a nap or wants to be held.

Activity Mat – Some people love these, and some hate them. Essentially, an activity mat is a padded surface with toys dangling above the baby to keep them occupied. This is a great one to buy used. I got one with a kick piano for $5 on Craigslist that’s been through both of my babies, and two friends’ children, and I haven’t even needed to change the batteries.

Do you have any affordable newborn must-haves? What would you add to our list?

Tried and True Affordable Newborn Must-haves

Backyard Camping – Enjoy Nature Without Leaving Home!

Backyard camping is an easy way to bring some fun to your summer when everything else has been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While backyard camping is fun, it is also safe and inexpensive. There’s no travel involved and you have access to your own clean bathroom. Plus you save a lot of time not having to pack food and utensils. You can just grab them from your own kitchen and throw everything in the dishwasher when you’re finished. If you don’t have your own backyard space, it can be a good excuse to visit grandparents or friends! Here are my tips for a fun backyard camping experience!

It’s all about the food.

Honestly, the food is the most important aspect of camping for my kids. We bought a fire pit for our backyard, but you can also build your own with very little effort. Just make sure that you have a contained spot for your fires so you don’t accidentally set anything else alight. My kids are very easy to please. They love it when I let them eat hot dogs and s’mores for dinner. If your child doesn’t like dirt, I would recommend purchasing metal sticks for roasting food. My kids have no problems with dirt, so we just find sticks from the yard.

For more adventurous eaters, there are so many things you can cook over a fire. My little brother loved to use a pie iron to create his own customized hand pies when we went camping as kids. I have also tried my hand at cooking dinner in foil packets. Cast iron pans also work well over campfires. Just make sure to keep an eye on your pets. I tried to make a pizza while camping last year, but my dog managed to eat it all when I turned away for a moment.

Set up a tent.

If your family really enjoys camping, you can leave a tent set up in your backyard all summer. If you only have an old, leaky tent, you can watch the weather forecast and only set it up on dry days. With backyard camping, you can always run back inside your house if the weather turns bad suddenly. If you have small children, you can even just set up a play tent outside. Some children would much rather play in the tent during the day and come back inside to sleep in their own beds at night anyway.

You can use a small tent for backyard camping.

A tent isn’t even necessary for backyard camping. My children prefer sleeping in hammocks. We got ones with a net cover to keep out insects. The only problem we faced was the time my son zipped my daughter into her hammock and then she couldn’t reach the zipper to let herself out again. You could even use sleeping bags or air mattresses to camp out on a screened-in porch for something fun and different.

Bring out some games.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money for outdoor entertainment. My kids get excited to play our regular board games outside on a picnic table. (Just don’t bring out board games if it’s windy!) I picked up most of our games at yard sales for very little money. My kids also enjoy playing card games, such as War or Uno. Dominoes are another popular game in my household.

If you have enough space, classic outdoor games are a ton of fun. Cornhole is a perennial favorite, as is ring toss. If you have a nice, flat space, you can set up a net for volleyball or badminton. You can even set up a croquet course if you have the equipment. If you don’t, there are plenty of games you can make yourself. For example, kids can try throwing balls or beanbags into buckets or hula hoops set on the ground. My kids really enjoy setting up obstacle courses with things they find around the house.

If it’s hot outside, bring out the water toys! I bought a sprinkler this year and my kids love running around in the spray. They are also very fond of water balloons. Younger children love water tables. You can make your own water table by filling a plastic container with water and adding various toys. Kitchen items, such as colanders, funnels, and measuring cups are great items for playing in the water. If you have a hill, it’s easy to make a DIY water slide with plastic sheeting and a hose.

Backyard camping is a great way to add some fun to your summer even if you are stuck at home.

My kids have really enjoyed backyard camping and aren’t upset that we aren’t traveling anywhere this summer. Large amounts of ice cream and popsicles may have a lot to do with that, but I’m just glad they’re happy. What are your ideas to make backyard camping fun for you and your family?

Backyard Camping - Enjoy Nature Without Leaving Home!

Dear Dad: A Mom’s Father’s Day Letter to Her Single Dad

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Dear Dad,

Happy Father’s Day.

I know this past year has looked different for us. Our hearts are heavy with the burdens of life during a pandemic, and we are both navigating different seasons of change. We are noticing our differences more acutely, and reacting harshly instead of responding with love. Despite all of this, on Father’s Day, I need to call you out for the incredible man you’ve shown yourself to be. In my 31 years, my gratitude for the gift of calling you my Father has grown boundlessly.

From my very first breath, I gave you more than you bargained for.

I was your fourth child, and I demanded an early entrance. I came into this world a mere 2lbs, and with a heart defect. You faced more obstacles than I could even fathom in my first year of life. Yet you kept a roof over our heads, you supported my 3 older siblings in their varying stages of life, and you kept us fed. All of this while shouldering the mounting medical bills and the constant terror of my medical fragility. All of this while you maintained a successful career as an engineer. All of this despite my mother not being the partner you needed due to her own significant struggle with chronic illness.

dad sleeping on a reclinerOnce I was out of the woods medically, you provided an environment for me to thrive. Soon I was walking, and going to daycare with my brother. Then, another curveball. It was discovered I was hard of hearing. You fought for my care and services. Again, I thrived. Through all of this, I felt loved and cared for. You gave me the very best foundation for life that a little girl could have.

When I was 8, our world stopped turning. Mom passed away. I will forever be amazed at the strength, courage, and vulnerability you showed during the hardest time of my life.

