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Cathy Resmer

cathy@kidsvt.com COPUBLISHER

Colby Roberts

colby@kidsvt.com MANAGING EDITOR

Alison Novak

alison@kidsvt.com ART DIRECTOR


Corey Grenier

corey@kidsvt.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

Kaitlin Montgomery kaitlin@kidsvt.com PROOFREADER




John James, Rev. Diane Sullivan CIRCULATION MANAGER



Keegan Albaugh, Meredith Coeyman, Cat Cutillo, Heather Fitzgerald, Corey Grenier, Astrid Hedbor Lague, Elisa Järnefelt, Kathleen Kesson, Maria Munroe, Ken Picard, Benjamin Roesch PHOTOGRAPHERS


Marc Nadel

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

Published 11x 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.

Strong Like a Mother


hen I was pregnant with my now-11-year-old son, we were in the midst of a global health crisis less widespread and deadly than the one we’re in now — the H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, pandemic. I remember, at six months pregnant, walking around the grounds of Shelburne Museum during its annual Haunted Happenings event with my husband and 2-year-old daughter. As we made our way from one building to the next, my daughter excitedly collecting Halloween candy, I began to feel like I was slogging through thick mud. Wow, I thought. I guess this pregnancy is really taking a toll on my body. By that evening, my symptoms had worsened, and I ended up driving myself to Urgent Care at the Fanny Allen Campus of the University of Vermont Medical Center, where they hooked me up to an IV to rehydrate me. My test results came back the next day: I had swine flu. I can’t remember exactly what the progression of my illness looked like, though I do know I had to return to Fanny Allen once more for a second IV drip. I also remember being particularly worried about how the virus would affect my pregnancy and the baby growing inside of me. Luckily, I recovered and delivered a healthy baby boy in early February 2010. But that experience gives me just a little insight into what those who were pregnant or gave birth to babies in the past year might be feeling. Alison, recovered from swine flu and Pregnancy and new motherwaiting for Theo, on February 2, 2010 hood brings out our vulnerability in the best of times. Layer that on top of a massive pandemic, and it stands to reason that those raw, vulnerable feelings would likely grow exponentially. In this installment of Kids VT — our Mom & Baby Issue — we explore different aspects of motherhood. On page 22, Cat Cutillo spotlights 91-year-old Theresa Tomasi, who has adopted 27 children since the early 1960s. Two of her daughters still live with her on a 50-acre property in Williston that’s home to miniature horses, chickens, a pig and even a peacock. On page 17, Maria Munroe gives tips for how to maintain both comfort and style during pregnancy. And our very own marketing and events director, Corey Grenier, who’s due in August with her first child, shares a humorous essay about navigating the intimidating world of baby gear on page 20. As more people prepare to return to their workplaces post-vaccination, Keegan Albaugh contemplates the steps we can take to be allies to our coworkers who are expecting and new moms in “Pop Culture” on page 12. And in “Use Your Words” on page 27, Meredith Coeyman writes about how the experience of becoming a doula during the pandemic forced her to question her beliefs. Mothering is not an easy job, and the COVID-19 pandemic — and the isolation and worry it’s wrought — has made it even more complicated and difficult. It’s my hope that this issue of Kids VT makes you feel like we’re all in this together. ALISON NOVAK, MANAGING EDITOR


When your child was a baby, what was the one item they, or you, couldn’t live without? There was this one NURSING SCARF that I used every single day for over a year. Around my neck, it looked like any big scarf, but it quickly transformed into a stretchy cover when nursing, soft blanket for stroller naps, sunshade, etc. It was like my secret superpower. ELISA JÄRNEFELT, “MOM TAKES NOTES” CONTRIBUTOR

My son’s BLUE-AND-WHITE DOG STUFFIE, Wyatt, named after my parents’ dog. I did look online to see if I could buy a replacement to keep in reserve in case something happened to him. I could not, but phew! — I never needed one. HEATHER FITZGERALD, “GOOD NATURE” CONTRIBUTOR

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CONTRIBUTOR’S NOTE (“Swaddles and Spreadsheets,” page 20) is the marketing and events director of Seven Days and Kids VT. She lives in Winooski with her husband, Derek, and dog, Copper. She teaches yoga, obsesses over all things home décor and loves a good theme party. Corey and Derek are excited to welcome their new baby in August. Copper has no idea what’s about to happen.





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Eliana & Adelaide


eeks before the pandemic hit last March, Eliana Castro was finishing up her PhD program at Michigan State University and had just accepted a job as assistant professor of secondary education at the University of Vermont. A month earlier, Castro had found out she was pregnant and due in September. She was looking forward to moving to Vermont in July and getting married in August to her fiancé, James Galloway. Baby Adelaide ended up arriving one month early, just days after the wedding. K

“We joke because I went from Ms. to Mrs. to Dr. to Mom literally in four days. Saturday, we got married. Monday, I defended my dissertation. And then Tuesday, she was born. Those were the wildest four days of our lives.” Eliana Castro with her 8-month-old baby, Adelaide Galloway, at Wheeler Nature Park in South Burlington




Language Lessons Jericho mom launches business to teach Indian dialects to kids


orn and raised in Bangalore, India, Akshata Nayak describes her journey to New England as “quite the equator-to-arctic story.” It started when she relocated to Orono, Maine, 18 years ago to attend graduate school. Since moving to Vermont in 2010, the nutritionist has started several small businesses. But Nayak, who now lives in Jericho, has found ways to meld her heritage with her new home. First, Nayak created the Orange Owl, a vegan skin-care line infused with Indian spices such as green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. She sold her products at around 50 small stores and chains on the East Coast. But when COVID-19 hit, she made the tough decision to close the business because of supply chain problems and personal health issues. She quickly pivoted to a new side hustle: book publishing. During the early days of the pandemic, Nayak was spending more time at home with her then-2-year-old daughter, Ava. Nayak noticed that when she spoke to Ava in her native language of Konkani, her daughter would understand her but reply in English. Nayak looked for books in the South Indian dialect but couldn’t find any geared to young children. So the entrepreneurial mom decided to create her own. That proved challenging; Konkani has been passed down mostly orally from generation to generation. Nayak ended up creating a book that used the Roman alphabet, along with phonetic spellings underneath, to teach Ava simple words in Konkani. She also developed audio files that captured the sound of each word. That initial project sparked a business idea: a series of books to introduce children to new cultures and languages. She dubbed it Little Patakha. Patakha means “firecracker” in Hindi, a name Nayak says she chose in honor of her spitfire daughter. The first two products 10


from the company are Planet Pichkari and Planet Pathrado — books in Hindi and Konkani, respectively, with cheerful digital illustrations. Nayak has several other products in the works, including games and puzzles that aim to dispel gender and racial stereotypes.

puzzles, books, publishing, all of that. We’ve created two products, and we’ve launched a Kickstarter in the middle of all the crazy we’ve been surrounded by because of the pandemic.

Akshata Nayak

KVT: Did anything you learned running the Orange Owl help you in starting Little Patakha? AN: I’m a science geek. I have two master’s of science degrees, in biochemistry and in applied clinical nutrition. Business was nowhere in that. I started the Orange Owl just as a trial, and it ran for 10 years and was successful. So a lot of it was learning on the go, and I just kind of did what felt right to me. And I have learned so much in terms of packaging and the marketing and branding. I feel like I’m on much more sure footing than I was when I started the Orange Owl.

In April, Nayak created a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to print 1,000 copies of each book. In just a few weeks, she surpassed her goal. “When you’re within a country that is that culture, you don’t think much about it,” said Nayak, reflecting on her business ventures. “When you move away from it is when it really strikes you about the things that you miss. I miss my people; I miss my family, my friends and food and smells and language. This is the way I connect with them.” Last month, Nayak spoke with Kids VT about her new endeavor. Kids VT: What has the past year been like for you? Akshata Nayak: In a year, we have created a brand. We have defined it. We have pivoted — very oddly for me, personally — from a business about skin-care products into learning about children’s games,

KVT: Who is the target audience for these books? AN: Because of the presence of the phonetics and the online audio files, I realized that this isn’t catered only to Indian kids. This is open to anybody who wants to learn a language or be introduced to a new culture. People ask me, “Are you Indian?” and I say “Yes,” but there’s such a wide range of people just within that one country — that’s what I want people to understand. One of the languages is Hindi, which is a North Indian language. The other one is Konkani, which is a South Indian language. One of them didn’t have a [consistent] script, and I created it. The other one is one of the oldest scripts in the world, and it’s still being used and has been preserved through all of this time. So, there’s so much difference within just these two books, even though the illustrations are the same.

