Kids VT, Winter 2021-22

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What are you grateful for this year?


MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS. After spending so


much time apart, I’m grateful to be able to celebrate with them again.




Alison Novak

So thankful that my third grader and preschooler will be going into the New Year FULLY VACCINATED.



Cat Cutillo




Kaitlin Montgomery

Judy Dow with her granddaughter Prudence and daughter Jessica at Judy’s home in Essex PROOFREADERS

Carolyn Fox, Martie Majoros PRODUCTION MANAGER



Jeff Baron, John James, Rev. Diane Sullivan CIRCULATION MANAGER



Keegan Albaugh, Heather Fitzgerald, Astrid Hedbor Lague, Elisa Järnefelt, Maria Munroe, Benjamin Roesch, Katie Taylor, Jessica Lara Ticktin PHOTOGRAPHER

Andy Brumbaugh ILLUSTRATOR

Thom Glick

P.O. BOX 1184 • BURLINGTON, VT 05402 802-985-5482 • SEVENDAYSVT.COM/KIDSVT

Published 4x per year. Circulation: 35,000 at 800 locations throughout northern and central Vermont. © 2021 Da Capo Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Editorial content in Kids VT is for general informational purposes. Parents must use their own discretion for following the advice in any editorial piece. Acceptance of advertising does not constitute service/product endorsement. Da Capo Publishing shall not be held liable to any advertiser for any loss that results from the incorrect publication of its advertisement. If a mistake is ours, and the advertising purpose has been rendered valueless, Da Capo Publishing may cancel the charges for the advertisement, or a portion thereof as deemed reasonable by the publisher. Da Capo Publishing reserves the right to refuse any advertising, including inserts, at the discretion of the publishers.

Sharing Stories


he cover of this Winter/Holiday Issue of Kids VT features local Indigenous educator Judy Dow — the subject of this month’s “Vermont Visionaries” — with her daughter and granddaughter. We chose this multigenerational portrait because many extended families will be reuniting this holiday season after skipping gatherings in 2020 due to COVID19. The availability of vaccines has made these visits possible again. Dow is the executive director of Gedakina, a nonprofit that helps Indigenous people in New England reclaim and preserve cultural traditions. She conducts workshops at schools around the state, teaching some of those traditions to Vermont students. The quilt in the cover photo is an example of one: embedding stories in everyday objects. Dow made it to tell the story of her backyard and to teach her grandkids to count. It shows one partridge, two crows, three sparrows, four wrens, five geese and six turkey tracks. Until recently, the quilt was on display at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne. There are messages embedded in the cover photo, too. Dow’s ancestry is both Indigenous and French Canadian. Members of both groups were targeted for sterilization by the state in the 1930s, when Vermont’s now-discredited eugenics movement explicitly aimed to prevent families like Dow’s. The photo is proof of their resilience. The image also documents our strange pandemic era — it was taken outside because of the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Read more about Dow and her work in

Cat Cutillo’s column on page 18, and watch a video of Dow being interviewed and leading a workshop at kidsvt. The pandemic features prominently in a few stories in this issue. In “Pop Culture” (page 10), Keegan Albaugh offers advice on avoiding awkward goodbye hugs between relatives and kids who haven’t seen each other in a while. Benjamin Roesch talks with a young musician from the Vermont Youth Orchestra who’s thrilled to be performing in front of live audiences again (“Musical Notes,” page 14). And in “‘This Does Not Feel Normal’” (page 22), Jessica Lara Ticktin chronicles the struggles and joys of moms who gave birth in the pandemic’s early days. Her piece also includes a list of resources for new parents confronting the postpartum period, which has become significantly more isolating because of the virus. We hope you’ll keep this issue of Kids VT around during the winter holidays. Completing the coloring contest (page 32) is a great way for kids to pass the time during cold, gray days — or while they’re waiting for the turkey to cook. We’re accepting entries until January 31, 2022. Until then, keep up with us online at and sign up for Kids VT’s email newsletter at

MY FAMILY! My wonderful wife and partner,

Katrina; our three incredible daughters, Lily, Nola and Rose; and my affectionate pup, Mack. I love holiday time at home with them.

COLBY ROBERTS, COPUBLISHER THE LAND BORDER OPENING FOR CANADIANS — my parents can finally come visit us again after 18 months.


dedicated, amazing individuals who consistently shower our children with love, empathy and patience.


CONTRIBUTOR’S NOTE JESSICA LARA TICKTIN (“‘This Does Not Feel Normal,’” page 22) is a freelance journalist, birth educator and mother to four daughters. From 2015 to 2018, she wrote the monthly “Balancing Act” column for Kids VT. She believes that stories have the power to build empathy, create community and bridge cultural divides.




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WINTER 2021/2022

Vermont Visionaries


Welcome Editor’s Note 5 Staff Question Contributor’s Note

Meet Judy Dow, Indigenous scholar and educator

OVER THIS CAMP! Waterskiing | Tubing | Sailing

18 Columns Stuff to Do 9 10 Pop Culture 11 Secondhand Style 12 Mealtime 14 Musical Notes 17 Good Nature 21 Mom Takes Notes 31 ICYMI 35 Use Your Words


‘This Does Not Feel Normal’ Vermont moms talk about giving birth during a pandemic


GYMNASTICS! 1 to 9 week sessions Counselor/Camper ratio of 1:5 Located on beautiful Lake Champlain



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Just for Kids 32 Coloring Contest 33 Coloring Contest Winners On the Cover

12/2/20 3:15 PM


PETRA CLIFFS! • Recommended for ages 5 and up • Facial coverings required for everyone indoors • Optional outdoor party tent space until the weather gets too cold!

Get Smart



Why I made my son take a test to earn his smartphone Cat Cutillo photographed Judy Dow, her daughter, Jessica, and granddaughter Prudence Murray at Judy’s home in Essex. • 802-657-3872 105 Briggs St., Burlington, VT KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


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Enjoy the lights.


7 Things to Do T HI S S E A SON Christmas at the Farm


Catch a movie.

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival hosts in-person screenings of family-friendly films this winter. Catch the Vermont premiere of Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a documentary that introduces audiences to the creators, artists and educators behind “Sesame Street,” on November 21. Other films include Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog, a drama about the unbreakable bond between a boy and his canine during 1930s Germany, on December 30; and From the Wild Sea, a documentary about marine wildlife rescue volunteers who save sea animals from oil, plastic and storms, on January 16. Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival Selects at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. Various times. $7-16. Masks and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test required. Info,

Billings Farm & Museum gets in the spirit with Christmas at the Farm. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the 1890 Farm Manager’s House, which will be decked out in traditional 19th-century decorations, then meet farm animals in the barns, dip candles, make s’mores and snowshoe, weather permitting. Parents can pick up some stocking stuffers in the gift shop. Christmas on the Farm at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock. Various dates December 4 through January 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $8-16; free for children 3 and under. Masks required indoors. Info,

Attend a performance.

Follow the adventures of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince in Vermont Ballet Theater School’s Vermont’s Own Nutcracker. Company director Alexander Nagiba choreographs this enchanting tale set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score.

Get your energy out.

If you don’t feel like bundling up, let the little ones run around at Monkey Do, an indoor playground. Each child’s ticket includes two free adults. Monkey Do in Williston. $17 per day. Masks required for ages 3 and up. Hours and info,

Play a board game.

Connect with your kids over a spirited game of Candy Land, Clue or Settlers of Catan. Want to try something new? Check out the Boardroom, a café with more than 550 game options, none of them electronic.


Winter Lights at Shelburne Museum. Weekends from November 26 through January 1, 5-8 p.m. $10-15; free for children under 2. Info,

Celebrate on the farm.



illuminated Ticonderoga steamboat

Take your holiday light tours to the next level this year with Winter Lights at Shelburne Museum. The outdoor tour of the museum campus includes the illuminated Ticonderoga steamboat.

The Nutcracker

The Boardroom in Burlington. $3-6. Hours and info,

See rising stars.

Vermont’s Own Nutcracker at the Flynn Center in Burlington. December 18 and 19, various times. $19.43-44. Masks and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test required. Info,

Find more family fun each week in the Seven Days calendar, or online at

The finalists of Kids VT’s 2021 Spectacular Spectacular — sponsored by McKenzie — will appear nightly on WCAX, Channel 3, between November 29 and December 17. Watch for them during the 4 p.m. newscast.

KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022



Friends, Family and Forced Hugs How to avoid awkward moments this holiday season h, be nice. Go give your aunt a hug.” We’ve likely all heard some version of that instruction — or said it to our kids — when gathering with extended family. Hugs and kisses can be a way of establishing intimacy with loved ones. But sometimes those encounters can be awkward, especially if the child resists or feels uncomfortable hugging someone whom they don’t know well. Should you pressure your child to give hugs? With the holidays just around the corner, it’s an important topic for caregivers to consider — especially this year, when many of us will likely be returning to the world of family gatherings after skipping them in 2020. This means that some relatives may be craving hugs from little ones, while children may feel even more uncomfortable giving them. I think of these encounters as a great opportunity to start teaching kids about the concept of consent. When this topic comes up, I usually start picturing college campuses and the stories of sexual assault survivors. I imagine I’m not alone. According to research from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “among undergraduate students, 26.4 percent of females and 6.8 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation,” and 23.1 percent of transgender, genderqueer or nonconforming college students have been sexually assaulted. I didn’t really start talking about consent and sex until college, when student-led groups on campus raised awareness about it. But over the years, I’ve learned that consent isn’t just about sex — and we can broach the topic with our children much, much earlier. Every day, children face situations regarding consent: Should I let my friends share my French fries? Do I want to play tag right now? Am I comfortable with my friend wearing my hat? They all involve setting boundaries, making choices and advocating for oneself. By discussing these topics with children and providing them with the tools for addressing similar scenarios, we’re empowering them to take charge of their own bodies, and to respect the words and boundaries of others. Comments like the one at the beginning of this column usually come from


KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022



Keegan Albaugh and his daughter modeling different ways to say goodbye.