You loved me, you provided me a safe space to grieve, and you protected me. You sought support for me, and even when it didn’t work, you kept trying.

Dad and daughter in front of a horse riding ring. My life was full. I played any sports I wanted and when I wasn’t busy playing with my brother, I had playdates and Girl Scouts. When my Girl Scout troop needed a leader, you stepped up. Without shame, you put in the work to give me and 8 other little girls an opportunity we would’ve otherwise missed out on. When I was given the opportunity to play for two hockey teams, you made it happen. You amassed a small village of hockey moms who helped with rides and care when schedules unavoidably conflicted (either with your work or my brother’s hockey.) When you didn’t know how to sew my nameplate on my hockey jersey, you didn’t give up. You asked a hockey mom to teach you. Not only did I not feel left out, I felt even more special for the extra effort you put in. I’ll also never forget our Monday night mountain bike races at Catamount. The special summer routine of getting picked up from daycare, grabbing a bag of bagels then watching you race is something I’ll always cherish.

When you were ready to start dating again, you kept me safe. You helped me build a new relationship with a woman we both grew to love. The day she left, I saw your broken heart. I wanted so badly to hate her, but you taught me forgiveness. You relieved me of that burden and despite your pain, you forged the path forward for our family.

Ultimately, you met the woman who would become my stepmom. I know I didn’t make it easy for her to stick around, but I’m glad she did. You deserved a partner to come alongside you, love you, and encourage you through the trials and tribulations of single parenthood.

My teen years were hell for both of us. Despite everything I put you through, you NEVER gave up on me. Every day, not just Father’s Day, I am grateful for your love and support when I was my least lovable.

Through my mental health diagnosis, dozens of crisis interventions, hospitalizations, medications, and more, you showed up and you fought for me. You fought for my life when I couldn’t. Every single day. You surrounded me with a village of people I could turn to when I needed help. Eventually, your words started getting through to me. Your love, your encouragement, your perspective, and mostly, your belief that I would be ok.

My early adulthood years were also rough. Some people would say you were unloving for the way you chose to support me. But I found it to be exactly the opposite. You saw something I couldn’t. And you knew I wouldn’t see my own strength until I relied on myself.

Your loving support of my independence is what led me to thrive.

dad and daughter celebrate Father's Day by riding bikesI’m not going to pretend for one second that I fully understand your journey. But I will say my gratitude for your sacrifices grows daily and I am grateful for you every day, not just on Father’s Day. As I’ve come into my own as a parent, I am blown away by the example you’ve set. Your love runs deep in the core of my being. I am so proud of the man that you are, faults and all. I appreciate every iota of effort you put into being the best father you could be, on Father’s Day, and every other day, even if it doesn’t always seem so.

Thank you, Dad, for raising me. You stepped up when you had a million chances to step out. You chose me, over and over again. You show up during the best moments of my life, and the darkest. You are my constant and my anchor.

So here’s to you, Dad, I love you so much. Happy Father’s Day.

Dear Dad: A Mom's Father's Day Letter to her Single Dad

To My Dear Husband on Father’s Day – I See You

To my dear husband: I see you.

I know that’s a strange line to start this Father’s Day letter with because of course, I see you. I have my sight and I live in the same house as you, so I see you every day. But I don’t mean that I see you in the typical sense, I mean that I see you.

A bride and groom in the woods
Colette Kulig Photography

It’s important to me to remind you of this because this Father’s Day, like most of our days, won’t be about you.

This year, our oldest daughter’s birthday and our sixth wedding anniversary also fall on the same Sunday as what’s supposed to be your day. While you should be sleeping in and surviving the zombie apocalypse on the PlayStation to your heart’s content, you’ll be helping me prep for the (very small due to COVID) birthday party we’re throwing. You’ll be managing the baby and the toddler with the big feelings while I attempt to make a cake way beyond my skill set. You will make sure everyone’s needs get met before your own like you do all too often. Instead of eating cinnamon rolls during a leisurely Father’s Day breakfast, you’ll be scrubbing toilets and wiping butts. And you will do it with a smile like you always do. Because that’s who you are, and I see that.

I saw you four years ago, as we struggled to get and stay pregnant and were about to experience yet another in a string of losses. You carried me through immense sadness and fear while managing your own grief. When my eternal flame of optimism that makes me, “me” went out, you quite literally picked me up off the floor and got me hopeful enough to try again. We wouldn’t have either of our children if it weren’t for your encouragement and bravery during that time.

Even before we had children in our arms, I knew, because of how you handled the challenges of our infertility journey, that I would never struggle alone with the challenges of parenthood.

A man with a toddler on his shoulders

When I was pregnant, you stocked up on chicken soup and lemonade because that was all I could eat. When people fawned over me and the coming babies, you stepped back and let the spotlight shine on me. It should have been on you too. These are our babies, and I couldn’t do any of it without you. You deserve to be celebrated and in the spotlight, too.

I saw you as I labored through two intense deliveries, both of which got scary and complicated at the end. When my epidural failed and I didn’t think I could go on, you gave me strength and support. When I went into labor with our second child right as you got home from yet another 12-hour shift on far too little sleep, you stayed awake by my side, vigilant and encouraging. You didn’t laugh at the ungodly animal noises that came out of me or when I pooped on the table. Thank you for that.

As I worked through postpartum depression, not once, but twice now, you were the constant I needed. You never mentioned my unwashed hair or recycling of the same leggings for days. You held me when I asked and gave me space when I needed it. You pushed me to seek out friends when I needed that, too. Your patience and gentleness with my heart are unparalleled.