KVT: How has your daughter responded to the books? AN: We realized when I was working with my designers that we actually created her as a character. So that’s what you see on the covers of the books and inside the books — the girl is my daughter. We got a handmade doll made for this Kickstarter campaign, so she has a mini Ava doll now. She absolutely loves the attention and just seeing herself in a book. KVT: How was your childhood in Bangalore different from Ava’s childhood in Vermont? AN: For my daughter, I love Vermont just because it allows her the space and the calmness to be who she is. Her childhood is very different than mine. Mine was in a city — careful when you cross roads, always noisy, all of that. So, it blows my mind to see how she interacts with nature the way she does at this age. She’s happiest when she’s outdoors, just in a puddle splashing around or surrounded by bugs and worms. K Learn more at littlepatakha.com.


Frogs, Flowers and Floodplains Interesting spots to visit in May


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Snack break overlooking the Winooski River, 2012 COURTESY OF HEATHER FITZGERALD

pring has sprung, and most parents I know are ready to get outside and release the pent-up pandemic energy that’s been building all winter. In May — which is still mud season in Vermont — it’s good to keep your outdoor expeditions at low altitudes to avoid eroding the land, ruining the trails and muddying the water. I like to spend the month doing things I won’t be able to do in the summer: listening to the earliest frogs of the season, hunting for spring ephemeral wildflowers and experiencing floodplain forests before the mosquitoes are out in full force. My favorite frogs are the ones who call earliest in the season. Wood frogs make a chuckling noise that I can’t get enough of. Spring peepers are loud, and maybe a little obnoxious, but offer such a full-throated declaration of spring that I can’t help but love them, too. One of my favorite places to find frogs in Chittenden County is Shelburne Pond. You can get a good dose of them without even leaving the parking area off Pond Road. Any place with even a little bit of water will do, though. Just follow your ears. I like to simply sit and listen to the amphibians, but if you or your kids feel an urge to catch them, make sure your hands are free of lotion, sunscreen and sanitizer, and put them back where you found them. If you want to identify them by their calls, my favorite website is musicofnature.com. Early May is also a great time to catch the spring ephemeral wildflower show. Flowers on the forest floor have only a brief window of time once the snow has melted and before the trees open their leaf buds and shade out the sun. These early

Heather’s son watching turtles at Colchester’s Delta Park, 2011

perennials provide much-needed nectar and pollen to overwintering pollinators such as bumblebee queens. A fair number of their seeds are spread by ants — which is a very slow process — so I always ask the people I am with not to pick them. Spring wildflowers have some great names, like bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches and trout lily. If you want to learn to identify them, I found a link to a wonderful participatory song by Heidi Wilson toward the bottom of the Vermont Master Naturalist Program’s resource page (under “Signs of Spring”) at vermontmasternaturalist.org/resouces. Alicia Daniel, executive director of the program, shares another kid-friendly strategy in her video set at South Burlington’s Red Rocks Park on that same page (or find it on the

Vermont Master Naturalist YouTube channel). Daniel likes to scout out a site in advance to see what wildflowers are there, then copy and paste drawings of them, from a resource like the Peterson Field Guide Coloring Books: Wildflowers, on to a piece of paper. Then kids can go on a scavenger hunt in search of different flowers. Wildflowers of Vermont by Kate Carter is also a great resource. This pocket-size guidebook has lovely photos, and it lists the dates and locations the author found each flower to help readers figure out what to look for and when to look for it. The richest profusion of spring ephemerals will be in ledgy places with calcium-rich bedrock poking through. I like to go to Shelburne Pond, Red Rocks Park and Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester.

May is also a great time to visit floodplain forests — areas next to rivers that often flood for a few weeks in the spring. I love walking by the arching silver maples and thick cottonwoods next to a river and seeing what’s going on with the water. When there’s been a lot of rain or snowmelt, the high water is exciting — you never know what you’re going to see! And the flowers and baby leaves on the branches are the fluorescent yellow-green color Crayola calls Spring Green. But my favorite thing about visiting a floodplain now is that the mosquitoes, who will be so fierce later in the summer, are not really out yet. There are many places to check out floodplain forests in the Burlington area. Some of my favorites are Winooski Valley Park District properties: Derway Island in Burlington, Woodside Natural Area in Essex and Delta Park in Colchester. Burlington’s Intervale and Winooski’s Casavant Natural Area are great spots, too. K Heather Fitzgerald teaches field ecology and environmental science at the Community College of Vermont, University of Vermont and Saint Michael’s College.



4/29/21 11:33 AM



of Applied Psychology, a survey of 252 pregnant working women showed that “pregnancy discrimination was linked to increased levels of postpartum depressive symptoms for mothers and lower birth weights, lower gestational ages and increased numbers of doctor visits for babies.” The level of support new and expecting mothers receive in the workplace is a community health issue that impacts all of us. For many folks who are not expectant or new mothers themselves, it can be easy to ignore the challenges associated with juggling a job and being new to parenthood. But that awareness is critical. So is ensuring that your coworkers and employees feel supported. In the near future, many folks will be returning to their workplaces for the first time in more than a year due to COVID-19. It’s a great opportunity to advocate for more inclusive, supportive job environments. Here are some ways you can be an ally to new mothers in your workplace:

A Show of Support

How to be an ally to new and expectant mothers in the workplace




Above: A new Mamava pod at UVM Below: Stephanie Albaugh


y partner, Stephanie, and I welcomed our second daughter, Penelope, in October 2018. At that point, we had been parents for more than two years and had acclimated to the world of sleep deprivation, diaper changes and never-ending piles of laundry. The addition of another child to our family was certainly a transition, but we felt fairly equipped to manage most of the stressors inside our home. Outside of the home, though, the stressors were a bit more challenging to manage for Stephanie. One of the biggest ones was the experience of being a new mother in the workplace. Prior to Penelope’s birth, Stephanie had learned that her office at the University of Vermont would be moving to a building on campus without a private space for pumping breast milk, something she would need to do two to three times a day for approximately one year. “I attempted to advocate for myself, but as time went on, it became clear to me that a designated space wasn’t likely to happen,” Stephanie told me recently. “Instead, I made my own adjustments, using private offices when available or walking to a lactation room in a separate building. I even used a semiprivate space in an empty cubicle when I needed to. I made it work. This lack of support made me feel so discouraged and undervalued. It’s hard enough for a parent to breastfeed and work at the same time. Why create these extra barriers to make it even harder?” This experience wasn’t new for Stephanie. When she was pregnant with our first child, Coraline, we carpooled to work each day because she didn’t have a parking spot at her building. Had I not been able to drop her off at the front entrance toward the end of her pregnancy, she would have had to walk nearly half a mile from her car to the office and back every day. Throw in a midday obstetrician appointment, and that’s nearly two miles of walking.