Instead of saying, “Give me a hug goodbye,” try “How would you like to say goodbye?”

a good place: relatives wanting to share their love with one another. And, let’s be honest, hugs from little kids are so sweet. It’s easy to understand why folks would want to get one before saying goodbye. But forcing children to exchange hugs and kisses with others sends the message that it’s more important to please other

people than to listen to and act on their own thoughts. It’s understandable that the topic of consent could potentially stir up a lot of different thoughts and feelings. Here are some tips to help you and your family navigate — and prevent — those uncomfortable encounters this holiday season.


your child about what to expect at each gathering — who will be there; how many people; whom they may or may not feel comfortable giving a hug to — and come up with a plan or secret signal they can use to indicate they would like additional support. Additionally, talk with relatives about how your child is feeling, and let them know what your child may not feel comfortable with ahead of time. ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CHILD. When you notice that your child is having difficulty, or when something awkward happens and they don’t feel comfortable speaking up, you or other adults should address unwanted boundary crossing, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. GIVE KIDS CHOICES. Instead of saying, “Give me a hug goodbye,” try “How would you like to say goodbye?” If a child struggles to think of something, offer them a few alternatives. Hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, waves and silly dances are all solid options. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. When a child doesn’t want to give you a hug, realize that it isn’t about you. It’s more important to honor what makes a child feel comfortable than to focus on your own joy of receiving a hug. THINK OF OTHER WAYS TO CONNECT. Try playing a board game or asking kids questions about their favorite book. You can also dance together, shoot some hoops, draw pictures, or look up and memorize silly jokes. SEEK OUT ADDITIONAL RESOURCES. I highly recommend Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You by Rachel Brian. It’s a great book for young children, as well as adults. Dropping off my daughters at school over the past couple of months, I’ve been making an effort to ask, “How would you like to say goodbye today?” I love getting squeezes from my children before they run into their classrooms, but I’ve also really been enjoying watching my kids pause and actively think about what they want. I want them to know that the choice is always theirs. K Keegan Albaugh is the founder and president of Burlington-based Dad Guild, a nonprofit that supports and empowers fathers by offering opportunities for connection, education and community engagement.


Purposeful Presents

THRIFTED GIFT IDEAS Need some suggestions to get started? Try these:

Meaningful gifts aren’t always new

• Secondhand books: Include a note on the inside explaining why you chose it.


hrough the years, I’ve watched thrifting become mainstream. This practice that some people used to consider gross or unsanitary has become not just acceptable but also celebrated. Reusing salvageable clothes and goods is less wasteful — and more affordable — than buying new. But has secondhand gifting followed the same trajectory? I’m more than happy to receive a gently used gift, but I wasn’t sure how others felt. So I posted a question about it in the Kids VT Facebook group. The responses I got were both heartwarming and thought-provoking. There were two major themes I think are worth sharing, because they made me think a lot about the intentions behind gift-giving — and the privilege of being a gift recipient. I’ll try to remember them as we head into the holiday season.

• Vintage wooden toys: These can be found at many thrift stores and seem to last forever. • Arts and crafts kit: Put together extra supplies you already have with some that are new. • T-shirt or other merch: Look for something featuring a favorite band, TV show or team. • Vintage jewelry: Find a piece with a birthstone or other sentimental element. • Thrifted glassware or mug: For adults, I love the idea of a secondhand decanter paired with a bottle of their favorite wine or spirit.

It really is the thought that counts. Secondhand gifts that were clearly well thought out and well matched to their recipient generated positive responses. In other words, these gifts weren’t just someone’s old things being passed off. They were items with more life in them that would be more appreciated in a new home. An example from my own life: One of my closest friends, another avid thrifter, gifted me with a beautiful woven basket she had found secondhand. It was a perfect fit for my home and my style, but it was also an incredible find. I know how much time and digging it can take to find something that beautiful. It meant the world that she passed it along to me. The value of any gift has so little to do with how much was spent on it and so much to do with how useful and desirable it is to the receiver.

There’s power in a hand-me-down. One response particularly struck me: Maggie Wilson expressed sometimes feeling even more appreciative of a used gift than a new one, saying, “It feels intimate to be gifted something used by a friend and like you’re closer to them when you use it.”

From top: Wooden blocks, gifted “Christmas sweater” and vintage wooden puzzle

When I read that, I immediately thought of the time I first put my daughter in a sweater that used to belong to our friends’ now 4-year-old daughter. When we met them for a playdate later

that day, they were happy to see my girl was wearing their own daughter’s “Christmas sweater,” so named because it had only fit her for a few days right around Christmas. As an avid thrifter,

I was already pleased to have a cute, functional layer that fit my daughter, but in that moment I realized it was more than just a piece of clothing — it also held their memories of their baby. Being gifted with it felt like a privilege. I treasure that sweater. This year I’m thrifting all of my daughter’s gifts for Christmas. It’s a good year to try it — there are no supply-chain issues with secondhand gifts! I’ve been having so much fun hunting on her behalf and finding things that match her little personality. So far, I’ve found a voice recorder that I think will be perfect for her newly discovered singing voice and a set of wooden blocks she’ll enjoy for a long time. But my favorite is a vintage puzzle that I found while thrifting with my mom. She mentioned having a similar one as a young child, and I thought that made it extra special. I’m considering doing this every year for my kids, having them do the same for others and making a tradition of it. But I can’t guarantee that everyone on my list would be open to receiving a secondhand gift. Instead, I’ll emphasize these ideas that our readers helped me flesh out. And I’ll model for my daughter and childrento-be that giving a gift is an act of care rather than a transaction. Being given a gift, whether new or used, is something for which we should all be grateful. K For more thrifting tips, follow Maria Munroe on Instagram @mariamunroethrifts. KIDS VT

WINTER 2021/2022



Love in a Crust

Tourtière, also known as French Canadian meat pie


hen I was growing up, meat pie wasn’t on our holiday menu. Our annual Thanksgiving Pie-Palooza has always been about sweet dessert pies. At Christmas, my family’s Swedish traditions take center stage. My husband’s family, on the other hand, is French Canadian; his grandfather grew up outside of Montréal. My husband can’t remember a childhood holiday when his grandmother did not show up with at least one meat pie in hand. I asked him whether he knew of anything special she would put in her recipe. “Love,” he told me. Many cultures around the world have their own version of meat pie, but this one from our neighbors to the north is special. French Canadian meat pie, or tourtière, dates back to at least the late 1700s. It originated in Québec, and the recipe varies from family to family. The most common meats used are ground beef and pork, but pies can also be made with ground veal or game meat. My husband’s family used potatoes to help bind together the filling. Other recipes use oats or bread crumbs.

Tourtière (One 9-inch pie) INGREDIENTS • 4 yellow potatoes, peeled and diced • 2 tablespoons olive oil • 1 small onion, finely chopped • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped • 1 pound ground pork • 1 pound ground beef

• 1 teaspoon ground pepper • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage • 1/4 teaspoon ground rosemary • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• Piecrust for top and bottom crust — store-bought or homemade

• 1/4 teaspoon ground clove

• 1 egg

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS 1. Cover potatoes with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain, then mash the potatoes until smooth. Set aside. 2. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, then stir until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. 3. Add the meat and cook until no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain off fat, then mix in spices. Remove from heat. 4. Add the potatoes to the meat and mix thoroughly. Set aside. 5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out one piecrust and line a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out the top crust and set aside. 6. Spoon the filling into the piecrust, making sure there are not any air pockets. Cover with top crust and crimp the edges, cutting vent holes in the center. 7. Whisk the egg and brush evenly on top of the crust. 8. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.


KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


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Carrots With Cranberries in a Maple-Cider Vinegar Glaze INGREDIENTS


1 pound carrots (I like rainbow carrots)


1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash carrots well, and cut into coins (no need to peel).


Mix together olive oil, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup.

1/4 cup maple syrup


Toss carrots and cranberries in the cidersyrup mixture and put in a roasting pan.

1/2 pound fresh cranberries


salt and pepper to taste

Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The eclectic spice mixture is what my husband finds most nostalgic — cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The addition of the traditionally sweeter spices is what makes it tourtière. Many folks, my husband included, enjoy ketchup along with their meat pie. I like mine with cranberry sauce and a side of roasted vegetables. Included above is my recipe for maple-glazed carrots with cranberries. One great thing about a tourtière is that it freezes well, for up to about four months. You can freeze just the cooled, precooked filling for use in future pies, or freeze the unbaked pies

themselves. Let the filling cool after cooking it on the stovetop, then assemble in unbaked piecrusts, preferably in disposable aluminum foil pie pans; wrap the pies well in tight plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and freeze. When you’re ready, simply brush the frozen piecrust with egg wash and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes at 400 degrees. To freeze an already-baked pie, let it cool completely, then wrap and freeze. To reheat, thaw for several hours in the refrigerator, then bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. So go ahead — make extras and give some love to your family and friends, French Canadian-style. K

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Together Again Members of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association return to the stage

The Vermont Youth Orchestra's pre-pandemic 2020 winter concert at the Flynn,


KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022



fter more than a year of virtual performances, Vermont Youth Orchestra flutist Logan Crocker stepped onstage in front of a live audience on October 17 at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe. The Colchester High School senior was too excited to be nervous, he said: “It was such a nice feeling to be back in front of an audience. You could feel the energy.” This is Logan’s second season playing flute and piccolo with the Vermont Youth Orchestra. At the Spruce Peak concert, after months of determined practice, he played the first movement of Mozart’s Flute Concerto in G Major — his first performance as a soloist. “It was such a fun experience,” he said. “I was proud that all my hard work had paid off.” Logan is one of more than 300 young musicians across the state who will participate in music programs through the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association this school year. Founded in 1964 and headquartered at the ElleyLong Music Center at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester, the nonprofit seeks to inspire young people “as artists, citizens, and leaders through the joyful shared pursuit of musical excellence.” VYOA offers an array of opportunities for students in grades 1 through 12. The most advanced musicians play in the VYO. But there are opportunities for kids to perform at every level — in beginner groups such as Prelude, for string instrument players in grades 2 through 5; in the Da Capo wind, brass and percussion ensemble; and in the Vermont Youth Philharmonia, an

Mark Alpizar conducting the VYO during an August rehearsal, before masking guidance changed