A man holding a sleeping baby

You are the most perfect father to our girls.

You are patient, kind, and playful. You get burps out of a baby better than anyone. You are their most favorite person on this earth. They like you the most and I’m just fine with it. You’ve earned it. You’ve earned far more than the Father’s Day you’re getting this year.

I love that you are a great example to our girls of how a person treats their partner, and how men can be feminists, too. I love that you let our toddler give you sparkly toes with nail polish, and then don’t take it off. I have always said that you inspire me to do and be better. Watching you parent and teach our children to be kind and courageous little humans is the greatest inspiration yet.

A toddler and man at the libraryI know you let me win arguments I definitely shouldn’t win. You are patient when I am convinced I am in the right and let me arrive at a different conclusion on my own.

You come home each day and immediately shower and change your clothes to protect our family during the pandemic. I see you then jump directly into parenting mode after yet another long day. I’m sure what you want is sleep, but you make sure I never have to do it alone for any longer than necessary.

And as I write this, you are going to bed far too late before another 2:00 a.m. wake up for work, because you insisted I not do our girls’ bedtimes alone.

So on this Father’s Day, when your celebration will likely feel lost in the shuffle, know that I appreciate all you do to keep everyone in our little family happy and taken care of. I don’t say it often enough, but none of it goes unnoticed.

I see all of it. I see you.

Consider this an IOU for some uninterrupted couch time and a nap. Maybe next year.

Love,

Your Wife

To My Dear Husband on Father's Day - I See You

Postnatal Depression: I Still Get Triggered Seven Years Later

I have two children ages five and seven and a half. So, why am I reacting to the sound of a random stranger’s baby crying by gripping my shopping cart with white knuckles?

Because unfortunately, I still get triggered by my postnatal depression, even though my postnatal period is far in my past. 

Isn’t depression fun? I mean, just when you think you’re past it, there it is barreling down on you like that scene in North by Northwest with Cary Grant in the field with the planes trying to kill him. Except, I never look as good as Cary Grant does in that scene when I get triggered by my postnatal depression. I’m usually in sweatpants and some stained shirt walking around the supermarket trying not to put all of the pasta things in my cart. 

shopping cart

Then, as I’m picking up the whole wheat pasta that everyone in my family hates, I hear it. The small whimper of a baby crying down the next aisle. I try to ignore it and then the sound escalates as all baby cries do and I find I can no longer ignore it. Within moments, my heart rate goes up and I find myself back on an old blue exercise ball with a screaming baby in my arms, tears streaming down my face, knowing this is just the morning and I have the rest of the day until my husband gets home to feel terrified to be left alone. The memories of putting headphones on to drown out the sound of a colicky baby, of me hearing nothing but Phantom of the Opera in my ears flood back. It will be years before I can listen to that album again without feeling like I want to throw up.

headphones

The red button has been pushed and I’m back to feeling my postnatal depression.

My children are older now and I can talk with them. It’s amazing and yes, there are moments when I long to be holding a sleeping peaceful baby version of them again, but then I hear that baby cry and I remind myself that the baby years, the really little baby years, were far from the best years of my life. 

I still have friends having children, in fact, a few are pregnant right now or have just given birth to a child. I find whenever I see the first announcement on social media, I get this rush of excitement for them and then later on a creeping sinking feeling in my stomach. What will life be like for them? How awful will that first night home be? That first week? Month? I instantly feel like I want to save them from the depression that I feel they will be going through.

I feel so much joy for them but am triggered at the same time. 

A few years ago, my friends had their first child. I began to mentally go through my triggering and panicking for them. I began to instantly place every awful feeling I had on them. I began to get terrified for them. I would anxiously look for updates as they got closer and closer to their due date. And then finally, the baby came. Once I learned that physically everyone was fine, my mind jumped to the next crisis, the adjustment. I wanted to hug my friend and tell her that I had been there, that she wasn’t alone. I prepared myself to be her support if she needed it. With all of this buzzing in my head, I went over to their house for my first visit after the arrival of their daughter. 

I walked into the house, suit of armor on, getting ready to battle any postnatal depression that I smelled. Then something happened. I rounded the corner and found my friend, smiling, sitting calmly, holding her tiny baby in her arms as if the baby had always been there. There was no crying or look of utter panic on her face. She was relaxed and so was her husband. In fact, the whole house seemed to just melt around them into this picturesque view of parenthood.

A peaceful parenthood. 

I talked with my friends and heard that, yes, they were tired, but everything was going well. We talked about their hospital stay and breastfeeding and the entire time, I just kept thinking how calm everything felt and how relaxed it was. 

At that moment, a place inside of me healed. Not enough to completely not get triggered in my sweatpants in Hannaford, but enough for me to begin to believe that full healing might be possible for me.

The idea that my story was not everyone’s story was healing. The concept that sometimes, having a baby is hard work and transformative, but not traumatic was new to me. The fact that not everyone needed to be saved from their newborn was incredible. Not every pregnancy announcement would later translate into a cry for help.

Not everyone would walk the same path I did. 

I used to feel bad about not fully loving those months my children were newborns. But over the years, I’ve become more comfortable saying I prefer older kids or babies. That’s my story, it’s not everyone’s and it doesn’t have to be. Just like we all raise our children in different ways, our paths to taking on the mental challenges of parenthood aren’t going to be the same either.