Stephanie certainly isn’t alone. A 2014 report from the National Partnership for Women & Families is filled with statistics that illustrate just how concerning the lack of support is for new and expectant mothers in the workplace. One eye-opening stat: “71 percent of women surveyed reported needing more frequent breaks at work when they became pregnant, but more than four in 10 of these women never asked their employers to accommodate them.” Another one: “38 percent of those who were employed at the time of the survey reported that their employers failed to provide a private space other than a bathroom for them to express milk, and 39 percent reported that their employers failed to offer reasonable breaks for expressing milk.” The negative impact of this discrimination can be far-reaching. According to a 2020 study in the Journal

• Connect. Coworkers can be a huge part of your life. Make sure you’re spending time to authentically connect with one another, check in and offer support. • Inspect your workplace. Walk around. Where would a new mother pump? Where would a pregnant woman park her car? Are there supportive policies in writing? Be proactive and address issues before they arise. • Advocate for community meetings. Setting aside intentional work time for employees to build community, promote wellness, and share honest thoughts and feelings is a big step toward ensuring that people feel comfortable discussing issues important to them. • Talk to your boss. Could your workplace do a better job of supporting new mothers? Bring this issue up to your boss in one of your next meetings. You don’t need to be a pregnant woman to speak up. In fact, we should all be doing it. • Join workplace groups and committees. Does your workplace already have a committee that addresses issues such as pregnancy discrimination? Get involved! Bring your curiosity and desire to deepen your understanding, and get ready to be a part of the solution. • Call out discrimination. When you do see new and expectant mothers being treated unfairly, speak up. Let folks know they aren’t alone in addressing these issues. After five months of pumping breast milk in makeshift locations or taking 45 minutes to trek to another building to pump, Stephanie hit her breaking point and spoke up again. She realized this challenge wasn’t just about her, but about every mother who was attempting to work a job while also addressing the needs of their babies. She went beyond her department. She reached out to colleagues she knew, the UVM Women & Gender Equity Center, and her staff council representative. Those connections quickly led her to the Nursing Parent Committee, a new UVM group advocating for lactation support on campus (that later became known as the UVM Parent Advocacy Group). After seven months of advocating through that committee, change was made: UVM purchased two Mamava pods, private mobile spaces for breastfeeding and pumping. The first opened in January 2020. And though Stephanie no longer needed it herself, she was thrilled to have been part of the change. K



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Greater Burlington Children’s Chorus is ready to sing


here are few sounds that match the sweetness of children’s voices singing together. Whether it’s performing classics in the school musical or belting out radio hits in the back of the car, kids sing with a purity and abandon that sounds like nothing else. It’s a sound that will be heard more often when the Greater Burlington Children’s Chorus comes to life this summer. With regular community performances to begin this fall, the chorus is kicking things off with two weeklong summer sessions. The camps, which will provide a fun and exciting introduction to singing with others, are open to all singers, beginner through advanced, who are entering second through 12th grade. The only prerequisite? An enthusiasm for singing. The idea for the musical group came to executive director Christa Loescher while driving through the Berkshires last year to pick up one of her kids from college. A children’s chorus came on the radio, and “It was so beautiful and inspiring,” she said. “I knew right then that I had to work towards establishing such a chorus.” Burlington resident Loescher, who is passionate about music though not herself a trained musician, soon began looking for artistic collaborators. That’s how she met Kevin Ginter, now the choral artistic director. A dynamic K-12 music educator at both Christ the King School and Rice Memorial High School, Ginter is a professional opera singer who has performed around the world, including at New York City’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Ginter, who has long dreamed of a Burlington children’s chorus, believes right now is the perfect moment to create a new opportunity for kids to sing together. Between COVID-19 restrictions and homeschooling, he said, “People are looking for new outlets for music in a way that we haven’t been able to do in so long.” Karen Reed, who will support the chorus as assistant director, loves using games and movement to get kids excited about music. Even though she’s about to retire from her career as a music teacher

Kevin Ginter

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at Hiawatha Elementary School in Essex Junction, she said couldn’t resist the opportunity to get involved. “Music touches so many people deep down,” Reed said. “The combination of community and working together for the good of the whole — I think there’s a lot of power in that.” Camps will take place at Mater Christi School in Burlington between July 12 and 23. The first session will explore world music, including African drumming, Italian opera and Spanish dance music. The second will teach choral music through folk songs, games, movement and rhythm activities. Each session will culminate in a short presentation for family and caregivers. But Ginter is quick to point out that novice singers shouldn’t be nervous about the experience. “We want it to be fun and not intimidating,” he said. “We’re more focused on the process than

on an actual performance.” In addition, Youth Opera Christa Workshop of Loescher Vermont director Sarah Cullins is partnering with the children’s chorus to offer a camp geared toward more serious youth singers. Held on the same dates but with evening rehearsals, this two-week-long camp will be for high school students who are either considering a degree in vocal performance or want to develop their voice to its fullest potential. And though being part of any of the camps comes with no obligation to join the permanent chorus, the camps will help the Greater Burlington Children’s Chorus gauge interest in an ongoing choral program for local youth. Said Ginter: “Music is a universal language that can bring us all together during a time when we’re so wanting human connection.” K Greater Burlington Children’s Chorus camps cost $275 per week; scholarships and financial assistance are available. Learn more at greaterburlingtonchildrenschorus.com.

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What should pregnant and nursing women know about COVID-19?


regnancy and new parenthood can be an exciting time for families. But even in the best of circumstances, they can also be fraught with concerns about health and safety. The global pandemic and the rollout of vaccines to protect against COVID-19 add another layer of stress and uncertainty about how expectant and nursing women should protect their babies and themselves. Dr. Lewis First, chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, shares his recommendations based on the latest research on COVID-19, pregnancy, vaccines and breastfeeding.

KVT: Should pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19? LF: Yes. Because of the complications that can ensue, it’s all the more reason why pregnant women should get vaccinated. If a woman is thinking of getting pregnant, there is no reason why she should not get one of the available vaccines. According to the CDC, the vaccines do not adversely affect fertility, nor do they increase the risk of birth defects. While we are learning about rare blood clotting possibly associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, these are “one in a million” or rarer incidents. Sadly, the risk of having severe complications or dying from this virus is much higher. There are anecdotal reports that the vaccines also may be associated with menstrual cycle irregularities such as heavier bleeding. These irregularities, which appear to be short-lived, are now being studied. If a woman is pregnant or becomes pregnant within 30 days of getting the vaccine, she automatically gets enrolled in the CDC’s V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker program, which will track her health and her baby’s health until the infant is 3 months old. At least 30,000 women have become pregnant after receiving the vaccine and are now enrolled. The good news is, their 14



KIDS VT: Does pregnancy increase the complications of COVID-19? LEWIS FIRST: Although the risk of severe illness and death among pregnant women remains low, it’s still higher when compared to nonpregnant women in the same age group. Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that pregnant women are at higher risk for severe complications, including preterm birth, intensive care admissions and death. However, the numbers of complications and deaths are still lower than those seen in adults 60 and older.

KVT: Does COVID-19 spread through the mother’s breast milk? LF: No. Thus far, researchers have been unable to find the virus itself, nor active pieces of the vaccine, in breast milk. We already know that breastfeeding is ideal for newborns for many reasons, including the benefits it provides to the baby’s immune system. A new benefit we’re seeing is that, if the mother has had COVID-19 or has been vaccinated, those antibodies show up in her breast milk — in fact, even more so after vaccination. For this reason, breastfeeding is actively encouraged. If a COVID-positive mother is reluctant to directly breastfeed her baby, she can still pump her milk, assuming she takes proper precautions beforehand, including thoroughly cleaning all the pumping equipment. Ideally, we’d love to have all mothers breastfeeding their babies if they feel able to do so, whether they’re COVID-positive or not. KVT: Are there benefits a COVID-positive mother might get from breastfeeding? LF: While breastfeeding won’t prevent a mother from getting COVID-19 or speed up her own recovery from the virus, breastfeeding can help relieve stress and anxiety. Breastfeeding can also give her peace of mind in knowing that she’s helping to protect her baby. reported side effects are identical to those of nonpregnant women — that is, no serious adverse reactions to date. KVT: Can an unvaccinated mother give COVID-19 to her unborn child? LF: According to a recent CDC study, only 2.6 percent of infants born to mothers who were positive at the time they gave birth tested positive for COVID-19 within their first week of life. We’re still not sure when or how those infants got the virus, but it’s most likely that the babies contracted it after they were born. A newborn testing positive for COVID-19 has occurred so infrequently that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that the benefits of newborns and COVID-19-positive mothers being together after birth far outweigh the small risk of infection to the baby. These risks can be mitigated by a mother taking proper precautions, including wearing a mask, washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before breastfeeding, and keeping the infant six feet away from her in a separate Isolette in the room until it is time to feed. If a mother wants to separate herself from her baby and have a COVID-negative caregiver take care of her infant until she tests negative or has recovered, that’s a decision she should make with her health care provider.