The VYO during an August rehearsal, before masking guidance changed

orchestra that feeds the VYO, and where Logan started in 2019. The VYOA also offers a weeklong summer symphony camp and private lessons. Students come from all over the state to take part in them. Meeting other musicians is part of the appeal, Logan explained: “Everyone there loves music, and it’s really fulfilling to come together with other players who have similar interests as you.” Logan confirmed that the commitment and repertoire are more demanding than playing in his high school band. But he plans to pursue music performance in college and believes the extra effort is worth it. “With VYO,” he said, “I find that I’m challenged every week. It helps me learn to be confident in myself.” The chance to work with and inspire students such as Logan is what drove Mark Alpizar to apply for the VYOA’s music director job in 2020. Alpizar’s prior experience included assistant conductorships with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and American Youth Symphony. But when he was offered the VYOA position in July of last year, it “felt like winning the jackpot,” he said. Alpizar particularly enjoys teaching young musicians. “The biggest draw to working with youth is, you get to experience things with them for the first time,” he said. There were a lot of firsts over the last year as the VYOA tried to keep students playing together in the midst of the pandemic. The organization used strict safety protocols and creative thinking to keep practicing in person: Members worked in smaller groups; held shortened, socially distanced rehearsals; wore masks; and played with fabric “bell covers” on the end of their horns. Not seeing friends as often or rehearsing as a full orchestra was a challenge, but many students used quarantine to hone their craft, Alpizar said. This year, vaccines have allowed for in-person concerts, and Alpizar is thriving on the freedom he’s found working with the students at VYOA. “I can put [the orchestra] in nontraditional setups, take fun musical risks and explore different repertoire.” The groups do occasionally dip into pop music, performing numbers such as “Smoke on the Water” and the theme from The Avengers. Next year, Alpizar hopes the VYO will perform

the soundtrack for a silent film. “We need to think outside the box,” he said. That also means broadening the reach of the group. Alpizar and his staff are committed to attracting students from all backgrounds and making participation affordable. Tuition varies by program; for the VYO, it’s $1,875 for this season. VYOA offers needbased financial aid for students to defray the cost. It also offers subsidized lessons for “endangered instruments” such as French horn, trombone or bassoon, which are less popular among orchestra members. Playing with the orchestra is an invaluable experience, said Burlington dad Andy Barker. His daughter, Emma, played violin with the Vermont Youth Philharmonia for two years and the Vermont Youth Orchestra for five. “VYO was a great reward after so many hours practicing on her own and gave her so many opportunities to grow,” Barker said. “She got to play with different conductors. She encountered new music. She got to be a leader and a follower. And the concerts were also a reward for us as parents.” Logan loves them, too. He’s excited for VYOA’s upcoming holiday-themed OrchestraPalooza on December 12 at the Flynn Center in Burlington. The event features all of VYOA’s ensembles and includes a grand finale in which all the musicians share the stage. “It’s really exciting to think that our concerts will once again be at the Flynn,” Logan said. “The holidays are one of my favorite times of the year, and I am especially excited to play ‘Sleigh Ride’ this year with the combined orchestras.” K

A child-centered alternative education, dedicated to the philosophy and teachings of Maria Montessori.

Grand-prize winner Chase Ehrlich, a sophomore at Montpelier High School


See OrchestraPalooza on Sunday, December 12, 4 p.m., at the Flynn in Burlington. $15-20. Proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID19 test required; children who are ineligible for vaccines must wear a mask. Info at

Logan Crocker


Learn more about the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association at

Vermont teen composers had their own moment in the spotlight this fall. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra worked with Jordanian Canadian composer Suad Bushnaq to develop the Masterclef competition, which invited teens to riff off of a short melody from Bushnaq’s cello concerto for orchestra called “Sampson’s Walk on Air.” Organizers received Masterclef finalists workshop 25 entries and chose 13 their musical finalists, all of whom compositions participated in a workshop at Burlington City Hall’s Contois Auditorium on October 29. One by one, they stood up to present their musical creations to an audience of three dozen people, including a panel of three judges — Bushnaq herself, Vermont Symphony Orchestra creative projects chair Matt LaRocca and accompanist Randal Pierce. The students’ scores were projected on the big screen as the audience listened to each composition. Montpelier High School sophomore Jamie Maddox-White incorporated synthesizers and a toy piano into his entry. “I was jamming to your piece when I listened to it the first time,” said Bushnaq, who compared the competition to the cooking show “Chopped.” “We gave you pasta, tomato sauce, cheese and pesto, and everyone makes a savory dish — and you decided to make a dessert,” she said. Another sophomore from Montpelier High School, Callum Robechek, recorded found sounds on their phone from a water fountain and built a composition that Bushnaq described as “therapeutic.” “Putting in these little Easter eggs for your listeners that are mindblowing — it’s part of the composer really respecting the intelligence of their audience,” she said. The grand prize of $250 went to violinist Chase Ehrlich, a sophomore at Montpelier High School. The two runners up were Maddox-White and Maaike Dam, a sophomore at St. Johnsbury Academy; both received $125. All three walked away with a “composer’s bundle” that included an orchestration notebook and other helpful tools for the craft. “I was really blown away by the level of talent and how brave the composers were, really bringing their own voice into their creations,” said Bushnaq. “Things like this have a value that’s much higher than who wins. This competition was to make these kids inspired by each other.” Listen to the finalists’ entries at

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A biology professor shares tips on using a game camera to watch backyard wildlife


t the beginning of a college course that I co-teach about the art and science of nature observation, I like to have my students watch videos of animals captured on wildlife cameras. The videos I give them were taken at two different beaver ponds over the course of a year — one in northern Minnesota, the other in Westhampton, Mass. The footage is amazing: It shows a stream of bears, bobcats, beavers, birds and other animals going about their lives in all kinds of weather. Then I ask my students to do a math problem: Count every single animal and divide by 365. The end result is that, in both of these wild locations, you could expect to see a charismatic animal ramble by about once every 10 days. See for yourself at and There are animals like these all around us in Vermont, but many of them scatter when they sense that people are near. To see them, try setting up a trail or game camera that can document what’s happening outdoors when you’re not around. These small devices are tripped by movement and heat. They can take regular photos or videos during the day and infrared ones at night. Saint Michael’s College biology professor Declan McCabe has been using them for the last six years. He and his students have placed 22 cameras across the greater Burlington area. You might be surprised by the wide variety of animals they’ve recorded, including bobcats, coyotes, weasels, deer, opossums, skunks, raccoons and fishers — a small, meat-eating animal in the weasel family that’s sometimes mistakenly referred to as a “fisher cat.” One of McCabe’s favorite recent moments: An opossum caught on camera pretended to be dead — aka played possum — when it came face-to-face with a coyote. The coyote walked away. Four minutes later, so did the opossum. Another time, a camera picked up a weasel holding a mouse in its mouth, then

Clockwise from top left: coyote, deer, gray fox and bobcat

dropping the rodent on To capture the a log and walking away best images, McCabe to do something else recommends placing the before coming back to camera a bit above knee pick it up. “It was like height so that it doesn’t somebody going shopping get buried in the snow. and coming back to their “If you’re putting it in an shopping cart,” he said. area where deer come DECLAN MCCABE “You know these through, chest-high is things happen,” he good,” he said. added. “You know they’re out there, but to Regardless of how high you put it, aim actually see it is cool.” the lens “lower than you think,” he said. A basic game camera runs about $80; Don’t point it at the horizon, because most you can find one online or at any store that of your frame will be empty sky. Instead, sells hunting supplies. Most take both aim it at the ground, ideally at a 45-degree photos and videos, though more expensive angle. The ground is where the action is, models offer higher-quality shots. McCabe explained. He also recommends There are no legal restrictions on setpinning down a small square of landscape/ ting up these cameras on publicly owned weed-tamping fabric on the ground in front land, though McCabe confirms that theft of the camera to keep it from capturing is a common problem. If you’re mounting 1,400 pictures of a fern waving in the wind. one in your yard, you probably don’t need As for the location, look for any to protect it, but if you plan to put one in a obvious paths. Animals don’t like to walk busy public natural area, attach it to a solid right through dense vegetation, McCabe tree with a Python lock that is thin enough pointed out. A fallen log will work well, to thread through the plastic loops in the too. “It’s like a little superhighway through camera that exist for this very purpose. the vegetation,” McCabe said. He and his

You'll see what's living in your backyard that you never knew was there.

students found that sites with logs have six times as many animals compared to those without logs. If you don’t have any in your backyard, a hole in the ground can be a great spot, too. If there’s no tree nearby, you can always drive a stake into the ground to anchor the camera. Or you could set it up to see who’s raiding your compost bin or bird feeder. Depending on where you live, a backyard game camera might not find bobcats or coyotes, but it’s still worth trying. “If you do it long enough, you will see cool things,” promised McCabe. “And at the very least, you’ll see what’s living in your backyard that you never knew was there.” I set out a camera myself recently. I trained it on a known fox den in my neighborhood, and it shifted my understanding in a simple but profound way. I realized that when I’m out walking in nature, I’m usually on my way somewhere and then going home. I assumed that’s what animals were doing, too. The game camera helped me realize in a visceral way that, no, they live there — even if they’re not coming out to say hi. K Heather Fitzgerald teaches field ecology and environmental science at the Community College of Vermont, Saint Michael’s College and the University of Vermont. KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022



Judy Dow, Indigenous Scholar


few years ago, educator Judy Dow contemplated retiring. She’d been an educator for more than three decades, working at Essex Elementary School for 15 years and later teaching at the Chittenden Country Correctional Facility. She’d received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Vermont Educator in 2004. Instead, Dow, a scholar of French Canadian and Indigenous descent, chose a different path: She became the executive director of Gedakina, a multigenerational organization that supports Indigenous youth, women and families across New England. Gedakina helps reclaim and preserve cultural traditions, such as gardening, basketry and beading. In her role, Dow travels to reservations and schools across the region. She teaches classes primarily about climate change and the history of the nowdiscredited eugenics movement, which once sought to sterilize Indigenous people, French Canadians and those who were poor or disabled. One day she might be discussing the subject with fourth graders, the next with professors from Harvard University. Last year, she connected with 7,636 young people ranging from preschool to college age over Zoom. This fall, she’s resumed in-person workshops. On a weekday in October, she taught three groups of fifth graders under an outdoor tent at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington. Dow stood in the center of the students’ encircled chairs, looking at posters that each team created to tell a story about climate change. One group showed images of Bicknell’s thrush birds next to a list of facts. Another group held up a poster about how logging is pushing out the forest’s animals. Dow helped them see the deeper meaning in their work. “So I think the key words from your lesson is: We need to find balance in understanding what is a want and what is a need,” Dow told the class. “We don’t need everything. We may want it, but we don’t need it.” In other words, echoed a student, “If you don’t have to, don’t.” Champlain Elementary received a grant from the Vermont Arts Council to bring Dow in as a special guest, teaching fifth-grade students weekly lessons for six weeks. Her lessons cover climate change and art while teaching students 18

KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022

eo Watch a vid g n ri tu fea t Judy Dow a / m co t. sevendaysv d n a t kidsv V. on WCAX-T

Judy Dow at home in Essex

how they can apply what they’re learning to their own lives. Her visits are designed to meet new state standards for learning about Indigenous culture. Gedakina also distributes books to schools, especially those struggling with racial issues or controversial mascots, to help them become closer to understanding Indigenous points of view and Indigenous stories. There are many ways to tell those stories. Last spring, for example, Dow created an anti-eugenics tapestry called ‘The Witness Tree’ to mark the 100th anniversary of the Second International Eugenics Congress, which promoted eugenics. Her work has been traveling around the world this fall with an international anti-eugenics forum. She was one of the historians the State of Vermont asked to help write the eugenics apology letter passed this year by the Vermont House and Senate. During the lesson at Champlain Elementary, she told the students about another storytelling technique. “Do you know what a ‘sit spot’ is?” she asked. It’s a place where you sit all the time and watch the world around you, she explained.