Postnatal Depression: I Still Get Triggered Seven Years LaterSome of us are going to have a super rocky start, tripping, falling, sometimes falling into caverns and not being able to escape until someone throws us a rope… or meds. Some of us will find even footing right off the bat. It’s actually been a relief for me to see those families that have such sure footing as it has been for me to hear that others are finding as many booby traps on their path as I did. 

I still have my moments. I still have times when it’s hard for me to hold a newborn or be in a store with one that’s having a bad day.

But I’m going to try to keep myself in check and just tell myself, newborns are allowed to be mad and mothers are allowed to be fine with it.

Postnatal Depression: I Still Get Triggered Seven Years Later

Mother’s Day, My Hurt Feelings, and Pulling On My Big Girl Pants

As you know, Mother’s Day was several weeks ago, and I am glad I didn’t write this article about my hurt feelings in the heat of the moment. Count to ten and all of that… over time, how many times have you asked, “What was all that fuss about anyway?”

Mother’s Day is a tough one for me. My amazing mother has been gone for thirty-six years and my daughter and her partner (my stepdaughter,) and their daughter (my granddaughter) live hours away. I keep myself busy on Mother’s Day, but, for me, it is never the day that everyone posts about on social media. I typically shed a tear or two. Do I have a heightened sensitivity on that day? I would say a big fat yes… It seems like I often have hurt feelings on Mother’s Day.

I did appreciate that my daughter FaceTimed with me first thing on Mother’s Day. She is one who makes me laugh. Even though she is in her late 30s, she is my baby, and I adore seeing her beautiful face. Later in the day, my stepdaughter usually reaches out via text. This is not my preference, but I try to be a big girl. I do love that she is thinking of me. This year, my stepdaughter posted a Happy Mother’s Day message on Facebook to all of the moms out there, and particularly to her two moms, her mother and me. Wow, that felt great!

two women at a baseball gameI began to wonder why my granddaughter had not reached out. She is very often so sweet and out of the blue, just calls me… so why not on Mother’s Day? Facebook was blowing up with granddaughters honoring their mothers and their grandmothers.

grandmother and granddaughter Hey! What was I? Chopped liver? I just told you that I am sensitive on Mother’s Day, so it should not have been a shock that I felt sad about the lack of regard from one who I thought loved me. My hurt feelings!

Can I be melodramatic or what?

This is one of the things I find challenging about social media… all the unrelentingly happy faces. But then again, I am not much of a fan of those who always share “woe is me” posts. I even advise the beauty consultants in my business not to get too negative on social media. Who wants to do business with negative people who are full of drama?

Back to the story of my hurt feelings… where was my Mother’s Day wish from my granddaughter?

This is where my mind could really run amuck. Communication is so important. I told my husband that I was hurt and actually was angry at her lack of regard. What was the good of telling him? He was sympathetic and he was sorry that I was sad, however… it ended there. I still had hurt feelings.

I decided to do a little research on Emily Post’s website. Etiquette isn’t as valued today as it used to be, but I find that it provides me with good guidance. I searched for, “is it good etiquette to wish a grandmother Happy Mother’s Day?” Side note, did you know that the Emily Post Institute is based in Burlington? Their offices are on South Union Street! Huh! But I couldn’t find my answer there, even though I did see some pretty fancy table settings!

hurt feelings sad face in coffeeWhy do we talk about our hurt feelings and conflicts with other people, rather than the source itself? Particularly when the source is a family member. Are we protecting ourselves against more hurt? Does this give us a chance to reflect? I don’t know about you, but I admit, I tend to go to a darker place than necessary. Instead of thinking that my granddaughter forgot, I immediately assumed she forgot all about me. What’s with that?

This happens in my business too. If I reach out and don’t hear back, I try not to, but I usually worry that the person is avoiding me, and I ask myself, am I bugging her? All sorts of insecure scenarios start dancing in my head. Where in the world does that come from? My parents were great at building me up… although, one out of one hundred times, my father would become a viper and really do a verbal number on me. What about the other ninety-nine times when he told me how wonderful I was? Geesh!

Ok, ok… back to my granddaughter. I know you are dying to know if I reached out to her directly.

Yes, I put my big girl pants on and sent her a text, which is her preferred form of communication, not mine. I told her that my feelings were hurt when she didn’t acknowledge me on Mother’s Day. I told her it was particularly hard to be ignored when I was seeing others posting about their grandmothers, writing about their love for their grandmothers.

Do you know what she wrote back? She said she didn’t know that was a thing, to wish your grandmother a Happy Mother’s Day.

That was the easy button. In a flash, I felt better. Lucky for me, I go to a dark place quickly, and I also come out to a brighter place just as quickly.

My answer to her? Who doesn’t like to be acknowledged? Is there ever a time one doesn’t like a shout out? Well, maybe some of you introverts might want a quiet version of happy wishes. As a big-time extrovert, for me, bring it all on!

The moral of the story? The lesson learned here? Bottling up hurt feelings is not healthy.

Take a breath, count to ten, take a few days, and if that feeling is still bothering you, reach out. Don’t attack, or accuse, just state your truth. My granddaughter is sixteen years old. She doesn’t know everything (I know, shocker, right?) I had an opportunity to expand her horizons.

My feeling of resentment is gone, and my love for my granddaughter is strengthened. After our texting back and forth about the Mother’s Day issue, I have heard from her more than usual. She just got her learner’s permit… and watch out people, there’s a new driver on the road! Someday, social distancing will ease up, she will get her driver’s license, and I look forward to seeing her pull into my driveway. What a day THAT will be!