KVT: Should newborns be kept away from unvaccinated people? LF: New parents should limit their baby’s exposures and take the same COVID precautions as they would with anyone who is unvaccinated. Visits should be limited to people who’ve been fully vaccinated, unless those who are unvaccinated are immediate caregivers. You don’t want to invite other people into the home who can bring in the virus and expose not just the baby, but the parents, as well. And babies should never wear a mask due to the risk of suffocation. Unless a visitor is a close friend or relative who is part of that family’s “bubble” of key contacts and has been vaccinated, it is safer to introduce them to the baby through online technology. Asking if someone has been vaccinated before they hold or touch your newborn may feel awkward, but it could be life-saving. KVT: If parents or other designated infant caregivers aren’t vaccinated, should they wear a mask when they’re six feet or less from the baby? LF: Yes. Parents should also talk to their care provider or call the Vermont Department of Health’s help line for additional guidance if they have questions about infant care and COVID-19 (802-863-7240 or toll-free at 833-7220860). These guidelines may become less stringent as more people are immunized and we reach herd immunity, but we’re not there yet. K


A Pared-Down Approach Low-waste lessons learned as a new mom

LESS IS STILL … A LOT Minimalism and being environmentally conscious are inextricably linked. The more mindful you are about each item you consider buying, and the less you bring into your home (and subsequently toss out), the better it is for our planet. Before having my first child, I had already taken a lot of steps toward decluttering and minimizing, and so had my husband. Once we committed to using cloth diapers, it led to more research about how to be eco-friendly with a baby. I filled online carts with what I thought were the best, most environmentally conscious choices. As the items (and dollars!) added up, I took a step back




elcoming a baby into the home is incredible, aweinspiring and overwhelming. When I was a new mom six years ago, I felt all those things and more. One unexpected way I found my footing was by adopting low-waste practices and becoming more deliberate about my consumer habits. I will admit that, due to clever marketing — or maybe the hormones and emotions that flooded my body during and after pregnancy — there were times I thought I needed certain things in order to be a good mom. I came to understand that parenthood is about my relationship with my children, not owning a particular product. Even as my kids grow older, I have to remind myself of this regularly. Read on for a few other valuable lessons I learned as a new mom.

Meredith folding laundry with her daughter

and realized that even a pared-down list was still a lot. We were adding a new, needy human to our household, and that came with the inevitable addition of new things. Instead of throwing out my ideal of minimalism, I focused on finding balance. My philosophy on baby items became avoiding plastic in favor of natural, durable materials as much as our budget allowed. We focused on buying secondhand and accepting high-quality handme-downs whenever possible. I looked for items that could grow with our children and have multiple uses. For example, we bought larger pants and simply folded up the bottoms so they’d last through multiple growth spurts. We skipped baby-only feeding items in favor of kid-size utensils that worked from babyhood through toddlerhood and beyond. From the start, our kids used regular

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plates, bowls and cups. You’d be surprised by how few pieces they broke. We still ended up with quite a few new plastic items, but I was proud of the balance we achieved.

EMBRACE BEING UNPREPARED As a new parent, I sometimes erred on the side of minimalism, which led me to get caught unprepared on occasion — like the time we realized our baby didn’t have any pajamas that fit! A couple of slightly frantic in-person and online shopping trips helped me fill in the gaps Knowing what I know now, would I have bought those things to begin with? Not necessarily. Some needs pop up that can’t be anticipated. All babies are different. You might have a baby who drools a lot, or not. You might end up bottle-feeding more than you thought you would, or less.

Parents sometimes develop preferences for how to dress their baby. Some may put them in a short-sleeve onesie or shirt as a base layer. Others like “playsuits,” aka footed pajamas. These come with zippers, snaps or buttons. Then there are pajama “gowns” for really easy overnight diaper changes — but they are trickier to navigate in a car seat. Some prefer separates such as tiny jeans or pants and shirts. Try to think about how you’ll be spending those first months, and do your best to plan around that. The same goes for toys. We all have preferences for aesthetics and function, but we don’t really know what our babies will enjoy most. It’s OK to curate your baby’s space (and yours). We graciously accepted all gifts from generous family members and friends, but we stored or passed along items that weren’t a good fit for us.

BABIES GROW FAST, BUT THE MOMENTS GO SLOW Try to purchase things that can be used beyond the first few months. We swear by Turkish towels (also called peshtemal) for babies and kids instead of hooded baby towels that are outgrown quickly. Open-ended toys such as wooden blocks are delightful for both a 6-month-old and a 6-year-old. A stretchy swaddle blanket can be used to wrap up a 3-month-old during nap time and later as a beach or stroller blanket — and even a scarf! We also bought lots of stuff that we only used for a few months, or even a few weeks. There are so many challenges to navigate as a new parent. Try to figure out what your priorities are, but also give yourself grace during this special time. K


Where learning is rooted in relationships. Ages 3-12 www.bellwetherschool.org

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gave birth to my daughter four years ago. Although I still remember every moment of it, this year the experience of birthing and holding our baby for the first time does not feel recent. As we enter into a new May, I can sense that time has passed. I do not feel our birth story viscerally anymore. Instead, the story has transformed into a tale that our daughter wants to hear over and over again. Just as her birth story is evolving, I am also noticing the various ways in which baby-like qualities are disappearing from our daughter’s features and actions. She cuts skillfully with scissors, illustrates complex drawings of various animals, hikes to the top of small mountains and listens to podcasts. In her favorite episode of “But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids,” host Jane Lindholm and psychology professor Celeste Kidd discuss the fact that, though our own children will always be the cutest kids in the whole world to us, strangers generally begin perceiving children as less helpless and cute at age 4. Four is when children become truly able do things by themselves, the age when they start becoming their own person. There is a tinge of sadness when I consider how quickly time passes but also gratitude that I’m able to witness my daughter’s development. One afternoon, when thinking about her upcoming birthday, I decided to push the melancholy aside and did what I do with her a lot nowadays; I asked about her thoughts. “This is your last month as a toddler,” I said. “How does that feel?” She looked at me and answered: “Good, maybe a bit nervous.” Yeah, that is how I feel, too. K




Talent Development


Dressing the Bump

VIRTUAL ON ZOOM 2021 June 21-25 &/or June 28-July 2

Finding style and comfort while pregnant


s a young professional, my go-to outfit usually involved high-waisted pants and heels. Both those items quickly became impossible and impractical when I became pregnant. Shopping for a new maternity wardrobe sounded fun, but the style and price of the maternity brands I found online dampened my enthusiasm. Between fluctuating hormones, my rapidly changing body and the fact that I was about to become someone’s mother, I was already having days when I didn’t quite feel like myself. So I decided to do what felt natural to me and thrift my maternity wardrobe. The process involved a lot of trial and error, but I was determined to be able to dress myself in a way that made me feel comfortable and confident as I stepped into motherhood. In the hopes that the lessons I learned might help another mama marry her personal style to her new body, here are the tips and tricks that helped me along the way. Buy a belly band: A belly band is meant to extend the life of your pre-pregnancy pants by allowing you to wear them unbuttoned and unzipped. The band is similar to those sewn into maternity jeans. It fits over your belly and holds up your pants while smoothing out the closures. But don’t forget about the band when you move on to maternity pants! I continued to use mine to hold up some of my less reliable maternity jeans and to tone down my protruding belly button under tighter clothing. You can even use them postpartum to mitigate the belly looseness some people feel after giving birth. At first, I didn’t love the idea of buying something I could only use for a couple of months, but finding ways to use it throughout and even after my pregnancy made it worth it.