Dried beans and quilt

“I want to record that story so that I can remember everything that I saw in my sit spot,” said Dow, as she held up a gourd punctured with holes. She told the students that she bored a hole for each plant and insect she saw from her sit spot. When she puts an LED light inside, it creates a night-light effect reminding her of what she saw. She held up more examples: a quilt depicting the story of spring in her backyard; another quilt dedicated to the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“We all have a story to tell. We’ve been working on climate change, drought, fire, flooding, the immigration of people, the emigration of animals,” said Dow. “Now we’re going to take the story from your poster and create another map to tell that story.” She passed out yogurt containers to show the students how to make baskets. She cut the sides into quarters, weaving math and French lessons into her demonstration. “You want to cut each fourth in half again,” she said. “So, what will I have?” Eighths, the kids yelled. When the yogurt container was ready to twine yarn around, she picked a brown yarn to represent the ground and a green yarn to represent the trees to tell a story about logging. Dow showed students how to weave “in front of, behind,” then provided the French translation: devant de and derrière. Dow’s own story began in Burlington’s North End. Each year, she attended public school there from “Columbus Day weekend — now Indigenous Peoples’ Day — to April vacation,” she said in an interview after the Champlain Elementary workshop. For the rest of the year, her family, which included her mother, father and four younger sisters, moved out to South Hero and lived on a dead-end dirt road

character called Batiste Parvenu. Dow described the series as being about a “bumbling idiot” who got into trouble and was published during the periods of prohibition and eugenics in Vermont. “Francos got together in the evening to decode his stories, because there were messages on how to protect yourself,” said Dow. “At nighttime, when most children were having fairy tales read to them, we had Batiste Parvenu stories read to us, and we were taught to decode them.” Dow wanted to learn to teach, too. She earned an undergraduate degree in native studies from Burlington College and an-


Teaching about indigenous culture at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington

We all have a story to tell. near her aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. Her family, who spoke French around the house, fished for their dinner and grew all the food they needed in huge gardens. Canning and freezing were a big part of her childhood. Her mother would always make two pies — one to eat and one to freeze for winter. Dow grew up mostly outside and had to be home “when the sun reached the top of the cedars,” which was about four o’clock. She spent a lot of time exploring. In the winter, she ice skated from Burlington to South Hero. “It was a regular thing for me,” she said. “And in the summer, it was nothing to take my little sunflower

sailboat and canoe around the islands and over to New York. Those experiences have allowed me to explore history and the environment and all of the things that people learn in books.” But while she was free to wander, she was also bound by stereotypes of Francophone and Indigenous peoples. “Because of the treatment of the Francos and the Abenaki in Vermont during my parents’ time, I was raised to learn to care for myself,” said Dow. Stories helped her navigate that challenge, too. Her grandfather and father would reread her older tales written by Daniel Trombley about a fictional

other in education from the Community College of Vermont, as well as a graduate degree in teaching for social justice from Marlboro College. Another experience that informed her work: becoming a grandmother. It’s partly what motivated her to speak out about eugenics. Two of her three grandchildren live next door and visit regularly. Together, they recently ground corn to make cornmeal for baking. Then they made a quart of seeds to give to farms that Gedakina supports for next year’s gardens. “I felt my life was complete when I became a grandmother,” said Dow, 67. “I think some of that gets rubbed off

into what I’m doing with the students. I could possibly be grandmothering them, as well. I’m not sure. I think I might be.” Fifth-grade teacher Aziza Malik said her students really connect with Dow. “I love how Judy teaches kids to think in a totally different way,” she said. Malik pointed out that her school recently attended the John Dewey Memorial Conference at the University of Vermont. At the conference, someone posed the question: “Who is your school’s most impactful special guest?” Three separate people named Dow, including fifth-grader Aria Leff. “She’s really taught us about different ways to learn about climate change — like using art and how we really need to take action now and not just wait for other people to do it,” Leff said. Part of the lesson is that students need to pass on what they’ve learned. During the workshop at Champlain Elementary, Dow explained how the baskets that students were making would help them remember their stories. “To somebody else, it’s going to look like a gorgeous basket. To you, it’s going to be a mnemonic device to help you tell the story,” said Dow. The following week, the students were scheduled to teach college students from UVM how to tell a story in a basket. “Think about how full circle this is,” said Dow. “First you see, then you hear, then you remember. To reinforce it, you have to share.” K

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loved the dark of the fall and early winter as a child. I remember the excitement of playing outside in our yard with the neighbors in the cold, pitch-black evening and the comfort of returning home to the light and warmth. I could not believe my luck that I got to stay up so late. (Of course, it probably was not very late; the darkness just arrived early.) As I grew up, I started spending my days working indoors. The dark of the fall became an enemy that slowly but surely ate away at the daylight. In the dimming afternoons, I was left in the artificial glow, wondering how I’d have enough energy to tackle my ever-growing to-do list. Our daughter is 4 now. Somehow, in this moment, the fall does not feel as dreadful. It is full of notions of the season: The deciduous trees do not die when they lose their leaves; they simply enter a state of rest that allows them to survive through winter. The air feels fresher now and smells different than in summer: wet soil and decomposing leaves mixed with crisp breeze. The birds that remain in Vermont for the winter sing rarely, but when they do, it is more noticeable. The birds that left will remember their way back here. When exploring outside, we might walk over an underground burrow of a hibernating animal. When returning inside, we can finally light up the fireplace and lie on the floor, basking in its warmth. We see the stars in the sky before bedtime, and my daughter says excitedly: “It is so late! Usually, by now, I’m already asleep.” (Of course, it is not very late; the darkness just arrives early.) K

KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


‘This Does Not Feel Normal’ Vermont moms talk about giving birth and surviving postpartum during a pandemic BY JESSICA LARA TICKTIN

KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022





s there anything more hopeful than having a baby? Babies represent the future. They embody our desire to believe in goodness and life. I’ve had four of them myself, and as a birth educator and doula, I help families welcome babies into their lives. It’s joyful work. I’m also a journalist. And when the pandemic hit, I realized that women who had children during this time were going through an especially complicated transition. I felt compelled to document and bear witness to their stories, so I applied for and received a National Geographic Society COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists. It allowed me to interview mothers, as well as the midwives, doctors, mental health professionals and nurses supporting them this past spring and summer. I learned that anxiety and mood disorders in pregnant and postpartum women in the U.S. have doubled since the pandemic began, according to a study conducted last year by Massachusetts’ Brigham and Women’s Hospital in partnership with Harvard Medical School. Normally, one in seven postpartum women report clinically significant levels of depression. The PEACE Study — the acronym stands for Perinatal Experiences and COVID-19 Effects — found that number has risen to more than one in three. The women I spoke with told me they were often isolated, scared and struggling. They’d had so many questions: Will I have to give birth alone in the hospital? What if I get COVID-19 and have to be separated from my baby? What if the baby gets sick? Especially in the early days, no one had answers. I also heard stories of resilience and unexpected blessings. Read on for reflections from six of the moms I recorded for this project. These interviews have been edited and condensed for space and clarity.

Kids VT readers may recognize ELIANA CASTRO; she and her daughter, Adelaide, appeared on the cover of the May 2020 Mom and Baby issue. Castro, a 35-year-old assistant professor of secondary education at the University of Vermont, experienced many identity shifts that spring: She earned her PhD, got married, moved to Vermont and then had Adelaide, who recently turned 1. Connecting with other local moms online made a big difference for her, especially after Adelaide was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Eliana Castro

‘WE REALIZED EARLY ON THAT WE WERE GOING TO NEED A LOT MORE SUPPORT.’ I think even before becoming pregnant, I was always a little bit concerned about what motherhood meant for our prospects for travel, for my career — what this meant for, you know, just my free time. I think I was a little bit apprehensive about motherhood and the ways that it sort of takes over women’s lives. And, I mean, the pandemic took over my life. I didn’t really have a lot of choice, right? The choices were made for me a lot of the time. We always wanted to come back to New England. It was really exciting, because I got the job and we were pregnant and we had tried really hard. We tried for 18 months, and then our first IUI [intrauterine insemination] worked. So it felt like, you know, That was the end of a very long road, we thought. One of the first conversations I had with my colleague Carmen was about who to connect with here, so that I could start building community and cultivating some relationships. She told me about

Evolution [now Grow Prenatal & Family Center in Burlington] and I started attending the coffee chats in late April of 2020. That made all the difference. That sense of isolation started to dissipate because I had connected to that community online — and I’m still so connected to them. I still do some coffee chats, and those are the moms coming by to bring me meals or, you know, groceries. The VerMamas and the coffee chat moms have been just a major lifeline. I can’t tell you what this would have been like without them. I think, in a way, [the pandemic] sort of forced me to try a little bit more intentionally to connect with other moms. It would have been really easy for me to just sort of recede into my pregnancy bubble or the newborn bubble and just sort of be in our comfort zone. But we realized really early on that we were going to need a lot more support. [At home], my husband’s desk and

mine were next to each other, and the living room was right there. And the kitchen was within view. Had it not been for that, my husband and I would have each missed a milestone or two. I saw [my infant] roll over, even though I was at my desk. I honestly think that knowing her as well as we do was what allowed us to read her symptoms and know that something was really wrong. You know, everybody comments, “Wow, you were really responsive. You really know your child.” And I was like, Well, I don’t really have an option. We’ve been with her every waking moment of her life. She’s not in daycare. No one else has babysat her, except for one wedding. It was a gift that we’ve been able to experience every moment with her, for better or for worse. Maybe I’m just trying to be positive, see the silver lining, but it has offered us a lot of opportunities to just build a strong bond with her and with each other.