Mother's Day, My Hurt Feelings, and Pulling On My Big Girl Pants

How Do it Yourself (DIY) Projects Strengthen My Marriage

DIY projects, or, for the uninitiated, do-it-yourself projects, are my current addiction, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon.

I don’t know if it’s my age or my way of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, but I can’t stop coming up with DIY projects for my husband and me to work on in our home. If we are not taping, tacking, measuring, or swearing at some inanimate object or other, apparently, we don’t feel fulfilled.

My husband and I both prefer DIY projects as opposed to hiring help, whenever possible. Part of this is the big cost savings for sure, but another part is our sense of accomplishment and pride in our work. Walking into our home knowing that we put in the work to make it look gorgeous instantly puts a smile on our face. Not for nothing, these projects we do together also remind us that not only are we married, we are also building a life together. See what I did there?

However, there are absolutely times during a small project or remodel when a professional is needed. My husband leaves plumbing and electrical work to those who have made that their profession. It’s just smart.

These DIY projects are actually quite symbolic of our marriage.

We do everything together, with each other’s support, and with very little outside help. There is something about working a full day to come home and rip out some random cabinets that remind us of how well we work together. Especially when we work in the same office all day!

That is exactly how our last 7 weeks have been.

In the last 55 days we have:

Painted the kitchen.

This may not seem huge, but really this was an ENORMOUS DIY project for us. Not large in effort, but enormous in terms of results. It was incredible how a simple can of paint had a huge impact on the appearance of our kitchen.

Picture this: red walls, with white green laminate countertops. Our kitchen looked like it was celebrating Christmas year-round.

kitchen paint DIY

I’m not really opposed to red, but the shade of red in our kitchen combined with the green counters was awful. We found the perfect gray shade, and it brightened and opened up our kitchen. I still don’t know why we waited for 3 years to do a project that we completed in an evening.

Painted an accent wall in our bedroom.

We’ve had three test squares on our bedroom wall where our headboard is for 8 months now. These last weeks gave us the time to finally paint the accent wall and even film the entire process. I’m extremely happy with how it turned out, and it’s the perfect decorative feature in our room.

Painted our son’s room.

Well, we didn’t paint the entire room. Just like in our bedroom, our son picked out a paint sample that he wanted for a single wall in his room, and we finally painted it. He went back and forth about what wall to paint but we let it ultimately be his choice.

It turned out to be the easiest wall to paint and will look great against the wood feature he wants to do on another wall.

Dec Painting

Trimmed in a window.

In June 2019, I arrived home from work to discover a giant hole in my house. My husband had ripped out one of our awful casement windows and was ready to replace it with a double-hung window. The only problem… we didn’t have a window to actually replace it with.

With rain on the way that night, we made the 40 minute trip to the closest place to purchase a window, and thankfully, they had one in stock. We’ve been living with that window installed but untrimmed since then. I’m so happy to finally have a trimmed window with the window sill of my dreams.

Painted our daughter’s room (Including taping a pattern)

Our daughter’s bedroom was the most fun for me to help pull together. She and I found all sorts of patterns on Pinterest and she decided on white and gray stripes. This went beautifully with her white and black bedroom that also has pops of gold and pink.

Her wall was the first time any of us had attempted to paint multiple colors on a wall, so it was a great opportunity to learn how to mark even spacing.

This is math, moms, and totally counts as school work!

This was the last of our paint projects (until we get the paint to repaint the interior of the entire house) and we were happy about having fun with it.

Emmas DIY wall

Bathroom Shelves.

We’ve had these shelves that the previous owner made since we moved in. They are fine, but the way they were constructed in the closet left no possible way to put in a door without buying an expensive custom-made door. Our options were to A. build a door, B. have a custom door built (too expensive), or C. fix the shelves ourselves.

We went with option C, and while the layout didn’t entirely need fixing, the appearance did. The shelves were originally made with textured wood. That textured wood is IMPOSSIBLE to clean, and when you do lint or debris always gets stuck. Since we are working to update the bathroom, it was the perfect time to create the shelving that matched the room’s color scheme.

Installed new light fixtures.

We finally replaced 4 light fixtures in our home that I’ve disliked since we purchased the place. Three of those replacements were pretty standard changes, but the fourth involved replacing a ceiling fan with a fun chandelier in our daughter’s room.

Built a nesting box.

Most of these DIY projects have involved the kids in some capacity. So, my husband decided to start a weekly shop class of sorts with them. Our favorite so far has been the bird nesting box that my daughter sketched out, created, built, and installed with him.

DIY nesting box

Our son has plans completed for another project but we are waiting for things to be a bit safer to complete it since it will be for our entire community to use.

Built an outdoor bike trail.

I won’t take credit for this one at all, because this DIY project was all my husband. He spent an entire Saturday cleaning out a corner of our property to make a mountain bike trail for the kids. Including a berm, bridge, and soon-to-be jumps.

Built a plan to redo our kitchen. 

We recently got an estimate to redo our kitchen. My husband guessed the quote within $500 dollars, but I was sticker shocked!

While he would have been the one installing the cabinets and countertops, we decided to do even more on this project. We’ve begun plans for him to construct our cabinets or at least new doors and drawers for our existing cabinets. I’m even considering butcher block countertops that he can do rather than marble for the sake of cost. We’ll see where this DIY ends up though. I think eventually we will run out of patience, and we will certainly run out of time and money.

Refinishing our bathroom vanity.

Similar to the kitchen, we aren’t able to find a vanity that we like that is both affordable and well-constructed. Even spending $500+ on a vanity gets you a subpar product now. I know this after tons of research.

