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Thursday, March 28, 2013

If I Seem Embarrassed...

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

If you tell me that you’ve read my Kids VT articles and I seem embarrassed, it’s because I am.

It’s easy for me to sit at my laptop and let my feelings pour through my fingers and onto the screen. It’s not so easy for me to look someone in the eye and have them tell me they like my writing. It's not because I’m not good at accepting compliments. It’s the sudden realization that people are reading my deepest thoughts. When you read my words, you are looking into my heart.

I’m happy to share my heart with all of you. There is something cathartic about it for me. If I’m having a bad day or going through a rough patch, if I’m struggling with thoughts and feelings that I can’t explain, I write about it — and then I feel better. Everything becomes clear. It might not be fixed. It might not even get better. But it’s clear. It’s there written on the screen in front of me and in the depths of my heart.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out with kind words about my writing, and encouraging words about my husband's deployment. I may be embarrassed, but I’m equally grateful.

Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Home Cookin': Dinner, Two Ways

Different takes on tacos for kids and adults

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Tacos for kids (left) and adults (right)

In the year or two before I had kids, I was finally hitting my stride as a home cook. My newfound interest in the kitchen was piqued by my relocation from New York City to Burlington. It was July when my husband, Jeff, and I arrived. I remember driving to Hannaford in the New North End the night of our move and being dazzled, and a bit disoriented, by the long, brightly lit aisles and the ease with which we could load our bounty into the car and drive home.

The beautiful farmers-market produce, breads and cheeses further inspired my culinary endeavors. Not to mention the flower-lined porch in our backyard, which made long, alfresco meals possible.

But when our daughter, Mira, was born, the painstakingly prepared cheese plates and slow-simmered green-curry-chicken dishes came to a halt. Our son, Theo, arrived three years later. There was no time to prepare an elaborate home-cooked meal when one child was trying to tear open a bag of rice and the other was pleading with me to have a tea party, so I didn’t even try. That’s not to say we subsisted on microwaved meals and takeout pizza. I still cooked for my family, but it was rushed and not much fun.

But now that my kids are almost 6 and 3, I’m feeling a renewed love for making dinner. But I’ve had to reimagine my role as a home cook to figure out how to make meals work for two vastly different palates.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Not Your Average Slumber Party

A Westford 9-Year-Old Stages a "Sleep Out" to Support Vermont's Homeless Youth

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 5:57 PM

1364310978-screen_shot_2013-03-26_at_11.12.46_am.png

Screen_Shot_2013-03-26_at_11.12.46_AM.png

More than 90 business and community leaders — including Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger — are preparing for an unusual slumber party taking place this Thursday. As part of Spectrum Youth & Family Service’s Sleep Out, they’ll spend the night under the stars — laying on cardboard boxes and tarps — to raise funds for Vermont’s homeless youth.

In Westford, 9-year-old Celia Andrews will be doing the same.

A family friend participated in last year’s inaugural Spectrum Sleep Out, and Celia thought camping out in the winter sounded fun, says her mom, Julia Andrews. Julia remembers explaining to her daughter, “The point is not that it’s fun, but that it’s about thinking of what it’s like to be homeless.”

As Celia learned about the challenges many young Vermonters face, she became more and more interested in helping them. But since she’s too young to participate in Spectrum’s Sleep Out, Celia is planning her own — in her own backyard.

Julia says she may bend the rules a little and camp out in a tent with blankets, but Celia isn’t shirking on the fundraising aspect. Together, they set up a GoFundMe webpage, hoping to bring in $500 in community donations. Celia has already surpassed that goal: As of today, she has raised $660.

“We are fortunate to have family and friends who are supportive of this,” says Julia. “In Westford, it would be really easy to just assume that there are no homeless people in Vermont. I think we all know, thanks to Spectrum, that that’s not true — and also thanks to COTS.”

While that’s a hard message for kids Celia’s age to learn, continues Julia, “I think it’s really important for her to start thinking about what the problems are in the world, and how to solve them.”

And to help make it a positive experience for her daughter, Julia says they’ll be roasting marshmallows over an open fire, too. That’s a dessert well earned.

The Spectrum Sleep Out takes place on Thursday, March 28, and is expected to raise about $150,000 for Spectrum Youth & Family Services programs. Find out more, and learn how to make a donation, at spectrumvt.org.

Carolyn Fox
  • Carolyn Fox

This post was written by Kids VT managing editor Carolyn Fox.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

It's OK to Ask for Help

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Unless I need to open a jar of pickles or lift something heavy, I don't like to ask for help. I like to be in control, to do things on my own. I don't like admitting defeat.

(Incidentally, we haven't eaten pickles since my husband's deployment began.)

But one thing I've learned through Matt's deployment is that it's OK to ask for help. I've realized it's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. I can’t do this on my own. I don’t have to. So why try?

