Monday, March 30, 2015

Get Out!: A Minimalist Approach

baby, outdoors, adventure, skiing, gear

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 9:03 AM

Elise hangs at base camp while her parents take turns skiing a local hill - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan Von Duntz
  • Elise hangs at base camp while her parents take turns skiing a local hill

I hear often from other new parents who lament the large amount of gear required to get out with their little kids. Some even think it’s not worth it because packing up everything needed to get themselves and their baby outside requires too great an effort.

As a new mom to a four-month-old daughter, I’m here to tell you two things:

Number one: It’s worth it. Always. Getting your heart and legs pumping in the fresh air — not to mention the views and the wildlife — is a great pay-off for the work it takes to get ready. And exposing kids to outdoor exploration and fun in their early years is fundamental learning for the children of any outdoorsy family.

Number two: It doesn’t have to require a lot of gear. Read on to learn more about my minimalist approach.

Before we settled into life as parents, my partner, Tristan, and I were long-distance backpackers preferring the simplicity and easy travel of lightweight backpacking, a discipline in which hikers carry minimal amounts of gear to keep their pack weight down.

We filled our backcountry ski packs — which we used for daytime ski tours — with extra layers, a map and compass, basic first aid supplies, a thermal space blanket, a lighter, a multi-tool, a thermos of hot tea and snacks. We carried everything we needed to handle an emergency, but kept the amount of gear to a minimum.

Now we pack a minimalist diaper bag in one of our backpacks when Elise comes along skiing. Instead of a big, bulky sack, we use a trifold carrier/changer combo like this one. We fill it with 4 to 6 disposable diapers depending on the duration of our trip, a slim package of travel wipes, a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a roll of Arm & Hammer deodorized diaper trash bags. An alternative option is a 1-gallon Ziploc bag. In this case, a waterproof jacket or an overturned pack can be used as a changing station.

I’ve used these bare-bones set-ups in a variety of outdoor situations, from winter hikes to a recent outdoors winter mountain bike festival. They've enabled me to change Elise on the fly, in bike shops and on picnic tables. I get to play outside and I have the joy of raising my daughter in the outdoors.

Tristan and I hope that Elise will be an adventurous kid one day, skiing the backcountry and hiking mountains right alongside us — while carrying her own gear. For now, we’ll carry it for her. Thankfully, it won’t weigh us down much.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Home Cookin': Brown-Butter Banana Bread Muffins

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:29 AM

  • Sam Simon
My husband and I have been working on a new baking blog together — I make treats and write the posts; he takes the pictures — so these days I’ve been baking a lot

I scour baking websites, blogs and cookbooks for inspiration. The other day, I came across an article that listed brown butter as the top way to take your baking to the next level. I’d heard of using brown butter to make savory sauces extra-special. But I didn't realize that browning your butter is one tip almost universally agreed upon by the big-time bakers.

It works well with almost any recipe, though I like it best in sweets that benefit from a little nuttiness. You can use it melted, or let it cool and cream it with sugar for cookies, cakes or muffins. Yes, it’s an extra step. But it's easy and totally worth it.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Roots and Wings: And Baby Makes 6

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 9:43 AM

Jessica with her three sisters and four daughters — plus a baby doll!
  • Jessica with her three sisters and four daughters — plus a baby doll!

Roots and Wings is a follow-up to Jessica Lara Ticktin's blog series On the Fly: Homeschooling Adventures Around the World, in which she chronicled her family's recent four-month international adventure. In this series, she'll explore her family's efforts to incorporate what they learned from their trip into their daily life in Vermont.

It’s estimated that only five percent of babies arrive on their due dates. I’m sure far fewer than that have traveled around the world in utero. Mabel Allegra Rubin has done both.

My fourth daughter arrived into a warm tub, right on schedule, greeting us with a loud wail upon taking her first breath. I closed my eyes and asked Adam, “What do we have?” Tears poured down my cheeks when he said, “It’s… another girl.”

These were tears of relief after a 24-hour labor, tears of happiness and — let’s be honest — tears of disappointment, too. I can say this because I myself am the fourth girl of four girls. I know what it’s like to come into the world with three older sisters, dashing everyone’s hopes of being a boy.