“Crop” top and skirt

Make “crop” tops: Don’t pack away your pre-pregnancy tops just yet! I continued to wear my favorite tops throughout pregnancy by knotting them just above my baby bump. I’d wear these “crop”

Bodyconscious dress

tops with a skirt or over a dress. I also ended up wearing a lot of my pre-pregnancy button-ups as lightweight outerwear or tucked into a skirt, with only the top few buttons fastened. It was comforting to be able to wear some of my familiar clothing while I was pregnant, and it allowed me to style my plain dresses in a new way. Buy non-maternity items: Do not limit yourself to the often sad, sparse maternity rack when so much more is available. There will probably be a few pieces you’ll absolutely need to have maternity versions of; for me, those were jeans and a pair of slacks. Otherwise, don’t restrict yourself. Nonmaternity dresses and skirts are probably easiest to drape over your baby bump. I favored body-conscious, empire-waist and flowy dresses, but really anything with enough stretch or bagginess will do. By the time my baby was born, my closet was made up of probably only 10 percent maternity clothing. My only word of caution in wearing non-maternity clothing while you’re pregnant is to avoid potentially stretching out anything you might want to wear after giving birth. Look for secondhand options: By far my most valuable resource for maternity clothes (and advice!) was other moms. If someone offers you hand-me-downs, take them. The pieces I ended up loving the most were items that had served my friends well and still had a lot of life in them. If hand-medowns aren’t an option, shopping secondhand allows you to try things out without spending a ton of money. For the price of one brand-new pair of maternity jeans, you may be able to buy and try a few different brands secondhand. Here are a few local spots to look for — or donate — secondhand maternity clothing.

Jeans held up by a belly band

• Boho Baby, Williston (bohobabyvt.com): I previously recommended them for children’s clothes, but they also have a maternity section that is similarly curated and cute! It’s fairly small, but worth checking out. You’ll probably end up walking away with baby clothes, too! • Dirt Chic, Burlington (dirtchicvt.com): Dirt Chic is another consignment shop with a designated maternity section. It carries a large variety of styles and brands at different price points. • Karen’s Kloset, Essex Junction (facebook.com/ karensklosetvt): Karen’s Kloset claims it has “the largest maternity selection in Vermont,” and I believe it! There’s enough maternity clothing there to fill a small room, which is a definite upgrade from the single racks I’m used to. K

Providing fun and engaging activities for advanced and gifted students entering grades 4-9. We look forward to our 25th year at Northern Vermont University-Johnson in 2022!


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A Montpelier High School student harvesting Swiss chard for the cafeteria

A Community Effort Tending lonely school gardens in the summer



of curricula that integrate real-life, handsin-the-dirt learning. A school garden can be as simple as a couple of raised beds with flowers, herbs and vegetables. It might be thematic, such as a Three Sisters Garden, in which students can learn about how important corn, beans and squash are to many Native American people and, in the process, discover the scientific purpose of companion planting. Or it can be as extensive as that of the Barnet School in the 1990s, where my National Science Foundation-funded research on integrated curricula took me. There, gardens were at the center of the K-8 curriculum, supplemented by stations throughout the 95 acres of wilderness land where students studied birds, weather, geography, water systems and astronomy. One of my favorite local initiatives is the Tea Project for educators, run by Angie Barger of Luna Root Wellness in Marshfield. Teachers who go through the program learn to create classroom communities in which elementary school kids grow and harvest herbs, learn to make healing salves, and drink tea together each day. The children develop not just the science skills of observation, classification and prediction, but important dispositions such as self-care, body awareness, empathy and mindfulness. I spoke with Food Works founder Joseph Kiefer, coauthor of Digging Deeper: Integrating Youth Gardens Into Schools & Communities, to learn more about the history of school gardens in Vermont. Kiefer was instrumental in the 1980s movement to establish gardens and gardening curricula in Vermont schools.



he other day, a Front Porch Forum post caught my attention: “The Berlin Elementary School is looking for an individual or family to volunteer to manage the Anne Burke Community Garden, particularly in the summer, in exchange for produce. For the past eight years, the students at school have grown and harvested vegetables and maintained the garden as a Farm-to-School initiative. However, we realize that in the summer, it has been a challenge to water, weed, and harvest in a timely manner. There are 15 raised beds and a hoop house. A shed houses all the tools that would be needed — trowels, clippers, shovels, wheelbarrows, etc.” Brilliant! I thought. What a fine way to hook up folks who want to grow a garden with the space and resources to do so. A big part of establishing a sustainable local food system is getting the next generation of growers, gardeners and consumers interested in healthy, homegrown food. The Vermont Farm to School Network is a statewide coalition of nonprofits, schools and farmers with ambitious aims: bringing nutritious food to young people, educating youth on how their food is grown and cooked, and encouraging school cafeterias to support the Vermont economy. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census in 2015, 83 percent of Vermont school districts had a farm-to-school program, and 6 percent more were in the planning stages — the highest percentage in the country. A significant piece of this work is the construction and maintenance of school gardens, as well as the development

Burlington students explore their school garden

Kids tend a school garden in Burlington

He reminded me that school gardens have a long history in the state, dating back to the 1800s, when agriculture was an essential part of the preparation of teachers, and continuing through World War I, when 30,000 schoolchildren raised 200,000 pounds of potatoes and beans to support the war effort. The COVID-19 crisis and the rush on garden seeds reminded many of us of the victory gardens of World War II, when much of the population was called upon to ensure a viable food supply at home and abroad. But the Vermont school year ends in late June and starts up again in September. As every gardener in Vermont knows, our season ranges from May through (if we’re lucky) October. That Front Porch Forum post got me wondering: What happens to all these lovely school gardens in the most bountiful months of the summer, when

school is out and there is no one to tend them? I brought my question to the experts: Libby Weiland of the Vermont Community Garden Network, Betsy Rosenbluth of Vermont FEED and Jen Cirillo of Shelburne Farms. All three are involved in the Vermont Farm to School initiative, and all are passionate about the learning that can happen when a school decides to “go green” and start a gardening program. They tout the many benefits of school gardens: Children eat more veggies and participate in more outdoor activity, and they learn not just about gardening but about related topics like hunger, food equity and how regenerative farming can help mitigate climate disruptions. I asked them that pesky question: What happens to these wonderful gardens in the summer? Weiland pointed out that there is no simple answer but that each school needs to take a step back and ask questions like, Why do we want a school garden? What are our long-term purposes? What does it mean to the community? All of the experts emphasized the importance of cultivating community partnerships for success. And they agreed on the importance of good stewardship: Who will shepherd this project through the issues and challenges that will come up? Addressing these more substantial questions will lead to a plan for tending the lonely summer garden. When Kiefer first began his garden projects in Vermont schools, Food Works itself did a lot of care and maintenance of the gardens. That is one expensive solution — bringing in professionals to nurture the land through the summer. At other schools, parents would rotate through the summer months, signing up for weeding, watering and harvesting, and keeping a journal with photographs of the garden’s progress. Now, smartphones and computers have replaced paper journals, making communication with the school community instantaneous. But parent volunteers

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Food, Farm, and Society students celebrate the garlic harvest in Montpelier

Weeklong day camps for 1st-8th graders Explore and experience our natural and working lands

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and families still play a large part in maintaining gardens. Some schools are beginning to get creative with their budgets, hiring year-round specialists to advance this important work. Summer school programs are encouraged to utilize the gardens in their curriculum. And, surely, we could find the resources to employ young people looking for summer jobs who don’t mind getting their hands dirty! Montpelier High School has found innovative ways to make its programs self-sustaining. Tom Sabo is a biology and life science teacher at MHS who has made sustainability the centerpiece of his science program. Thanks largely to Sabo’s efforts, the school grounds now boast two solar-powered greenhouses where students grow salad greens for the school cafeteria, two beehives, an earthen oven, a chicken coop and flourishing summer gardens that supply food to those who need it. A partnership with the Vermont Compost Company means the school’s food waste is processed into rich soil for the gardens. On hold during the pandemic but starting up again this spring is an innovative aquaponics system in which students raise tilapia in a 100-gallon tank, then cycle the wastewater through a gravel bed that nourishes a variety of plants, including cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. The water is then cleaned and returned to the fish tank via a solar-powered sump pump. According to Sabo, this model demonstrates the idea that “there is no such thing as waste in nature.” Sabo has no trouble finding young people to tend the summer garden

projects. Students can earn graduation credits studying history, psychology, economics and sociology, all in the context of tending the gardens, making salsa and other products in studentrun businesses, and partnering with community organizations to serve those in need. An extra perk? Students in Sabo’s Food, Farm, and Society summer program get to enjoy fish tacos! Visitors from all over the U.S. and beyond come to Vermont to study the innovative ways we are developing sustainability programs in our schools. We have a lot to be proud of, but there is a lot more we can do. When a community gets involved in the school garden, the school has the potential to become the center of community life. The pandemic has shown us that our food supply chains are not as dependable as we once thought. Our eyes are opened to the many unmet needs in our communities, including food insecurity. We are learning that our communities are not as welcoming as they should be to newcomers and people of all cultural backgrounds. With heart and vision, the community school garden can become a hub of connectivity and resilience, teaching all of us what is necessary to build strong, healthy and sustainable communities. K Learn more about Berlin Elementary School’s garden initiative by contacting Meg Dawkins at mdawkins@u32.org. Learn more about upcoming summer courses through the Tea Project at luna-root.com.