We have decided instead to use the vanity base we have, but my husband is building new doors and drawers. The top and hardware will be replaced, and I will repaint everything.

And don’t even get me started on my Pinterest board with additional projects like an entryway half wall and bench, new flooring, planking popcorn ceiling, new baseboards, and so much more.

Ok, it may not seem like we actually accomplished a lot on the DIY project front but I promise you in the past 2 months, we have accomplished more than we have done in the 3 years we’ve lived here.

The funny part is my husband does most of the work. So I’m a DIY project addict that makes a to-do list for my husband instead of actually doing all the do-it-yourself work. He’s the handy one. He wants to buy all the tools, so it’s only fair that he pulls his weight in the projects, right?

Ultimately we work well together, and these DIY projects are proof of that. They also give us the opportunity to bond and grow together in the comfort of our own home.

So yes, I’m addicted to all things DIY, but I absolutely need help completing the projects and I’m not afraid to ask.

How Do it Yourself (DIY) Projects Strengthen My Marriage

An Empowered Woman: It Means More than What You Do for a Living

The other day, I scored big time at a local consignment shop. I got “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls,” for a mere $4! This amazing book usually sells online for $35! Yay, consignment! I was so excited to get the book home and read to my children about the many incredible contributions women and girls have given to the world over the years.

I had no idea that the book would help me to discover what an empowered woman really is.

Goodnight stories for rebel girls

We are raising our children in a remarkable time.

There are books being sold by the thousands and more being created where women and girls are the central characters and aren’t simply romantic interests. I have loved every minute of discovering these books with my kids and adding them to our home library. 

I love the look in my daughter’s eyes as she reads about girls sailing over oceans and women solving the complex math problems that were able to help us win the space race against the Russians.

It makes me feel so proud. 

Girls and boys are taught that they can do whatever they choose. Women don’t have to clean and cook and men don’t need to wear suits and ties. This freedom gives me so much hope. But there are moments when I’m folding laundry or cleaning the house while the kids are at school that I think, am I an example of an empowered woman for my children

One time, my daughter and I were playing with her dolls and she had made a family out of them. She held up the doll that was meant to be the father and said, “Here’s the daddy going off to work.” and then she held up the doll meant to be the mother and said, “Here’s the mom folding clothes.” I felt a pang in my heart. She wasn’t wrong, that’s what she saw every day.

Daddy goes to work and Mommy cleans. 

I had become the Tide commercial mom. The mom that spends all her day strategizing how to get stains out of underwear. (Incidentally, is there a way to get stains out of toddler underwear? It’s impossible, right?) I felt like I had become the perfect example of everything a book like “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” is showing girls they can be more than. 

I get mad at those ads on TV, showing only the mothers folding clothes, but the truth is, for the most part, that’s what happens in our house. As far as my daughter and son are concerned, Mommy is falling right in line with the “skirt work” troupe.  I want to feel like an empowered woman. And I want others to think I am an empowered woman. Sometimes I go to Lowes and put a really stern look on my face so that I appear to know everything about power tools and lawnmowers. I might even pick up a screwdriver and say, 

Yup, a Philips-head is definitely what I need for that picture hanging job I’ve got going on today.

I love being able to say Philips-head. It makes me feel so powerful. But inside, I know that besides knowing the difference between a Philips-head and a flathead, I’m as lost in that store as my kids would be. 

My other secret, besides not knowing anything about tools? I LOVE my job. I love being a stay at home mother.

I love getting kids off buses and keeping the house going while my husband is gone for the day. I feel like my teenager and twenty-something self just threw up. Never in a million years would I have thought I would love doing the very thing I thought I was supposed to stand up against as a teenager. But I do. I love it.

I want my daughter and son to know that they can choose whatever path they want with their life, like mine, or completely different from mine. I want them to know that women are capable of doing more than simply folding clothes and packing lunches. I want them to know it while they see me doing just that. And I want them to know they can both follow my path if that’s where life brings them. For a long time after I became a stay at home mother, this duality plagued me.

How could I be an empowered woman and teach them about all that women and men can do?

A few weeks ago, it hit me. I was looking at this all wrong. An empowered woman is a woman who feels free to chose her path and go for it. I began to think about all of the women and girls in that “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” book. What did they have in common? They all worked hard to be able to do the things that they loved.

I sat and remembered when my son was six months old. Money began to get tight and my husband and I decided that I would need to go back to work. But I wanted to be a stay at home mother more than anything, so I looked at my day and realized that the only time I could work would be at night. So, I got a night job. I started at midnight and worked until seven. I would take care of my son all day, my husband would get home after work and I would sleep for 4 hours and then go to work. Some days, I would catch a nap when my son napped. Or I would sleep in my car during my 2 AM lunch break. It was hard, so hard, and I was able to do it for almost a year before I got completely burned out.

I then moved on to cleaning daycare centers at night. I could start earlier and get home earlier. I could get at least two more hours of sleep, which was good because, by this point, I was pregnant with my daughter. But I was able to do the thing that I loved doing, being a stay at home mother to my son. 

woman cleaning

My kids are getting older now. My son is in first grade and my daughter will be starting kindergarten this September. Those third shift nights are a memory that still feels very fresh, even though it was six years ago. This is how I, and all of you mothers out there, are showing our children every day that we can be strong and that we can choose our own paths, no matter which paths we chose. 

As the years go by, I am truly beginning to understand that I can teach my children that women can be whatever they want to be, by being whatever I want to be and working hard at it. 