Northeast Kingdom and works for the State of Vermont as a domestic violence specialist for the Department for Children and Families. Twomey already had a toddler at home when she gave birth to twins at the very beginning of the pandemic — in January 2020, before it had even reached the U.S. She and her husband were working from home and trying to care for three children under the age of 3. She was diagnosed with postpartum depression and began taking medication to help.

Colleen Twomey

‘I FELT ALONE.’ I was really looking forward to the moms group that I’m a part of, having more time to just be around other moms, to be out in the community, to show off my twins. It’s funny; that’s a simple thing. But just taking them out, having people see your babies, you get that external affirmation that you’re doing a good job, which every mom needs. I think with my first daughter, I was experiencing a little bit of postpartum depression, but it was managed because of that sense of community. But [this time] there was nobody there. No one to say, “Look at you; you’re raising these three children.” All of the things that I had envisioned — all of the ways in which I was going to be connected and just feel supported or kind of held up, and even just to have another person hold the babies — I mean, none of that happened, and it was extremely isolating. All of our grandparents missed the first year of their life, and you just can never prepare for that. It’s a three-hour drive from my parents, and they did drive up here. They drove six hours round trip to just stand outside. They waved through the window, and it was just absolutely devastating. And, you know, just the fear. In the beginning of this pandemic, nobody knew anything about the COVID-19 virus. And every time my partner would go to the grocery store, we would try to avoid it and we would be scared. What happens if I get sick and I’m breastfeeding — what’s going to happen to my babies? Am I still going to be able to breastfeed? Like, all of these swirling thoughts. I think having babies, especially twin babies, you’re trying to manage all that. And then you add in this really scary virus on top. I felt alone. My toddler, she goes to a home daycare. It’s like our second family. She’s been going since she was

3 months old, and we pulled her out of that. So now my partner is working from home, we’ve got three children here — you know, at that time she was, like, 2 and a half. I would just be hearing from so many people, “You’re so lucky that you get this time, you get this extra time with your three children.” Like there’s a blessing in the pandemic. So then I’m secondguessing, like, I should be grateful. Why am I feeling this way? when people really don’t understand. So I slipped into postpartum depression, which I think is really important to talk about. I’m still taking Zoloft. I see a therapist, and she’s like, “You know, you may still have experienced this, but it was amplified by your isolation.” When my partner went back to work, it was just really, really hard for me. March and April are the hardest time of the year because you can’t really get outside. The weather is kind of miserable. When spring came, when we were able to get outside, it was much better for my mental health. With the twins, I would look forward to their well-child visits. I mean, that was our only time going out of the house. My oldest is a little shy, but she doesn’t have the discomfort of strangers like the twins. They’ve only seen masked doctors. They spent the first year of their lives not seeing people. I had so many people say, “You need to just break the rules.” My parents are a lot older — my dad’s high-risk, and I have a niece with Down syndrome living in that home. And like, No, I actually can’t break the rules. Trust me, we wanted to, but we didn’t. For me, it’s about the concern for other people. And, unfortunately, there’s some sacrifice around my well-being for that.

The medical and mental health workers who help women through the postpartum period are struggling to manage the increase in demand for their services. Ann Smith, a certified nurse midwife and women’s health practitioner who served as the president of the nonprofit Postpartum Support International last year, said the group saw a dramatic spike in inquiries. “We were flooded with calls and texts asking for help, looking for support, looking for ways to get themselves to feel more normal,” Smith said. A certain amount of anxiety is natural, especially for first-time parents. But it becomes pathological when women can’t function normally, said Sandy Wood, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and certified midwife at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Even when the baby is sleeping, their minds are busy “catastrophizing,” she said. If people aren’t sleeping when the baby sleeps, if they’re having intrusive thoughts, if they can’t get out of the house and they’re scared of everything — those are IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS SEEKING the things that “are really PERINATAL OR POSTPARTUM SUPPORT, pathologic and really get HERE ARE SOME PLACES TO FIND IT: to the point of biochemical, • VERMONT’S CHAPTER OF POSTPARTUM SUPPORT needing medication,” she INTERNATIONAL has a “warmline” with local coordinasaid. tors who provide support, information, encourageWood pointed out that ment and connection with mental health providers. a lot of issues, even anxiety Call the PSI support helpline at 1-800-944-4773, or and depression, can be learn more at addressed with therapy, • Access VIRTUAL SUPPORT GROUPS at relaxation techniques and get-help/psi-online-support-meetings. asking questions like: Is that a helpful thought? What • LEARN MORE about perinatal and postpartum mood else could I think about this? disorders at She has a background in mindfulness-based stress RESOURCES TO HELP NEW PARENTS reduction and employs that CONNECT AND ADAPT: approach frequently when • GROW PRENATAL & FAMILY CENTER in Burlington offers working with postpartum prenatal and postnatal yoga classes; free Saturday women. morning coffee chats for pregnant and postpartum She also noted that individuals; birth, breastfeeding and newborn care Google and social media classes; and a virtual pregnancy circle. Check out can contribute to anxiety. for a list of virtual and in-person She tells a lot of women offerings and to sign up for VerMamas, a postpartum to stay off their digital support group. devices. “You don’t have to be nursing and surfing the • THE JANET S. MUNT FAMILY ROOM in Burlington offers internet,” she said. “Just a Drop-in Postpartum Coffee and Tea Hour on nurse. Just be with your Zoom, traveling playgroups, and family support baby.” and home visits. A program called the Brotherhood Sometimes going provides support for new dads and gives them the online can help, though. In opportunity to talk with others about the transition response to the surge in to fatherhood. Find a list of available services at demand, PSI has created about 18 online groups that • Burlington-based nonprofit DAD GUILD also supports meet weekly. new fathers. Connect with the group at Southern Vermont • GOOD BEGINNINGS OF CENTRAL VERMONT offers childbirth therapist Rachel Totten education, online meetups and activities for new has referred many women parents and families, as well as babywearing to them. Totten runs a clinics and a Journey Into Parenthood workshop. networking group for VerIt also hosts a program called Postpartum Angel mont therapists. She says Family Support, run by community volunteers of the 550 professionals who are trained to bring respite, support and in that network, everyone companionship to parents and caregivers during is either at capacity or the tender postpartum period. Learn more at exceeding it. “A lot of moms were saying they were missing • THE FLETCHER FREE LIBRARY in Burlington offers just being pregnant in the programs such as sing-alongs and Stories With community, the things that Megan, held both virtually and sometimes outside would happen, the little (weather permitting). Find a list at smiles you’d get walking kids-events. in Target passing another • LAMOILLE FAMILY CENTER AND APPLESEED PEDIATRICS is one mom who sees you pregof several sites around the country that offers the nant, or just comments you DULCE (Developmental Understanding and Legal might get, like ‘When’s your Collaboration for Everyone) program to help families baby due?’” Encounters like in rural areas. A specialist meets with families that can help new moms at their first newborn pediatric visit and stays adjust to their transition, connected through their first six months. Sign up she said. through Appleseed Pediatrics at Copley Hospital in Morrisville by visiting lamoillehealth



‘This Does Not Feel Normal’


and learn how to be the best parents that we could. And I didn’t have to do it alone. We didn’t have to have that juggle where he left while I stayed. So, in some ways, that isolation was wonderful. We didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything. We didn’t have any money at the time, but nobody did. Everybody’s jobs were going south. Nobody came out of that situation

Musician MYRA FLYNN, 37, lived in Los Angeles for eight years and had her first baby there right before the pandemic began. She and her husband, Phil Wills, experienced the lockdown there before returning to her home state of Vermont. Flynn now works for Vermont Public Radio as an engagement producer.

Myra Flynn


Two weeks before my daughter was born, my mother-in-law passed away. We got a call at four in the morning. She had a cardiac arrest, and she passed away from the complications from her chemotherapy. And so that just threw everything off. My husband was there, but he was not there. You know? And I felt like what was meant to be the happiest moment of his life turned out to be, I think, a moment where he was completely lost. He couldn’t mourn his mother’s passing, I mean, do justice to that. And he couldn’t do justice to his daughter’s birth, because they both were such significant events in such a short time. So I felt the pandemic. I felt like I was stealing my baby from the hospital and running away — I swear to God, that’s how I felt. Everything was so locked down that when we were leaving from the hospital, I was like, This is so weird. This does not feel normal. I’m just taking this child, and we are running away, and we are trying to sneak out of here. I’m hoping we don’t run into anybody, because we don’t want any exposures. That’s how it felt. I think the first month, every day I thought I made the wrong decision, thought this was the worst thing I did to myself. I mourned my old life. I think the first three months I mourned, every single day, my old self, my old life. I had become very weak. I still had sciatic pain. I had the stitches [from a cesarean birth]. Like, I never had anything done to my body. And all of a sudden I have this scar, you know, and you are still in the pandemic, right? Like, you 24

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ready to film, and all of that. I mean, neither of us — in how hard we’ve hustled as artists in this industry — would have ever stopped. And, you know, the pandemic just gave this beautiful permission to stay home


I’m a musician, and my husband’s a consultant, and he’s on television. So, we had a baby, knowing we were gonna get on the road right away. Previous to taking this job, I had 60 shows slated, and Phil was

unscathed, so, for us, it was just a leveling thing that just sent us home to be parents. It felt like a gift from the universe in some ways. I’d say that the hardest part of it for me was really not being able to form community or take notes from other moms. Those moments where you’re like, “Is this normal?” LA was so fraught with COVID that they weren’t taking any more regular doctor’s appointments. We couldn’t go in for our checkups. They canceled all of her shots. Like, everything. So you could only

go in if it was an emergency, and trying to get a telehealth visit was insane. We had social justice reform, and the riots that came with that were very unsafe in our area. We are a Black family, and I didn’t want my husband driving anywhere. The police were everywhere, so that did not feel safe. And so we were inside because of that. And then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more isolating, the Bobcat fires started five miles from our house, and our whole house filled with smoke. And so we were confined with the new baby and our dog to one room with a bunch of air filtration machines. It was just really, really hard to know: What do we need? It’s awful that women will compare motherhood, or children, in a negative way. But it’s a wonderful thing to have comparison, or a frame of reference, for what you’re doing. I had my mom on the phone all the way over here on the East Coast, but it’s been a long time since she was a new mother. I would have probably been the first to sign up for some mommy-and-me groups or something like that, just to be around other women. Like, that breastfeeding scenario could have gotten so much better if I were around other women who could have told me what was normal, and that I was OK, and that my body was OK.