My boys have been facing some emotional issues lately. I used to spend time on my hands and knees, begging them to talk to me about how they were feeling — to no avail. I decided to reach out to their school counselors instead. They now have a place to talk things over with someone else, and I can't begin to tell you how much that has helped. It has allowed me to just be their mom — not their therapist.

When my husband left, lots of friends offered babysitting help. I never intended to take them up it. They're just being nice, I thought. No one really wants to watch my kids. That attitude is silly! Of course they do — they offered! And if they don't, that's what they get for offering! I now owe quite a few friends for their babysitting services, but they won't accept any payment. I guess they meant it after all.

There are many free area events and services available to military families. I have often thought, No, we won’t take advantage of that. We don’t need it. Again with the silliness! Once I let my pride take the backseat, doors opened to so many fun and supportive opportunities. We attended a free military ski day at Stowe, received a grant to use for extracurricular activities and even signed up for a discounted weekend away at a resort in New York. What amazing things we would have missed out on had I refused to ask.

Recently, I bought one of our boys a new bed. I thought, Oh, I'll just put it together myself. I could practically hear my husband laughing at me from across the ocean. Who was I kidding? I can't even open a jar of pickles. It was the perfect chance to take one of our male friends up on his offer to handle the "man" stuff around the house. What would have taken me three weeks took this friend three hours.

Good call, Tasha. Good call.

Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries from a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jealous of a Box

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I send goodies to my deployed husband as often as I can. His favorite things to receive are Green Mountain Coffee and drawings by the kids. I noticed a strange feeling when filling up the last box.

I was jealous.

It occurred to me that the next time the contents of the box were handled, it would be by him. He would be the one reading the letters and laughing over the pictures the boys had drawn. He would be the one breathing in the scent of coffee. I felt connected to coffee like never before (and I do love my coffee!). He would be the next person to hold all this in his hands.

I wanted to be the thing he held in his hands. I wanted to curl myself into a ball and join the contents of that box on their journey overseas.

Deployment has conjured up many emotions. Being jealous of a box was one I certainly didn't see coming.


Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Home Cookin': Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Chocolate-Chunk Cookies - PHOTO BY CAROLYN FOX
  • photo by Carolyn Fox
  • Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, there's nothing better than romping around in it — going sledding, perhaps — and coming back inside to a plate of warm cookies. Every home cook needs a go-to recipe for chocolate-chip cookies; this one is mine. These thick, sturdy cookies can handle a healthy amount of chocolate, so I like to use chocolate chunks.

Chocolate-Chunk Cookies
Recipe via Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and still warm
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chunks

Sift together the flour and baking soda in a bowl.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix in the eggs. Stir in the flour mixture just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the chocolate chunks; stir. Let the dough chill in the fridge at least 1 hour, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven.

Roll out rounded tablespoons of dough and place them three inches apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake 9 to 11 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown at the edges. Remove the tray from the oven. Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper to cookie racks to cool completely before storing.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

The New Normal

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I was getting through the day with ease — marking things off my list, feeling accomplished. I was happy, smiling, singing along to the radio. Suddenly it hit me. I looked at the clock and realized ... I'd gone the whole afternoon without thinking about him.

It has become normal, this living without Matt. When I manage to make it through a few hours without obsessing about him, I practically celebrate. But the reality is clear: He consumes my thoughts most days.

I know worrying about him doesn't do anyone any good. But I continue to, as if it can keep him safer, stronger.

And then I think of this saying: "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows. It empties today of its strength."

So I will continue to look forward to more afternoons of more singing — and less worry. Not because I want to forget about Matt. But because I need every bit of strength I can find for whatever today and tomorrow bring.

Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On the News

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont Military Family

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 1:12 PM

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Today I appeared on the WCAX morning news. It was just a quick interview with news anchor Molly Smith about the articles that I am writing here. In the clip above, I appear pretty calm. But the moments before the interview were anything but.

When I told my boys about the upcoming interview last week, they were only semi-impressed. When I told them they could come along and see the news "in action," they reacted with shoulder slumps and a vague "sure." I had kind of hoped being on TV would earn me some "cool-mom points," but that plan was sure backfiring.

In order to get to the early-morning interview on time, I had to rouse the boys up at 4:45 a.m. This is an early wake-up call, to be sure, but I had sent them to bed early last night, hoping to take the edge off. Not so much. As we began to get ready, it was clear they were not happy. They had changed their minds; no one wanted to go. It was too late to let them stay home, however. There would be no one to watch them — my parental backup happens to be across the ocean.

I wasn't really sure what all the fuss was about. I was the one who was supposed to be nervous. What was the problem? Why couldn't they be happy for me? And then the truth spilled out of the mouth of a sobbing little boy.

"Why does everything in our life have to be about this stupid deployment?!"