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Swaddles and Spreadsheets A type-A mom-to-be tries to crack the baby gear code


always knew I wanted to have children, but the thought of being pregnant freaked me out. My body changing in ways that are out of my control? Cool. Milk leaking without warning from my nipples? Sick. Peeing a little when I laugh postpartum? Fun! Yet many moms told me that being pregnant was the happiest time of their life. I figured it must not be as scary as I was making it out to be. Fast-forward to today — I’m 21 weeks pregnant, and my husband and I are expecting a baby boy in August. I’m either very lucky, or I set my expectations so low that I’m pleasantly surprised by the experience so far. I feel totally normal besides the fact that my boobs literally doubled in size overnight and my belly is getting in the way during yoga. Not to mention that working from home during the pandemic means I can wear sweatpants every day. I’m still not sure if it’s been the happiest time of my life. I mean, I’ve walked through the halls of Hogwarts at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And I freaking love Harry Potter. I’ve also been uncharacteristically chill throughout most of my pregnancy. As a type-A personality who finds it nearly impossible to go with the flow, I’m miraculously taking it day by day and trying not to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of information on the internet. I have had moments of weakness. Just yesterday, I googled, “Do stretch marks appear out of nowhere?” And then I realized I had just scratched myself on something. Insert face-palm emoji. Oddly enough, I attribute this newfound chill to the pandemic. This past year has taught me that there will always be things out of your control and you just have to deal with them the best you can. One thing that recently made me lose my chill a little, though, was when my sister asked me to create a baby registry last month. My initial reaction: How am I supposed to build a comprehensive list when I don’t even know what I need? I decided to turn to experienced parents for advice. I innocently solicited registry recs on Facebook, expecting a few responses. What I ended up with was more than 100 thoughtful comments and messages from friends and family from every part of my life. Most people left bulleted lists of suggestions or entire paragraphs that might as well have been in another language. What’s a NoseFrida, a DockATot and a travel system?, I wondered. Others gave advice. One colleague told me to “stock up on patience — the 5-gallon drum is good.” My uncle said, “Happy baby, happy parents. Do your best to carry on with your own schedule.” I think my favorite piece of wisdom was “more onesies than you think is reasonable.” I also learned that people feel very strongly about zippers being far superior to snaps. After consuming the information, I felt more overwhelmed than when I started. I knew the only way to handle this situation was to take a deep breath, eat an ice cream bar or two, and start a spreadsheet. I’m an event planner; aggressive spreadsheets have always kept



me sane. And nothing brings me more joy than crossing something off my to-do list. One by one, I plugged the Facebook suggestions into different rows. Next, I went down the list and googled what the heck everything was and added category tags. Once everything was categorized, I sorted the spreadsheet and removed duplicate suggestions. Suddenly, the list went from about 75 rows to 20 and felt much more manageable. I started to research the remaining items on the list and zeroed in on products I liked. I used a website called Babylist to build my registry. It allows you to add products from anywhere on the internet. Here’s what I narrowed it down to: • A “travel system” stroller. This is a style of stroller that comes with a car seat that can detach from its base and lock into the stroller. • Bassinet or side sleeper • A baby tub • A bouncy seat to occupy your baby while you do other things • DockATot. This is a brand that many parents recommended. It’s essentially a cushion with walls that you can place the baby in while you are folding laundry, etc. • A hands-free baby carrier. Can be sporty or stretchy, depending on your needs. • A white noise machine • A baby monitor • FridaBaby Windi the Gaspasser and NoseFrida

• • • • •

Infant Tylenol Diaper cream Bibs Burp cloths Zutano booties. Apparently they are amazing and stay on the baby’s feet. • Baby bottles, bottle brush, bottle drying rack • Car seat cover • Onesies (with zippers!) • Swaddle blankets • Changing pad liners • Diaper caddy • Diapers of all sizes • Wipes • A diaper bag — one that you and your partner will like to carry. I’m sure there will be items on the list that I’ll love and items I’ll never use, and things not on the list that I’ll need. And that’s OK. I’ll likely be losing plenty of sleep when my baby arrives; there’s no need to lose sleep over his gear. If you are expecting a little one in the near future, though, maybe this list will save you a little anxiety. I’m certain that plenty of other baby-related things will test me in ways I didn’t think possible. I’ll just try to go easy on myself and remember that nobody’s perfect. And that someday, when our baby is old enough, we can take him to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. K



INGREDIENTS • 1/2 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar • 3 eggs • 1/2 cup sugar • 2 teaspoons vanilla • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg • pinch of salt • 1/2 cup flour • zest of 1 lemon • 1/2 cup butter • 1 cup milk • 1 cup blueberries


Blueberry-Rhubarb Clafoutis Fruit is the star of this simple dessert from France


hen we were kids, my siblings and I loved to go out to the bushes near our vegetable garden and fill buckets with black and red raspberries. We would bring them into the house in the hopes that our mom would make her delicious cobbler. Later in life, I found out that Mom’s recipe was not what most people think of as a cobbler. Typical American cobbler consists of fruit with a biscuit topping. Mom’s started by melting a stick of butter on the bottom of a baking pan, adding generous amounts of fruit and, finally, topping it with a cake-like batter. Turns out, she learned this method from an Armenian woman she knew.

When I was looking through recipes for clafoutis — a French dish with fruit and a custardy, pancake-like batter — they reminded me of Mom’s cobbler. Or, more precisely, its fancy French cousin. Traditional clafoutis uses cherries — with the pits still in them! It originated in the Limousin region of France and became popular throughout the country in the 19th century. You can use any fruit you like in this dish. I’ve even seen recipes using clementines. I chose rhubarb because it will soon be popping up in gardens all over Vermont. And, just like zucchini in the summer, everyone seems to have extra to give away, freeze, or use in new and interesting

recipes. Roasting the rhubarb before incorporating it into the dish ensures that it will be cooked through by the time the clafoutis is done, and it adds a little sweetness. I also added blueberries, which I love for their tart, bright flavor. You can make the clafoutis in a 9-by-13-inch pan for a thin, pancake-y delight. Or you can opt for a 9-inch round pan (or even a 9-inch cast-iron frying pan) for a slightly thicker version. (The 9-inch round takes a bit longer to cook, so increase the baking time to around 45 minutes.) The batter can be thrown together in practically no time at all. If you really wanted to get fancy, you could make a custard-like crème anglaise to pour on top. Or you could do what we did and serve it with rich vanilla ice cream. K

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 2. Toss the rhubarb with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and spread out in a small baking dish. Roast for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and set aside. Lower heat to 350 degrees. 3. Whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, then stir in the flour and lemon zest until incorporated. 4. Melt the butter (on the stovetop or in the microwave) and mix it with the milk. Add the milk and butter mixture to the rest of the batter and mix well. 5. Spray the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan (or a 9-inch round pan; see above) with cooking spray, then add the blueberries and roasted rhubarb. The fruit should cover the bottom of the pan. 6. Pour the batter over the top of the fruit and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 7. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.



Theresa Tomasi, Mother of 27 WORDS & PHOTOS BY CAT CUTILLO

Watch a vide o featuring Theresa Tom asi at kidsvt.com an d on WCAX-T V.