This disappointment faded quickly, of course, and changed into joy as we gazed into the eyes of this beautiful, healthy baby and held her warm body in our arms. So this is who it was! All those months, as we traveled from place to place and I felt the kicks and somersaults in my belly, it was her, Mabel.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

COTS Takes on Childhood Homelessness

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 10:52 AM

Students from Rice High School - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Students from Rice High School
Last Thursday, four yellow school buses pulled up on to Burlington's Church Street Marketplace, directly in front of city hall. Students from Rice Memorial High School slowly and somberly filed out onto the building's steps, each holding a laminated number, from one to 172 — the number of homeless children in Chittenden County.

The Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) devised the display to bring attention to the issue of childhood homelessness and to launch an action and awareness campaign. Using the hashtag #172vt, COTS will use social media to share facts about childhood homelessness and ways to address the issue. The nonprofit organization is urging others to do the same. This includes using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to share images, quotes and facts about homelessness — and to spread the word about the annual COTS Walk, a fundraiser that takes place this year on Sunday, May 3 .

Nationally, Vermont is among the 10 states with the sharpest rise in homeless students, the US. Department of Education reported last year. Between 2007 to 2013, there was a 34 percent increase in homeless students in the state. But, says COTS executive director Rita Markley, "there's no reminder to us of their presence. It's far too easy to overlook them entirely." Most homeless students are chronically tired, are more likely to get sick than their peers and experience feelings of anxiousness, Markley said while addressing the crowd gathered on Church Street last week. 

Other speakers at the event included Catholic Diocese Bishop Christopher Coyne, Vermont Secretary of Human Services Hal Cohen and Governor Peter Shumlin.

"No child in Vermont should wonder whether they're going to have a warm and secure place to live," Governor Shumlin said. "That should be a basic, fundamental right." The governor said he'd directed Cohen to develop a plan to end homelessness in the state.  

Rice students were chosen to participate in last week's event because the Catholic high school has been the top fundraising team for the COTS Walk for many years. Rice student council president Griffin Cunningham spoke of how helping those in need is an extension of the school's mission of serving others.  

A bright spot in the blustery day came as the event wrapped up, when Markley excitedly announced that a local business owner had just pledged a donation to cover one year of rent for a homeless family.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Home Cookin': Peanut-Sesame Noodles with Sweet 'n' Spicy Meatballs

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 12:00 PM

  • Sam Simon

I have an obsession with spicy Asian noodle dishes. Pad Thai, vegetable lo mein, super-spicy peanut sauce, you name it. I’ve spent years trying to perfect my own home recipe. But after countless tries, I’ve always come up short. Until now.

I found two recipes that not only (finally!) satisfies my craving for a homemade noodle dish that tastes as good as takeout, but may have forever changed the way my family thinks of spaghetti and meatballs! These recipes are brilliantly simple. Lo mein noodles and mini-meatballs become something special with the help of two easy sauces.

As is, the recipes both have a little heat, but nothing my 3-year-old daughter couldn't handle. You can easily adjust the spice in either recipe by upping or lowering the amount of chili paste. Give these a try; they might just become new family favorites. 

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bringing Home the Gold!

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 9:14 AM

Our award-winning cover illustration
  • Our award-winning cover illustration
For the fourth year in a row, Kids VT took home top prizes in the annual Parenting Media Association’s Design and Editorial Awards Competition, which recognizes excellence in journalism, photography and design at member publications.

The PMA presented the awards last Saturday at its convention in Baltimore, Md. A panel of judges awarded Kids VT first-place “gold” in its circulation category for:

Best Overall Writing — for the fourth year in a row
Best Cover Illustration: Matt Mignanelli (June 2014)
Best General Feature: '"A Cabot Family Makes the Case for 'Unschooling" by Kathryn Flagg (September 2014)
Best Publisher/Editor's Notes: Megan James
Best Personal Essay: "Rebirth Plan: A 'natural' mom comes to terms with her C-section" by Meredith Coeyman (May 2014)

Kids VT also won a “silver” award for “The Art Of” column by Alison Novak; and a “bronze” award for Best Overall Design. The judge in the Best Overall Writing category praised the “lively writing” in each issue of Kids VT: “From the highly personal editor’s note to the regular ‘Go Ask Dad’ segment, these writers set an excellent example for the kids who are learning to, as the title of the closing essay suggests, ‘Use your words.’”