I want to be a good mother without losing sight of myself, and my kids will see me work hard at that every day. I can teach my children that women have the right to chose by living in a community that has stay-at-home mothers and working mothers, and stay-at-home fathers and working fathers. It takes a village to teach a child and I fully plan on using mine.

So, you go rebel stay at home mom! You are just as strong as the woman who puts the suit on every day.

You and your working mom friends are BOTH doing what you have to to make your goal of a good childhood for your children a reality.

And now as we sit in our homes during a pandemic, I have never felt closer to my working mom friends. We are all in this together. We are all treading new roads in homeschooling and making schedules work. We are all worried about how the world will look after this is all said and done. One thing I know for certain is that we are growing stronger by the minute.

Both stay at home mothers and working mothers are putting in more hours, pushing their mental strength harder than before. We can do this ladies! We are powerful. We are all examples of empowered women!

An Empowered Woman: It Means More than What You Do for a Living

An American Mom Experiences Reopening Society in Norway

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Over the past few weeks, our family has experienced a reopening society in Oslo, Norway.

norway flagI’ve written before about what it was like to choose to stay in Norway during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, friends have repeatedly told me that they think we made the right call because Norway’s response to the coronavirus has been organized and measured- a sharp contrast, we’re told, to how it feels back home. My youngest daughter, Libby, has been back at reopened elementary school since early May, and my eldest daughter returned when middle schools reopened a week later.

  • When Libby returned, her class size had been reduced to 8 in part to better ensure social distancing but also because some families were keeping their children at home still.
  • They were no longer in their crowded classroom of students new to Norway. Instead, they were seated now in the school auditorium with seats between them. Libby laughed about how much room they had to spread out, but not at how often the teachers had to call out warnings when the kids got too close to each other on the playground: “Hold deg en meter!” (Here, we’re asked only to keep a meter apart, instead of 2 meters, or 6 feet.)
  • There was loads of hand sanitizer and hand washing.
  • Libby’s class was no longer allowed to mix with other classes, so they had recess by themselves in the sculpture garden, and they ate lunch in the classroom (not actually a change).
  • Finally, the school day is shorter by an hour and a half so the teachers can thoroughly disinfect classrooms after a day of teaching.
In Norway, people social distance 1 meter (3 feet) away from each other, as opposed to 6 feet in the United States.

A week later, Libby spent the morning confused as the teachers reshuffled classes again. She now is in a group of 4 students and spends two hours outside in the morning with one hour as “outdoor” classroom time and another hour of recess. Today, she told me that she got to sing in their outdoor classroom and learn about the national songs of each other’s countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if next week they had to reshuffle things again as teachers adapt to new changes and official advice for social distancing and reopening society.

To be honest, I’m finding it hard to get too worked up about students having more time running around outside in the sunshine; I’m just so grateful my little extrovert gets to be outside of our house and with other kids. Libby isn’t worried about getting sick and willingly adjusts to all the changes at school because she just wants to be in school.

When Nell followed her sister back to school this week, she was met with a different set of rules. They enter the classroom one by one in a particular order and wash their hands before they find their seat. This means there’s very little moving around the classroom once everyone is at their desks, which are now 1 meter apart. When one student’s iPad stopped working, Nell shared hers by holding it up so her neighbor could see, though he wasn’t allowed to touch it. Her program is more academic and requires them to spend more time at their desk, but they still get outside a lot and have group activities, like scavenger hunts, outside.

Nell’s school, like Libby’s at the elementary level, has had to experiment and try different classroom and learning configurations. This week, half the class meets in a small group for one class while the other half of students have been sent home early to complete assignments online. Next week, they’ll switch off. Nell too is managing these changes well because she enjoys attending school so much more in person than online.

The schoolyard is roped off. Students are not permitted to enter.

Prior to and throughout reopening society here, we had a sense that if we needed to get tested, it wouldn’t be a problem. And if we needed a doctor, that we’d be taken care of even as foreigners, and that it wouldn’t bankrupt us even if our insurance from home didn’t cover it.

Everyone’s keeping an eye on the numbers (they’re low) to see what may happen (we check this chart every day ourselves) with the students back in school. Folks here now wonder if it was even necessary to close down schools at the beginning of the pandemic.

People really aren’t wearing masks, but most Norwegians naturally keep their distance from one another. Shops never really closed here, though the wine-opoly (everyone’s nickname for the liquor store) only allows 10 people in at a time and a guard spritzes your hands with sanitizer as you come in. Many things are still closed, but today when I made a special trip to a store I haven’t visited for months (they had large bottles of hand sanitizer!) I was surprised at just how many people were out and about. I felt nervous and kept my own face mask on, but I’m not sure my anxiety is warranted given the entire country had only 3 new cases today.

Socially distanced children walking and riding to school

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg (a personal hero in our house, in part, because she’s dyslexic) has warned folks not to drop their guard. A calm presence on the news here, the prime minister has twice held press conferences for children and last week led a government dance break in honor of Norway’s Constitution Day’s celebrations which had largely been canceled. There are still politics at play here across the government, we understand, but the government is generally organized and united in its plans to combat the virus. Minister of Health and Care Services, Bent Høie says:

We can open up Norwegian society again because we have succeeded in suppressing the spread of infection. As we lift the restrictions, we must keep the spread of infection under control by testing more people and through contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine.

This has been a slow, measured reopening society that feels reasonable and safe. We’re really hoping we can experience the same thing back home in Vermont when we return in the fall.