A plaque commemorating Tomasi’s Angels in Adoption award

in Montréal. She had previously been turned down to adopt in Vermont because she wasn’t married, but the Canadian agency had recently set a new precedent since making an adoption plan for a single woman who adopted her siblings after their parents died. Tomasi had to be cleared by a psychiatrist. In Canada, religion was also a barrier. Tomasi, who is Catholic, could not adopt children from non-Catholic birth families. She chose the name Tracy for her first daughter, continuing a family tradition of giving each of her children a name starting with the letter T. Her parents had done the same for her and her brothers, Thomas and Timothy, after whom two of her children are named. “It’s a sort of bonding — a way of keeping a big family connected,” Tomasi explained. Her children are affectionately nicknamed in the numerical order they were adopted. Toni Yandow, also known as T9 — who now works in adoption at Lund — said her mother has been her biggest influence. “She taught me how to be a parent. She gave me all the tools I need to raise my son

and do a great job with him,” said Yandow. “You can’t parent each child exactly the same, so on any given day she’s 27 different parents for her children. That’s incredible.” Yandow, along with her birth sister, moved in with Tomasi when she was 7, after spending several years in foster care. She still vividly remembers meeting Tomasi for the first time at a restaurant. “I was terrified, so my sister and I hid under the table,” said Yandow. “And then she told me she had a little puppy, and I was done. I was all about the animals.” Tai Tomasi, nicknamed T8, is an attorney currently working in Alabama as the director of accessibility, diversity and inclusion at the American Printing House for the Blind. She is blind herself and said her mom encouraged her to aim high despite her disability and always expected her to do chores alongside her siblings. “I think that her breaking through those [adoption] barriers was key in my development as a person with a disability, because she definitely encouraged me to break down what barriers I faced as a blind person,” Tai said. Theresa Tomasi said she never set out

to adopt 27 children; she would always wait until things felt balanced in her home before seeking to adopt again. At any one time, up to 13 children would live in the house. She once bought an ambulance and converted it into the family car. “[The kids] were so embarrassed. It was a funny-looking vehicle, but it was very efficient,” Tomasi said. Inside Tomasi’s house, the expansive dining room is still layered with reminders of how many children she’s raised. Hundreds of cups are stacked high on a shelving unit at the end of her banquetstyle table, which is surrounded by 11 chairs. An upside-down mug with the words “Happy Mother’s Day” sits on one of the shelves “People say to me, ‘It’s a wonderful thing you’ve done.’ No, it wasn’t. It was wonderful for me,” Tomasi said. “I think I just wanted to repeat the wonderful experience.” She credits her children for working together to make her large family run smoothly. “They all helped out. They all did the dishes. They were all good cooks. I’m a terrible cook. I can hardly toast toast,” said Tomasi, with a laugh.


s a child growing up in Burlington, Theresa Tomasi loved being invited to dinners at the home of her neighbor, who had 12 children. Tomasi was the middle child, bookended by two brothers, and she admired the neighbors’ loving and active lifestyle. That experience must have planted a seed, she said — a seed that would keep growing until Tomasi herself had adopted 27 children. At 91, Tomasi is still not an empty nester. Two of her adult daughters share her main house with her. Her youngest son attends Skidmore College in New York, and she’s looking forward to his return home this summer. Her oldest son, a master carpenter in his fifties, suffered a stroke and now lives in the apartment in the back of her Williston home. Her eight-bedroom, four-bathroom house is at the end of a suburban street, set on 50 acres of land. She has a menagerie of farm animals on the property, including two miniature horses, three ponies, a mule, a pig, chickens, a cat, three dogs and even a peacock. Some of the animals belong to her tenant, a friend who helps take care of the entire farm. Tomasi had originally wanted to be a veterinarian but said vet schools only accepted one woman a year when she was younger, so she became a social worker instead. Tomasi spent 11 years as a case worker for the state and then served for three decades as the director of social services for hospitals that are now part of the University of Vermont Health Network. She was also the executive director of Lund, an organization that serves Vermont children and families and provides adoption services. Over the years, she encountered many barriers trying to adopt as a single person during the 1960s, then again as an older parent in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. “I was brought up not to concentrate on what other people thought. It actually didn’t occur to me that I was doing anything except trying to get something that I personally wanted,” Tomasi said. “Sometimes you would hit a blank wall and then just start over again.” Tomasi adopted her first child in the early ’60s, when she was in her early thirties, working toward her master’s degree in social work at McGill University

Daughter Tabitha standing near a shelving unit in Tomasi’s kitchen

Son Tino on a magazine cover Tomasi holding a chicken alongside her dog Gigi

I am not a good grown-up mother, because I’d like to keep them all at home. THERESA TOMASI A photo of Tomasi with her son,Trey

A plaque with flags showing the birth countries of Tomasi’s children

Living on an active farm, the kids grew up with horses to hay and animals to care for while Tomasi worked full time as a social worker. “They never seemed burdened by it. It just seemed to be a common goal to get everything Theresa Tomasi with 18 of her children done. They were very supportive of each other,” said Tomasi. Yandow remembered that she and Her children arrived in her life at different ages — between infancy her siblings spent lots of time playing outside and rarely watched television. and 15 — and from different places. A framed piece of art shows the flags of the “We were never without a playmate. We were never bored. We were never countries where her children were born: lonely,” she said. Canada, the United States, Cambodia, India, Ecuador, Ghana and Bangladesh. Wanda Audette, director of adoption at “They all had certain sorrows about Lund, has known Tomasi for 25 years and helped her with eight adoptions. She said having to leave their roots, and some of she watched as Tomasi created the village them were older and had strong feelings it took to raise each child. about that. I think they bonded over a “The kids get their needs met, and common purpose, common feelings,” said they may not get them met by their Tomasi.

parent all the time, but they can get all of their needs met by the community of their family,” said Audette. “She provides unconditional love and acceptance to her children.” Tomasi said several of her children were gifted athletes. She recalled her son Tino’s first words when he got off the plane from Ghana: “Do you play soccer here?” Then he asked if he could start school the following day. “We got into soccer, big-time soccer. We went to hundreds of soccer games ... They all played [soccer] and track,” she said. Many of her children went to college on scholarships for those sports. Several got scholarships to prep schools in New England. “They really worked hard to achieve their goals,” said Tomasi. Her daughter, Torah, is now a doctor in Maine, and Tino is studying for his PhD in psychology in Boston. Twelve of her children live in

Vermont, and the others are spread out across the country — including in California, Washington, Tennessee and Kentucky. Tomasi received an honorary degree from the University of Vermont in 2012 and was an Angels of Adoption recipient from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in 2004. But her family has not escaped tragedy. A just-adopted daughter was killed in an auto accident right before she was scheduled to fly to America to meet Tomasi. Her son, Toby, died in a train accident in 1991, just before his 18th birthday. “He was the nicest, kindest human being I’ve ever met. It was terrible for our family,” said Tomasi. Tomasi also lost a daughter, Mira, who had flown from India to join the family at age 15 but was in need of surgery and immediately had to be admitted to the hospital. She eventually passed away during open-heart surgery. The six weeks Tomasi mothered her left a deep impression. “She said to me, ‘Mummy, why is it that in America, people always bring you gifts when they come see you?’ And I said, ‘Because they want to show you they care about you.’ ‘Can’t they just say it in words?’ she said.” Tomasi said the pandemic has been hard for her family. Her out-of-state children can’t travel, and her in-state children must be cautious when they visit. “I really miss having them in the house, living here,” Tomasi said. “I am not a good grown-up mother, because I’d like to keep them all at home.” But daughters Tegan, who is blind and on the autism spectrum, and Tabitha, who is severely cognitively impaired, still live with her. “I think God was good to me because now I have two children that are going to stay home,” said Tomasi. “And it really gives you a purpose in life.” K KIDSVT.COM MAY 2021


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 May 17. 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 June issue of Kids VT. Send your high-resolution scans to art@kidsvt.com or mail a copy to Kids VT, P.O. Box 1184, Burlington, VT 05402.