This is the fourth year Kids VT has entered the competition since the magazine was purchased and redesigned by Seven Days. We're thrilled to be recognized!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Roots and Wings: Staying Connected

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Roots and Wings is a follow-up to Jessica Lara Ticktin's blog series On the Fly: Homeschooling Adventures Around the World, in which she chronicled her family's recent four-month international adventure. In this series, she'll explore her family's efforts to incorporate what they learned from their trip into their daily life in Vermont. 

Dahlia, Lola and Kaya
  • Dahlia, Lola and Kaya

Since we've been back in Vermont, we've tried to stay connected to the places we visited abroad. One great way to do it? Eating out. 

One Friday night shortly after we returned, we ate dinner at Istanbul Kebab House on Church Street in Burlington. The owners are Turkish, and we got to order food we had eaten in Istanbul and even practice our limited Turkish vocabulary with the waitress. We also saw the same kind of Turkish lights as the ones we bought at the Grand Bazaar. This was thrilling and made us feel like we weren’t so very far away from an international community.

Japanese food is next on our list.

In the meantime, the girls are finding their own ways to keep the trip alive. Dahlia came home from school one day excited to tell me that a new girl arrived in the fifth grade, and guess where she was from? Jordan! A year ago, Dahlia could not have found Jordan on a map. She might not have known it was a country. Now she has befriended a girl from this country and can tell her she has been there and that she knows a little bit about her culture. 

Dahlia has been studying density in science class. While doing an experiment with salt and water she was able to make a hypothesis that the salt would sink, and that the more salt she added, the denser the water would become. How did she know this? Because she'd been to the Dead Sea and understood why she floated in it.

Lola is doing a unit on building bridges in her third-grade class. The other day, her teacher showed the kids a picture of the Parthenon, pointing out how the columns hold up the building. Lola raised her hand and said, “I’ve been there!” Her teacher asked her to tell the class what she learned about the structure of this ancient building. Lola was able to make the connection; she understood how visiting places like the Acropolis and the Parthenon can be relevant and meaningful beyond the immediate moment .

While Kaya plays with her blocks, she pretends they are children and names them. The names are made up but as she recites them to me I hear the harsh “ccch” sound from Hebrew and some “w” and “a” sounds from Japanese.

The first friend Kaya made in her Waldorf kindergarten class, where she started in January, is a girl who lived in Europe with her family last fall. They have shared stories during play dates and Kaya has seen photos from her friend’s trip. The girls have a connection, even if they can’t explain ancient ruins or discuss foreign currency.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Get Out! With Help from Friends — And Layers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 10:48 AM

Galbraith and baby Elise - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan Von Duntz
  • Galbraith and baby Elise

My friend Judy called last Saturday and suggested the best idea I’d heard in a long time. She and her fiancée, Phil, would head over on Sunday around noon with their cross-country skis, board games and provisions for making a yummy dinner. We’d spend the day taking turns skiing in the town forest near our house, then have dinner and hang out. The women would ski together while the men stayed home with our three-month-old Elise, then we’d swap.

After feeding Elise and handing her off to her dad and Phil, Judy and I glided through beautiful woods and fields, catching up on her wedding plans, work and relationships. The temperature never rose above 10 degrees, but the sky was clear and the sun was so strong that when the driving wind settled down, it felt downright balmy.

We returned home after about an hour and a half, just as Elise was waking from a nap. The guys then headed out on their ski tour, while Judy and I hung out with baby, sipped tea, listened to music and eventually started making dinner. It was a perfect Sunday, filled with much-needed outside and social time.

Judy’s idea was especially welcome because, after a string of days where the temperature barely rose above the single digits, I was feeling very homebound. It was too cold to take the baby anywhere, even just to walk the dog down the road. My outside-loving self was having a really hard time with this. I depend on getting my heart and legs pumping in the fresh air for mental clarity, better sleep and a more positive outlook. That Sunday with Judy and Phil really turned things around for me.

When the temperature is not hovering around zero, I head outside with Elise to cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike and walk. The key to getting outside with babies in the winter is to bundle them well to keep body temperature up and protect skin from exposure.

When I’m outside with Elise in cold temperatures, I assess how she’s doing in three ways: I look at her skin to make sure it’s not wind-burnt (red) or too cold-looking (greyish-pale), I feel her cheeks with my hand to make sure they’re not too cold and I feel the skin inside her clothing to make sure she is warm under all her layers.

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