An American Mom Experiences Reopening Society in Norway

Taking a COVID Vacation Helped Me Find Perspective

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I really needed a COVID vacation. So I took one.

When the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order began in Vermont, I had incredible anxiety. COVID-19 was on every segment of the news. It was in almost every social media post. It was the subject of every call or online chat with my coworkers, family, and friends. The pandemic was the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep at night and quickly re-emerged as I made my two-minute commute downstairs to my desk each morning. It was all-consuming. My brain was starting to need a COVID vacation.

I began my rollercoaster ride of emotions—one day, feeling like a superhuman for juggling my roles as both an employee and as a mom to a very active toddler, and another day feeling like a complete and utter failure in both roles. I know I don’t need to detail why I felt this way because I know so many of you are sharing this experience. Suffice to say, I was starting to burn out, so after about four weeks, I started to really contemplate taking a COVID vacation.

Daydreaming of vacation on Lake Champlain

A COVID vacation—or what some have jokingly called a “coronacation”—felt like an incredibly silly notion.

Vacation is supposed to be relaxing, and a break from the norm. But we’re in a global pandemic. I can’t really go anywhere, and I’d still have my toddler home with me all day long. I talked myself out of it. I decided to keep chugging along, taking things one day at a time.

When we started to “turn the spigot” in Vermont, and my husband was able to return to work, it meant that the support I had taking care of our child during the day was limited. Now I was trying to work full-time while providing full-time care for our toddler—a toddler who never stops “running around” (as he likes to call it), who never stops talking, and who always wants attention.

We turned the spigot, and my anxiety spiked. How exactly was I supposed to do this?

After about two months at home, the idea of taking a COVID vacation came to the surface. I didn’t really want to take my vacation time for this, but I was burning out. My toddler was angry that I wasn’t playing with him more, and was starting to show behavioral issues. I decided to tell my boss how things were going. I mentioned wanting to take some vacation time in the near future, and sensing my stress level (and seeing my tears), she encouraged me to take some time sooner than later.

So, I decided to do it. Even if it wasn’t the vacation I wanted, nothing about this year has been what any of us wanted. I did want to make the best of things though, so I just decided… this is it, this is my time. I’m going to use this vacation how I see fit, on a whim, each day, with a toddler in tow.Bike with trailer on a field

Now, I am a planner and a busy body. I typically enjoy being out and about, being social, and filling my time with activities. But here I was, facing a week vacation with literally no plans, other than to play with my son. And you know something… it was indescribably freeing.

For the first time in my adult life, I was on vacation but didn’t need to be anywhere.

I didn’t need to report to anyone. I didn’t have an appointment, or a playdate, or a show, or anything. I had zero obligations, other than to care for myself and my family. What was this magical feeling?Boy playing baseball in a field

Each day, we read as many books as my son wanted. We went on bike rides. We ran through fields, played sports, and had picnics. We talked to insects. We planted flowers. We baked delicious things. We cuddled… because we could, because I had the time, and because I actually really wanted to do those things.

I also allowed myself “me time.”

I turned off the news and listened to a fiction podcast. I shuffled my neglected music library and danced around the kitchen. I tie-dyed some old shirts. I sewed my son a dinosaur pillowcase. I made some acrylic paintings. Two canvas geometric paintings made during my COVID vacation

Aside from purchasing some paint, my COVID vacation cost me nothing. What it gave me, though, was some much-needed and invaluable perspective, which had been dwindling away in the 8 weeks prior.

I slowed down. I sat in the sunshine. I reflected on my life. And I discovered something—how powerful the simplest moments in our lives can be, and how often we overlook them when we fill our time with the stress of survival or the endless drive for more, bigger, and better.

Yes, it took a shut down of pretty much everything, for me to stop long enough to see that the things I enjoy most in life, were right in front of me and I just wasn’t seeing them. I didn’t need money to appreciate the sun as it hit the overgrown bush by my driveway, or the sound of the crazy neighborhood squirrels as they bark and chase each other around the yard, completely oblivious to the plight us humans are facing. This was the simple magic and beauty of everyday life that I forgot to pay attention to and appreciate, and when I sat still long enough, my worries gave way to the wonder of our world.

My COVID vacation is over now, and I’m back at work.

On my first day back, my son looked at me and said, “Mommy, I don’t want you to work today, I don’t like it.” My first day back was a challenge, just like the many weeks prior. But I looked at my son, and I made us both a promise—to still go for a bike ride, to run through a field, to smell the flowers, and talk to the insects. And that’s just what we did, albeit, during a lunch break.

There are those of us right now who want to work more than anything, but can’t. There are those of us right now who want a vacation more than anything but aren’t able to take one. We’re all doing what we can to survive, physically and mentally. I know that a vacation isn’t the solution to the struggle we are each facing, but having and maintaining perspective is what will help see us through this.

Somewhere along the way, I was losing my perspective, and I was struggling. My COVID vacation was the catalyst that forced me to slow down, and to see each of the little joys in my life.Mom and son posing for picture while on vacation

This may not be the way that any of us imagined we’d be spending our time, but remember that this too shall pass, as all time does.

Whatever circumstance you may be personally facing right now, I hope that you are able to slow down, to find the little things in your life that bring you joy, the things that give you perspective, and that bring you peace—even in times of uncertainty. Those are the things that, like any good vacation, will lift you up when it matters most.

How are you coping with stress related to the coronavirus? What are some things that you’ve enjoyed most during this time?

covid vacation

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