Puzzle......................................................25 Coloring Contest Winners..........25 Kid-Created Art..................................26 #Instakidsvt.........................................26

Title _______________________________________ Contest sponsored by

Artist ______________________________________ Age _______________ Town ___________________ Email ______________________________________ Phone ______________________________________


Our judges were feeling the puppy love with all the phenomenal submissions mailed in as part of this month’s coloring contest. Olivia, 9, pleased the judges with her panther-like pup and freckle-faced flower on a field of green. Eight-year-old Lily added floppy bunny ears and a teeny, dreamy snow-capped mountain scene, all under bright sunshine and blue skies. Four-year-old Charlie and his colorful pet will be ditching Vermont and heading to Paris — can’t blame a pup for dreaming. Thanks to all who entered! We can’t wait to see what you have in store this month.


The winners of annual family memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium are…

“Puppy in Paris” Charlie Schlatter, 4 Burlington

5& under


Jane Malinowski, 4 Burlington


Reagan Bernhardt, 8 Shelburne “POWER FLOWER PUPPY”

Forest Walker King, 7 Cabot “SPRING PUPPY”

Taylor Wright, 7 Berlin “SUNSET PUPPY”

Tessa Pauer, 5 Montpelier Hooray! It’s time for all those May flowers to bloom. And no bunny likes flowers more than Momma Mopsy ... for dinner, that is! So her kids Cinnabunny and Muffinhop have plucked plenty of posies for her. But they don’t know if they’re really tasty! Can you help them figure out what types of flowers they are?


Using the hints, help the bunnies unscramble the names of the eight flowers in the bouquet, just in time for a yummy meal.


1. Got up: ESOR


“Easter Dog” Lily Wells, 8 FERRISBURGH

6 to 8

Sadie Sheehan, 5 Salisbury Kailynne Paquette, 7 Johnson “WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT???”

2. They surround your mouth: UPSTIL

Indy Roberts, 11 Montpelier

3. Automobile country: NORAINCAT 4. Whacko pickle: FOIDFLAD 5. Remember myself: TREFOG EM TON 6. Flat pot ocean: SYNAP 7. Fabulous feline: NOIDELAND

“Happy Socks” Olivia Gallagher, 9

8. Before Noon wonder: GRIMNON GYROL


9 to 12





lison Treston, art teacher at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, shared some of her students’ most recent masterpieces. Seventhgrade art students learned about the Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo and his fascinating portrait paintings. Then they created their own portraits using collage, gathering images of foods to create a face. For another project, students created self-portraits after learning about proper facial proportions. They also learned about the emotions of color and researched what colors they connected with emotionally. Student used those colors to paint, draw and color in their portraits. By Naba'a Hussein

By Farhan Hinkle

#INSTAKIDSVT Thanks for sharing your photos with us using the hashtag #instakidsvt. We loved this cool image of the tubular entryway of the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich. Share photos of your family exploring new places this month. HERE’S HOW: Follow @kids_vt y on Instagram. x

Tag us on Instagram !

Post your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #instakidsvt. We’ll select a photo to feature in the next issue.

By Lila Hamme

By Naba'a Hussein



By Phoebe Fogarty

By Ivy Van Der Velden


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Learn more about Coeyman’s work at queencitydoulavt.com.

Daily bus transportation f r o m S o u t h Bu r l i n g t o n


Around this time, I was asked to do a virtual presentation on implicit bias for the next group of volunteer doulas. I agreed, despite feeling unqualified. I did hours of research, during which I came up against my own unconscious biases. I started to question my understanding of the very words I was using: inclusivity, racist, disparity, inequity. And I reexamined whether I was bringing action to my convictions. The coming months would send me deeper into this work. I knew studies showed that doula support improves birth and postpartum outcomes, but I didn’t know the history of the work — that women have supported people through and after birth long before the term doula (from ancient Greek, meaning “female slave”) was coined in 1973 by a white anthropologist. And that the disappearance of these family and community birth workers is tied to the eradication

July 19-23


I decided to jump back in, providing eye contact and words of support from behind a mask and full-face shield.

of Black granny midwives, who were systematically removed as modern obstetrics took control of birthing spaces. I knew that Black women were dying from pregnancy and childbirthrelated illnesses at a disproportionate rate but learned that studies show this is because of racism, not race. I realized that, as a white doula, advocacy has to be woven into my work. Every time I cite maternal health statistics that reflect Black pain, I must counter it with action steps. This includes donating to organizations that work to increase the number of Black and brown doulas and midwives, and urging representatives to support the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act and legislation that offers doula services as a Medicaid benefit. I resolved to do a lot more listening — to birth justice organizations, anti-racist educators and the experiences of diverse birthing people. And I teamed up with other doulas to form a collective that is working to offer affordable community support. I saw my first postpartum clients in the middle of the pandemic. I mask up and cook them food, soothe their babies through the night, listen to their fears, and encourage them to follow their intuition. I can’t share their stories, because they’re not mine to tell. But I can speak to the challenges of new parents right now: the physical isolation of being removed from society and support when parents need them most; the inability to see family, or the heartbreak of not wanting to when beliefs on COVID safety measures don’t align. While the pandemic has defined life’s most basic needs — to take care of ourselves and our community — it’s also made me question so many things, including my resolve when the path seems incredibly clear. That feeling is comforting, like knowing the sun will rise in the morning. But sometimes comfort isn’t the goal. Sometimes the goal is being able to sit with discomfort and listen to what it might be telling you, about what you think you know and how you function in the world. To listen when it tells you to go deeper into your life and your work, even when time stops making sense, even when you lose your direction, even when the world goes dark. K



program paused to develop COVID-19 protocols. The program’s founder worked hard to get doulas back into the hospital, and when it was safe, we were the first volunteers in the state allowed to resume our work. Essential workers didn’t have the choice to stay home. And I’d always said doula work was undervalued and should be deemed essential. So I decided to jump back in, providing eye contact and words of support from behind a mask and full-face shield. I helped to navigate FaceTime calls so that family could virtually be in the room, and as people exhaled through powerful contractions, I talked myself through the omnipresent fear that anyone could transmit the invisible, deadly virus.

at Com m on G r ou n d Ce n te r


How a pandemic career change inspired a postpartum doula to delve deeper


Life Support n the early days of the pandemic, time wasn’t normal; it bent around unknown corners, broke into FaceTime fragments and sometimes stopped altogether, denying some the chance to say goodbye. More than a year later, we’re all still in it. I struggle to remember what day it is, and it will likely take a long time before I can see 2020 clearly. Instead, I’ll describe what I can see clearly: the person I was right before the pandemic started. Passionate and focused, I was on the ledge of familiarity, ready to push off and start my own business as a postpartum doula. I had left a job in journalism to pursue a lifelong desire to work with birthing people and families. I completed a lactation counselor course and became a volunteer birth doula at the University of Vermont Medical Center, invigorated by the program’s aim to offer birth support to everyone who wants it. As I learned about the disparities in maternal health, I decided to start training as a postpartum doula to address that gap in care. This happened as our country was being thrashed by disinformation, divisiveness and racial unrest. That the blatant violence and prevalence of white supremacists shocked me revealed my glaring white privilege — and how I had lived with the choice to opt in or out of anti-racist work. Amid this disorientation I clung to basic comforts, like the sun rising in the morning. And despite being nervous about starting a business, the clarity of my path was a beacon. My intuitive draw to birthing people and babies laid the foundation, the United States’ rising maternal mortality rate was a catalyst, and the desire to change that was my goal. Just as I was about to take the leap, the pandemic hit. It stretched its tentacles across the globe, connecting us as it forced us into isolation. My partner was furloughed over the summer, and I spent many nights lying awake, making contingency plans. How many months could we manage without income? We could sell the house if we needed to. We could move in with family. It was the first of many times that the pandemic would force me to strip life down to the essentials and realize just how much I’d been accustomed to having. At the hospital, the volunteer doula

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Profile for Kids VT

Kids VT — May 2021  

The Mom & Baby Issue: Becoming a Doula During the Pandemic; A Mom-to-Be Contemplates Baby Gear; Mother to Many Theresa Tomasi; How to Rock M...

Kids VT — May 2021  

The Mom & Baby Issue: Becoming a Doula During the Pandemic; A Mom-to-Be Contemplates Baby Gear; Mother to Many Theresa Tomasi; How to Rock M...

Profile for kidsvt

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