RIDDHI PATEL, 38, was born in India but has lived in the

United States since 2004; she works as an anti-fraud strategy consultant. She lives in Essex with her husband, a law enforcement officer, and their 1-yearold daughter. She struggled to get pregnant for years and then found success with in vitro fertilization. Her pregnancy coincided with the beginning of the pandemic and a devastating loss.

Riddhi Patel

‘I MOURNED MY OLD LIFE.’ are still not going out and about, people are not coming to visit you — the arrival of your child and the celebration and the welcome. It was not normal. I did go through my own mental ups and downs for six months solid. I remember the first 15 days, my husband was home. So, four days we were in the hospital and then we were home; and then he started going to work 15 days later, and he worked

night shifts. He would leave at 5 p.m. and he would start getting ready at 4 to leave. And the witching hours with my daughter were the worst. Like, 6 to 9 were so bad that I remember [my husband] would start getting ready, and I would be in my bedroom with the baby at the time. And I would start, like, literally shaking out of anxiety, because I had so much fear that, Oh, my God, he’s leaving me home.

What am I going to do with this child? Like, what am I going to do? How am I going to get through this one more night without him home? I cannot tell whether what I felt was the postpartum depression, anxiety, or what I felt was the circumstantial life changes, or what I felt was having the child during pandemic or during life loss. I guess maybe next time, if I have a normal pregnancy, I should compare. I think if there was any saving grace during the entire difficult phase, it was the fact that my parents were very constant. They helped both of us, me and my husband, get through our difficult time. Looking back, I have a profound appreciation for the opportunity to be a mother. Had it not been this hard or challenging — I mean, I’m sure I would love my child equally, but I feel like now I’m more protective of my time with my child. I’m more protective of this opportunity that we both have to raise a child.


STEPHANIE PHILLIPS, 38, lives in Burlington


with her husband and three children. Her youngest arrived in March of 2020, just as COVID-19 hit the United States and Vermont declared a state of emergency. Phillips works as a lawyer for the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.

I think the rage goes to people who I had a Zoom baby shower, and it just don’t really understand. We had an made me so fucking sad. I saw my parents and my brother once when I electrician here, and I was grinding some [coffee] beans, and I was like, was pregnant in January, and I wasn’t “OK, Oliver, I’m even showing; I going to turn was just really STILL LIFE II this on, but it’s tired and eating going to be cool a lot of pineAnticipation is the emotion and fun.” And apple. I thought I am most truly afraid of. I wait for warm weather to flourish [pregnancy] the electrician with spring, the shelter in place orders was like, “Oh, was going to be to lift, the pandemic to abate. just wait until more like going I await the quickening you have, like, to prenatal yoga our doctors and mothers say your second or classes. will happen any day now. third, then it’s When he was I use my new baby bump just, like, not born, I thought as a prop for Ninth Street Women, the book I’m reading even an issue.” we were going about the women painters [Having a to be able to of the Abstract Expressionist movement, baby during the go to mommywhere I read this sentence: pandemic] was and-me classes where there is life, there is hope. a traumatizing and, you know, I am impatient. experience for be able to find me, and I am some commuNathalie Boyle not interested nity. But instead in having more we were all just babies, because I don’t want to relive trapped in our one-bedroom apartment that. A part of me is like, Well, maybe it with no help. Every decision felt like, would be therapeutic. But I don’t think What we would be gaining if our parents that that is a good enough reason. K came to help us for a little bit, but what would the cost be? We always had to consider it — not just Oliver’s health and Poet NATHALIE BOYLE, 32, is a stay-atsafety, but everyone’s health and safety. home mom to Oliver, 1. She and her All my sadness about it has nothing husband moved to Vermont in the to do with Oliver. It’s more about the summer of 2019 from the Boston loss that I feel about the experience that area. She found it hard to make I thought that I was going to have. connections with other new moms

Stephanie Phillips

Charlie’s my third, so I wasn’t expecting that to be a stressful time. But I felt more anxious, so much more was unknown. It was really just a time of a ton of anxiety. He was breech, unlike my first two. The time immediately before COVID really hit the U.S., I was fully absorbed in trying to flip this baby. I’m sure I was doing handstands in pools and nightly exercises, like on the couch with my head down on the floor. All sorts of things to get him to flip, mostly just to avoid a C-section for faster recovery. But then, when COVID hit, that took on a whole new meaning, because the difference between a vaginal birth and a C-section is the difference between two days in the hospital or five days. The complications go up. On March 13th, we kept our older girls home from school. I didn’t go into the office. My husband already works from home. We started complete isolation. Like, nothing — no groceries, no visitors, no outings, nothing — and all to preserve, as much as possible, a sense of safety around going into the hospital and giving birth. And my big fear was that I was going to go into labor early. And so then the question became, Well, if I go into labor in the middle of the night, what do we do? So the emergency plan was that if I went into labor, I would have to drive myself to the hospital while my husband stayed with the girls. So my big fear was that I was going to end up driving myself alone to the hospital, that they were not going to allow visitors, and I was going to have an emergency C-section alone, in a hospital during a pandemic. And depending on how

things went, they might take my baby from me — for safety. I was reading up on what we should be doing [at the hospital]. It seemed like everybody should be wearing masks. And I remember them sort of looking at us [wearing masks] like, Well, that’s strange. And by the time we checked out, you know, everybody had to wear masks. And I remember them apologizing. My husband was able to come and stay, but he couldn’t leave to go check on our daughters because he wouldn’t have been able to come back. We dropped them off at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in Richmond. The first time they saw their brother was over FaceTime from the hospital. We had no visitors. We never sent [the baby] to the nursery, just so he would never leave the room. One thing that was challenging for me was when I returned from my 20-week maternity leave. First of all, going back was just a bit like turning on a computer, which was very anticlimactic. I returned to a virtual work environment that I had only experienced for a week or two, and everybody else had been dealing with it for months. So I got back and was like, “Hey, we’re all remote.” And everyone’s like, “Yeah, welcome to the party.” That was a weird transition, but everybody was really, really nice. I think it’s just, when you go to a physical office, people are like, “Oh, hey, welcome back! How’s the baby? Show me a picture!” Whereas when you go back remotely, unless you have a meeting with somebody, they don’t know you’re back. And so it can be a very lonely, isolating experience there, too.”



as Vermont went into a second lockdown in the winter of 2020, just after her son was born.

Nathalie Boyle

KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022



I made my son pass a test to earn his smartphone. Here’s how to make one for your kids. BY CATHY RESMER


KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022



hinking about buying your child a smartphone this holiday season? I just got one for my 15-year-old son, Graham, and I can assure you, there are a dizzying array of options. I spent a few hours researching them and reading user reviews online before picking out his iPhone SE. My wife, Ann-Elise, and I both have iPhones, I like Apple’s recent moves to improve data privacy, and that was the cheapest model available.

In many ways, a smartphone is like a car. It was much harder to find guidance on how to teach Graham to use his new phone responsibly. I’ve owned a smartphone for almost as long as he’s been alive, and I’m well aware of its addictive allure and how it functions as a gateway for all kinds of information. For the last few years, I’ve been leading workshops for students that focus on news literacy, and I’ve woven related activities into Kids VT’s Good Citizen Challenge. I’m always on the hunt for new approaches to help kids — and parents — understand their digital devices. My biggest takeaway from my research? Parents need more help. A lot more. In many ways, a smartphone is like a car, another powerful tool that young adults will likely learn to use eventually. Both promise freedom and independence but can also cause harm. But cars have been around for more than a century, so we’ve had time to figure out how to use them safely. In Vermont, kids aren’t allowed behind the wheel until they’re 15. Then they have to pass a driver’s ed class, practice driving for 40 hours in addition to the six hours required for the class, and have a learner’s permit for a full year before earning a license to drive on their own. Smartphones, on the other hand, have existed for roughly 25 years and have only become ubiquitous in the U.S. in the last 13 or so. Despite their name, these devices aren’t just phones — they’re pocket-size computers that allow us to call and text, watch movies, play games, spend money, interact with others over social media, view content online, and take and share photos and videos that can be distributed instantly to millions of people all over the world. They’re truly amazing tools, but we’re only beginning to discover the effects they’re having on our lives — how they’re changing our brains, our attention spans, our relationships and our democracy. And yet we don’t do much to teach people how their phones work, or how to use them

appropriately. There’s no established curriculum, no smartphone education class at most schools. There’s no equivalent of a driver’s test for owning a smartphone, either. So when AnnElise and I felt that Graham was ready for his own iPhone, I made my own test. He had to pass it before we handed over the metaphorical keys. Since then, Ann-Elise and I have talked about the test with lots of other parents. The most common feedback we’ve heard is: “I wish I’d thought of that” and “What’s on the test?” So I’m sharing it, along with some of the resources I used to create it, to help you make your own.