Ah. There it was. All at once, I realized that while we have been trying to go through each day as normally as we can, there is nothing normal about our lives at all. Our minds can pass the time and maybe even forget for a moment that Matt is deployed, but our hearts are in a constant state of ache and worry. Yes, even the kids internalize what war means to them.

By the time we arrived for the interview, the boys had calmed down and were happy to sit quietly and watch the interview from the sidelines. They oohed and ahhed over the remote-control cameras and fancy recording equipment. I asked how they thought my interview went and, again — shrug, "fine." But the whole ride home was filled with talk of video cameras and green screens and how the news works.

I'm thankful for the chance to get the word out about these articles. Going on the news was a fun and exciting adventure for me. Even if it was just "fine" for the boys, it gave them something new to think about for a few minutes. Sure, everything in our lives is about Matt's deployment right now, but sometimes it can give way for some really neat opportunities. The boys realized that their brave mom had just been on the news talking about their even braver dad — and just like that my "cool points" skyrocketed. If only for a moment.

Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In the Future

Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

As we hovered around my iPhone to FaceTime Matt, the boys asked him what he was doing.

"I just woke up," he said. "I'm getting ready for work."

They were flabbergasted!

"We are getting ready for bed!" they shouted. "It's already tomorrow there?"

He said yes. It was already tomorrow where he was.

Instant shock set in on their faces.

"Dad is in the future!"

We laughed and made jokes about if there were flying cars where he was. It was a lighthearted moment between the five us. It felt normal. Even if we were talking to someone in the future.


Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman


Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Wild, Wild West

A Royalton family films a ‘Pasghetti Western’ for kids

Posted By on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 2:32 PM

An outtake from 'Pasghetti Western' - COURTESY OF EMILY FERRO
  • courtesy of Emily Ferro
  • An outtake from 'Pasghetti Western'

An outtake from Pasghetti Western
  • courtesy of Emily Ferro
  • An outtake from 'Pasghetti Western'

Gold diggers. Bandits. A ranch on the brink of despair. The debut feature film from Myra and Jim Hudson has all the trappings of your classic period Western, but the Royalton couple prefers to categorize it as a comedy. That’s because the stars of their Pasghetti Western are all children.

The couple has dabbled in filmmaking before — they used to shoot short, family-friendly cooking shows for fun. But Jim, a farrier, was inspired to make a full-length “kiddie Western” as he watched his youngest children — Oliver, 3, and Gideon, 1 — spend time around the family’s ponies. The miniature proportions seemed to beg for a kid-sized interpretation of the American Old West.

Indeed, scenes from the completed film’s trailer reveal that the footage was shot at a child’s height, making the actors appear comically tall and adult. Scaled-down sets and props further the illusion.

And the plot? It’s your classic “Pa goes West, headed for gold” story, says Jim. That leaves an overburdened “Ma” at home, struggling to feed her many children and care for the homestead. Scenes depict Ma sporting a massive pompadour wig, hanging laundry on the clothes line and carrying around bonneted babies nearly half her size.

“The footage was adorable and the kids were really into it, so we just kept letting it grow,” says Myra, a stay-at-home mom and former teacher. Filmed over the course of the last year, Pasghetti Western features the onscreen talents of 28 community youngsters alongside an equally abundant animal cast of ponies, lambs and calves.

While Vermont is a far cry from the dry, dusty American frontier, the Hudsons summon up the right scenery by filming in front of ramshackle barns and cabins, and capturing the natural landscape whenever possible.

“We live in such a beautiful place, so we wanted to showcase rural Vermont,” says Jim. “— and our own cute kids,” adds Myra. Elaborately outfitted in cowboy hats, fringed chaps, bustles or mutton sleeves, the kids in handmade costumes complete the 1800s look.

Costumes and scenery nailed down, the actual filmmaking process proved to be the real challenge.

Myra and Jim would suggest lines for their young cast members — ranging in age from 10 months to 12 years — to recite. “Sometimes they would and sometimes they wouldn’t say it well enough for the shot,” says Myra, who notes that the film has minimal dialogue but relies on some well-placed voiceover narration and music.

Each shoot would require a large spread of food, too; Myra jokingly observes that child actors “can’t function without a big catering budget.” Even with plenty of snack breaks, keeping the kids on task was difficult; the couple often had to go with their first take, as attention spans tended to wander.

But that first “magical shot,” as Myra calls it, is the charm of Pasghetti Western. The kids on cast behave unapologetically like kids, even as they work the land and scuffle like adults. (One scene from the trailer even catches a kid picking his nose and eating it.)

The filming has wrapped, but the movie has no release date yet. The Hudsons are hoping to premiere it at a local theater this year. When that happens, you can count on a large child audience.

“The kids have been crazy about it,” says Jim. “A lot of them would’ve been happy to [film] every day all year long.”

Check the Pasghetti Western Facebook page for updates.

Carolyn Fox
  • Carolyn Fox

This post was written by Kids VT managing editor Carolyn Fox.

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