STUDY GUIDE FOR PARENTS Need some help getting started? Here are a few of my go-to resources: For parenting-specific information, try COMMON SENSE MEDIA, an independent nonprofit that provides research, reviews and guidance for TV, movies, video games and devices. Its website, commonsensemedia. org, includes a section on cellphone parenting, with helpful answers to FAQs like, “What are the best privacy settings for my computer and cellphone?” and “Should I demand my kids’ passwords to social media and apps?” For an overview of smartphone and social media use for teens, try watching THE SOCIAL DILEMMA with them on Netflix. The accessible docudrama explains what goes on in your brain when you use social media. For a deeper dive, the best resource I’ve found is the CENTER FOR HUMANE TECHNOLOGY, which assisted in producing The Social Dilemma. Started in 2018 by people with a background in the tech industry, this nonprofit is identifying and articulating the problems with our technological infrastructure, as well as advocating for solutions. Its website,, includes resources for technologists, policy makers, parents and educators. These include a new YOUTH TOOLKIT, designed for young adults ages 13 to 25. I also highly recommend the center’s

podcast, “YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.” Hosts Aza Raskin and Tristan Harris interview guests like Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, and Maria Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. The first two episodes probe the similarities between smartphones and casinos. We listened to them as a family on a road trip. A guest described how casinos are designed to hook gamblers in all sorts of ways, from the layout to the ceiling height to the way the buttons on the machines are positioned. It made us all look at our digital devices differently. To delve into news literacy, check out the NEWS LITERACY PROJECT at It works with former and current journalists to design activities for kids, and it has lots of helpful tools for parents and teachers. Looking for a book that puts our tech use in perspective, and offers advice? I recommend FUTUREPROOF: 9 RULES FOR HUMANS IN THE AGE OF AUTOMATION, by New York Times writer Kevin Roose. I made Chapter 3 part of my smartphone test. It’s a compelling addiction story about how Roose realized he had an unhealthy relationship with his smartphone and what he did to change it. Graham gave it two thumbs up..

WHY I MADE THE TEST I waited as long as I could to buy Graham a smartphone — so long that he said he was one of the last students at Winooski High School to get one. I pooh-poohed it as an exaggeration, but research suggests that he might have been right: In 2019, more than 50 percent of 11-year-olds had their own smartphone, according to a survey GET SMART, P. 28 »

KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


Get Smart


by the nonprofit research group Common Sense Media. That number has likely increased in the two years since. There’s no minimum age for owning a smartphone, though many apps, such as Facebook and Instagram, set a minimum age for users — in their case, 13. Of course, kids find ways around that rule. Some young people can use social media appropriately. But parents and kids should both understand how these free services function. They’re often designed to maximize engagement — to keep someone using the platform for as long as possible, regardless of the content they’re consuming or the effect it’s having on their physical or mental health. That’s often true of smartphones, as well. To return to the car analogy, there’s no smartphone-equivalent of speed limits, nor is there a seat belt law. The people who make the laws are still figuring out how these products work. Don’t take my word for it — watch some of the testimony that Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gave last month before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. The internal Facebook documents that Haugen gave them, and that she leaked to the press, describe how the company disregarded its own research showing that Instagram makes teen girls feel worse about their bodies, and about how its algorithms promote the content that’s most divisive and outrageous. It sounds like lawmakers are finally getting the message as far as Facebook is concerned — committee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told CNN’s Brian Stelter: “I think what we’re seeing here is a building drumbeat for accountability.” That’s great, but parents can’t afford to wait. Kids are using these platforms now.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT FACEBOOK Mark Zuckerberg is only part of the problem. As any parent of a teen will tell you, our kids are much more likely to be using video-sharing sites such as YouTube and TikTok. Both have recommendation engines that suggest content to keep a viewer engaged. YouTube, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, has come under fire for recommending conspiracy theories, hate speech and disinformation to users. It has made some high-profile changes to help scrub that content from its platform, but it’s a constant battle — one that YouTube doesn’t always win. The same goes for TikTok. The Wall Street Journal recently created multiple TikTok accounts for fictional users ages 13 to 15. In a story on September 8, it revealed the results of its experiment: “An analysis of the videos served to these accounts found that through its powerful algorithms, TikTok can quickly drive minors — among the biggest users of the app — into endless spools of content about sex and drugs.” The website Raw Story tried the same tactic and in October published its own series of alarming 28

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holes. But it at least offers a chance to talk about these issues so that you can navigate them together.

HOW I MADE THE TEST The test you design will depend on the age and maturity level of your child. Mine focused on a few key skills: avoiding phishing attempts, understanding legal risks, developing basic news literacy, and understanding and avoiding smartphone addiction. I used the resources listed in the sidebar on page 27 to come up with questions. And I looked up statistics about distracted driving, as well as laws around sexting and revenge porn, which Vermont outlawed in 2015. The test I gave Graham didn’t focus heavily on social media because we’ve talked about it a lot already. I came up with a few sample questions for this test, though. I put the questions in a Google doc that I shared with him. He filled in the answers, and we discussed them afterward.


Both promise freedom and independence but can also cause harm. stories, detailing how TikTok served fictional teen users content about firearm accessories, serial killers and school shooters, as well as videos promoting jihad and white nationalism, and disturbing videos about suicide, eating disorders and self-harm. Writer John Byrne reported that “TikTok played videos of users discussing suicide attempts from hospital beds; children joking about using razor blades for self-harm; and videos showing young women hospitalized for anorexia.“ After the Wall Street Journal revelations, a TikTok spokesperson said that “Protecting minors is vitally important, and TikTok has taken industry-first steps to promote a safe and age-appropriate experience for teens.” The company has also taken down some of the videos mentioned in these stories. But not all of them. And users keep uploading more. Not every teen who uses these apps sees content like this. But parents have no way of knowing what will pop up on a child’s screen. The content is customized to the individual — and there are no laws or regulatory standards covering how those feeds are created. Kids can also use their phones to access shocking amounts of pornography. Hate to break it to you, parents, but finding porn online is much, much easier than swiping a copy of Playboy was back in the day. Making your kids take a smartphone test isn’t going to keep them from falling down one of these rabbit

Though I required Graham to pass the test, the goal wasn’t just for him to get the right answers: I wanted him to consider the questions and to think about his phone as something that could potentially get him in trouble. I wanted him to understand that what he does on his screen is not necessarily private, that his information is being recorded and could be used against him — by other teens, by cybercriminals and potentially in court. I also wanted him to think in advance about how he wanted to use his phone. We got it for him because we wanted to empower him to connect with friends from camp, coaches, teachers and his boss at his part-time job, and to listen to music without wi-fi. I wanted him to reflect on how he could do that and avoid unintentionally losing hours to games and apps designed to suck him in. The test was also just the beginning of our conversations about appropriate phone use. The topic is now something we discuss regularly over meals and at family meetings. We all pull out our phones and look at the screen time app that keeps track of what we’re doing and when. We also talk about the information we’re seeing. Need an icebreaker for these talks? Ask each member of your family about the ads they see on YouTube and free streaming services such as Pandora. You’ll likely have different and even surprising answers. Frankly, these conversations are also helpful for my wife and me. And they’re instructive for our 13-year-old daughter, Ivy, who doesn’t have a phone yet, but watches YouTube videos on her tablet. None of us is an expert, but we’re all learning and talking about our devices together, which is ultimately the point. Hopefully you can use this test and these resources to start conversations with your own kids. One thing I know for sure: You can’t count on anyone else to do it for you. K


TRUE OR FALSE 1. Smartphones are very powerful and can be used to connect you to a wealth of useful resources. g 2. Smartphones can be dangerous. 3. Many smartphone makers and app developers intentionally design their products to stimulate your brain in pleasurable ways, causing you to crave engagement with them and making them difficult to put down. g 4. Smartphones can be so addictive that it’s hard to ignore them, even when driving. In 2018, 237 of the people who died because of distracted drivers in the U.S. were killed by drivers ages 15 to 19. g 5. No one will ever know if you use your phone while driving. g 6. The government closely regulates smartphone makers and app developers to make sure that their products are designed with public safety in mind. g 7. The State of Vermont requires you to pass a test to purchase and use a smartphone. g 8. If you receive a text with a link in it that says you won something, you should tap it to find out what you won. g

12. You can be fined or charged with a crime for sending naked photos of yourself or someone else, depending on your age and the age of the recipient. g 13. In Vermont, it is illegal to post sexually explicit photographs of anyone online without their consent. g 14. Smartphones and social media apps are designed to spread content that engages users. Often this includes content that is outrageous, emotionally charged and misleading. The U.S. government regulates health and political information online. g 15. After Russian accounts were shown to have purchased misleading political ads on Facebook in 2016, social media companies tightened up their rules and no longer allow any electionrelated disinformation anywhere on their platforms. g 16. A recent study found that misinformation on Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election. g

1. What are you excited to do with your smartphone? 2. Read the August 2021 Wall Street Journal article “Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine” and Rule #3 in Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation by New York Times tech writer Kevin Roose. Briefly explain why smartphones become addictive. What are some of the strategies that science journalist Catherine Price recommends that Roose try to help him reduce his dependence on his smartphone? (Note to parents: If you don’t have access to either of these, you can substitute “Constant Craving: How Digital Media Turned Us All Into Dopamine Addicts,” an August 2021 article available for free from the Guardian, and Roose’s 2019 Times article “Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain.”) 3. What strategies do you plan to use to help you maximize the benefits of having a smartphone, while also minimize the risks to your mental health?

9. If you get a call from someone selling virus protection software, you should listen and do what they ask you to do. g 10. You can block apps from tracking your location on your phone. g 11. If you delete a text on your phone, no one will ever see it. g

IF YOU TAKE THIS TEST, or give it to your kids, please email me at to tell me how it went! I’d love to hear about your smartphone strategies, too.

Answers: 1) True ; 2) True; 3) True; 4) True; 5) False — investigators can collect forensic evidence from digital devices or service providers; 6) False — the government does not regulate these companies, which are free to design products to maximize profits; 7) False — you need to be an informed consumer and take responsibility for your choices and actions; 8) False — it’s probably a scam; 9) False — this is a common scam; talk to your parents and seek information about protecting your digital devices from verified sources; 10) True — you should be able to adjust your phone’s data privacy settings; 11) False — the recipient will still have a record, and so might your cellular data provider; 12) True; 13) True; 14) True; 15) False — no one regulates this content, which is why it’s so important to consider whether the source is trustworthy; 16) False — social media platforms are not regulated and are not able to effectively police all of the content that users create; 17) True. KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


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Vermont Visionaries: Mark Elvidge of Vermont Nut Free Chocolates


BY CAT CUTILLO (10/25/21)

Halloween is very scary for parents of kids with peanut and tree nut allergies, who may not be able to eat the candy they collect while trick-ortreating. Enter Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. The Colchester company, founded in 1998, now sells 200 products online and in retail stores.

(In Case You Missed It)




Stuck in Vermont: South Burlington Bus Driver Steve Rexford Is Part of the Team


Find these stories and keep up with new ones at



ids VT comes out four times a year in print, but we’re publishing stories online that you don’t want to miss. Here are just a few that have appeared since our Back to School issue in September. K

When the girls’ sports teams at South Burlington High School need a ride to an away game, they call bus driver Steve Rexford. The retired IBMer was the driver transporting the girls’ soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams to their championships when they won their trophies, and now they see him as a lucky charm. He also bakes cookies for the teams and takes photos for them at their matches, which he shares on his website, Champlain Valley Images. “He’s honestly like a grandfather to, like, all of us,” one of the girls told Sollberger. “He’s the grandpa of our team.” Rexford, 73, lives in North Hero; his wife died of breast cancer. “It was a tough time in my life because we were very close and we did everything together,” he said. “But now I kind of have the kids to replace her. I do a lot of stuff with the kids now. And that kind of keeps me feeling young, too.”



Superintendent Libby Bonesteel

Vermont Schools Struggle to Provide Services Amid Staffing Shortages BY ALISON NOVAK (10/27/21)

Across the state, schools are dealing with unprecedented labor challenges that are straining teachers and staff. Administrators are devising stopgap solutions— and pitching in to mow the lawn.

Local Down Syndrome Group Holds ‘Buddy Walk’ BY CAT CUTILLO (10/4/21)

About 180 people from across Vermont gathered in Burlington’s Battery Park on September 26 for the annual Champlain Valley Down Syndrome Group Buddy Walk. The message they wanted to share? “Folks with Down syndrome can do what everyone else does,” said Joe McNamara, one of the organizers.

Comedian Pamela Rae Schuller Combines Humor and Disability Advocacy BY JORDAN ADAMS (10/12/21)

New York City-based comedian, public speaker and advocate Pamela Rae Schuller returned to her alma mater, Rock Point School, for a public performance on October 16. “My first year at Rock Point, I lived in detention. Literally, I think I broke records,” Schuller told Kids VT. “I was angry at the world.” But her time at the nontraditional Burlington boarding school was transformative. Now the New York City-based comic shares with audiences around the world how living with Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and her short stature — she’s four feet, six-and-a-half inches tall — launched her on a path to educational and professional success.

What can parents do to help create more inclusive environments or raise more empathetic kids? Schuller explained her philosophy: “A friend of mine was grocery shopping with her son, and they saw another mom with her son, and that kid was using a wheelchair. And the boy I know said, ‘I don’t understand what happened. Why?’ And the mother did not know what to do. “My advice is: Don’t shush it — celebrate! So, instead, say, ‘How cool that you’re moving around this store with your legs and that little boy is doing the exact same thing with his mom, and he’s moving around with wheels. How cool that some people read with their eyes and some people read by touching the words.’ “And so instead of making disability an other or a negative thing or something that is like an affliction, talking about it as part of the human experience. How amazing that there are differences in this world.” KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


JUST FOR KIDS Coloring Contest! Three winners will each receive an annual family membership to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. Send Kids VT your work of art by January 31, 2022. Be sure to include the info at right with your submission. Winners will be chosen in the following categories: (1) ages 5 and younger, (2) ages 6-8 and (3) ages 9-12. Winners will be named in the Camp and School issue of Kids VT that comes out on February 16. Send your high-resolution scans to subject line: Coloring Contest, or mail a copy to Kids VT, P.O. Box 1184, Burlington, VT 05402.


KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022

Title _______________________________________ Contest sponsored by

Artist ______________________________________ Age _______________ Town ___________________ Email ______________________________________ Phone ______________________________________



COLORING CONTEST WINNERS Our judges were pawsitively tickled by the fabulous submissions to the Back to School issue coloring contest. Molly, 10, indicated the age of her trailside cats by the height of the sun in the scenes on each of their chests. Eight-yearold Juniper imagined lions covered in a rainbow of colors, standing together in the woods. Parker, 5, sent us a furry brown pair with warm hats and bright purple goggles. Thanks to all who entered! We can’t wait to see what you have in store next.


Angeline Giallanella, 7 Burlington

The winners of annual family memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium are… Where learning is rooted in relationships. Ages 3-12

Explore. Discover. Grow.

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obsessed? Find, fix and feather with Nest Notes — an e-newsletter filled with home design, Vermont real estate tips and DIY decorating inspirations.

“The Bear Winter Clothes” Parker Fabiano, 5 5& MORRISVILLE



Sign up today at SPONSORED BY

Sophie Felix, 8 Burlington “BROWN BEARS”

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Wren Hayes, 6 Williston

4/6/21 11:28 AM

COVID-19 vaccines are approved and available for children 5-11. For the latest information and to find out where vaccines are available visit


Gretchen Hill, 9 Ferrisburgh “MAZE MOM”

Cecilia Thompson, 8 Essex “PINK PANTHER AND SON”

Danny Sevareid, 9 Jeffersonville

“Lions in the Clouds” Juniper Schwartz, 8


6 to 8


Simone Wheeler, 8 Lincoln


Anya Verma, 8 New York, N.Y.


Amelia Bibb, 5 Ferrisburgh “THE SNUGGLY CUTE PANDAS”

Sada Gray, 5 Winooski

“Mountain Lions” Molly Carpenter, 10

9 to 12



2 0 21 T A L E N T S H O W F O R



Adim Benoit

Ethan Oszurek

Piper Hall

John Wallace

Finn Williams

Paris Schoolcraft

Andre Redmond

Grayson Eley

Cady Murad

Grace Mical

Charlie Schramm

Richard and Andrew Jiang

Bojan Harris

Lilah Thurston

The Kids VT Spectacular Spectacular, sponsored by McKenzie Natural Artisan Deli, is happening virtually this year — on WCAX Channel 3 — between November 29 and December 17 during the 4 p.m. newscast. Tune in to see kids, between the ages of 5 and 16, from all over the state showcase their talents!




KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022

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Seeing the Light


y 4-year-old son’s favorite way to welcome the Sabbath on Friday nights is to tattle on his toddler sister. “She’s not covering her eyes!” he reports nearly every week. It’s a scene that unfolds as we perform the traditional Jewish ritual of lighting the Shabbat candles, using our hands to wave the light toward us and then covering our eyes while we sing the blessing. To be fair, my daughter’s version of covering her eyes does look like putting on fake binoculars. My wife and I usually stifle a laugh and let it slide. Then we all sing the Hebrew blessing together: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik neir shel Shabbat. After the chaos of getting the four of us seated at the table, emotion often wells up inside me — even though this is not my blessing. My wife grew up as an Orthodox Jew. I’m the daughter of a Methodist minister, raised in the South. I attended church and Sunday school weekly. I joined the youth group and sang in the church choir. During the summer, I went to church camp. Both the religion and the culture of Christianity were a major part of my life. By the time I met my wife in my late twenties, I was questioning my faith and my place in any religion. When she and I chose to spend our lives together, we decided to raise our children in a Jewish home. But I knew I couldn’t convert. To borrow a concept from journalist Krista Tippett, Christianity is my mother tongue. I couldn’t abandon that part of my history or that connection to my family. Melding our two religious backgrounds was painful. For the first several years of our relationship, “the religion thing,” as we called it, hovered over us at all times. We would acknowledge it and put it off, talk and fight, and push the decision about how to raise children someday down the line. After attending couples counseling and an interfaith couples support group, we came to a decision: Yes, we could build a life together. We would raise our kids in a Jewish home. And — in a huge concession for my wife — we would celebrate Christmas. We could sort out the details that would inevitably come up as long as we respected and loved each other. I wanted to believe that was true, but uncertainty plagued me. I envisioned a


My children taught me to love our interfaith holidays

future that I didn’t belong to — a Jewish family that I helped to grow but that did not include me. These fears were never more present than at Christmas. Before we met, I went all out for the holiday. My attachment to

I knew why my celebrating her Jewish traditions wasn’t the same as her celebrating my Christian ones. I didn’t grow up experiencing the othering — or flat-out ignoring — of my culture and holidays the way she did. Now, when

Each time Christmas rolled around, my wife and I did an uncomfortable dance about what it meant to celebrate a Christian holiday in our Jewish home. it is secular: To me, it means family, food and joyful gatherings. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, I listened to nothing but Christmas music, watched made-forTV Christmas movies and poured over Christmas baking magazines. I delighted in the carols that rang out at the grocery store. I didn’t just want a tree with lights and ornaments on it — I also wanted a big wreath and strings of twinkly lights on the front door. I wanted to Christmas it all up. But each time Christmas rolled around, my wife and I did an uncomfortable dance about what it meant to celebrate a Christian holiday in our Jewish home. I felt like we were on opposite sides — wreath or no wreath on the front door? Lights outside or not?

I hear “Jingle Bells” in a store, I think about all the people unwillingly bombarded with Christmas every December. Even so, I held tight to my own resentment and fear. Not putting a wreath on the front door felt like losing a part of myself. I treated these discussions as a game of holiday tic-tac-toe — where there was only one winner. What I didn’t realize was that our children, when they came along, would blow up the tidy square board I was trying to create. Before we had kids, I was focused on what I would pass down, what I would teach them about my own traditions. And I worried about the places where my wife’s traditions would preclude mine. But our kids are not interested in our boundaries.

They are wide open to the world, ready to welcome every celebration that includes love, light and song. They’re as delighted to gaze at candles as they are to hang ornaments. And they don’t care at all about wreaths on the door. Now when they sing Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay, I am the one being stretched and molded into something new. They’ve shown me that this life of compromise and shared traditions is so much better than if I’d “won” all the spots on the tic-tac-toe board. My son likes to categorize things, and he explains his thinking to me. He and his sister and his mommy are Jewish. I’m not Jewish. Neither is our dog. “And our family is Jewish,” he says. It doesn’t feel like a contradiction to him at all. My children see a world that holds many truths, and they’ve created a place for me to belong that I didn’t know how to build for myself. Now, I feel grateful when I come downstairs early on cold, dark December mornings to the lights of the Christmas tree bouncing off the gleam from the two electric menorahs in the windows. I wave the lights toward me with my hands, then cover my eyes. In the cracks between my fingers, they glow like twin beacons. K KIDS VT WINTER 2021/2022


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