Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bird is the Word on a Mother-Son Outing

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 1:17 PM

The barn outside the Birds of Vermont Museum - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • The barn outside the Birds of Vermont Museum
My 8-year-old son, Harper, is technically a Leo, but really, I swear he’s an avian. When he was a baby, he squawked so much for food, we called him the Seagull; these days, with his habit of snatching and stashing shiny, silvery things around our home in Shelburne, his spirit animal (determined by the Dunn family) is the crow.

I’m a squirrel, meanwhile, and happen to have a lot in common with Harper, including a love of garage sales. Weird, old, cheap stuff that we can hide away in our house until next spring’s cleaning comes around? Yes, please! So when I noticed a calendar listing for a “Garage Sale for the Birds” at Huntington’s Birds of Vermont Museum to be held last Saturday, I went nuts and Harper was atwitter.

We’d never been to the Birds of Vermont Museum, which is open to the public from May to October. And as we rumbled through the back roads of Chittenden County in my 4Runner, passing neon notices for moving sales, garage sales, yard sales and barn sales (but no bird sales), we became nervous. Where was this place? To keep Harper’s spirits up, I asked him about his favorite bird. “A penguin!” he said emphatically, and grew quiet again. Then, suddenly, somewhere along Sherman Hollow Road, we spotted the sign.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New App Helps Moms Find Places to Pump Milk and Feed Their Babies

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Mama cofounder and CEO Sascha Mayer (right) with employees Annie Ode (left) and Nikkie Kent - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Mama cofounder and CEO Sascha Mayer (right) with employees Annie Ode (left) and Nikkie Kent
It's often difficult for nursing moms to find clean, comfortable spaces to nurse their babies or pump breast milk. Burlington-based Mamava is trying to make it easier. The maker of free-standing lactation suites — stationed at 200 locations nationwide, including airports, stadiums, colleges and medical centers — just released a mobile app to help moms find private, dignified spots to nurse and pump.

The free app includes an interactive map featuring Mamava lactation suites and other designated places to nurse and pump. It also has links to lactation-related articles, hacks for breastfeeding moms, inspiring quotations, breastfeeding tips and a guided lactation meditation.

“We’re a company founded by moms for moms," said Mamava CEO and cofounder Sascha Mayer. "We understand better than anyone the real challenges breastfeeding moms face, and we’re changing those realities."

The app, which officially launches at the TechCrunch Disrupt expo in New York City on May 15, is available through iTunes and in the Google Play Store. To coincide with the app, Mamava released a video celebrating nursing moms and babies this week.

Tags: , , , , ,

Show Mom Some ❤️ This Mother's Day

Posted By and on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Perennial Pleasures
  • Perennial Pleasures
Need some ideas for celebrating mom this weekend that go beyond the usual crumb-strewn breakfast-in-bed? Find some of our top picks below.

Roll into Stowe Bowl for a combination bowling and brunch, featuring tropical coconut pancakes and Southern biscuits slathered with gravy.

For a fancier outing, sample classic cucumber sandwiches and sweet scones at the elegant English Cream Tea served in the flower gardens of East Hardwick’s Perennial Pleasures.

Lund's Mother's Day Ride
  • Lund's Mother's Day Ride
If your crew is fitness-oriented, lace up your running shoes for an array of options featuring biking, running and walking (while also raising funds for nonprofits.) Check out Georgia's J.M.M.Y. Run, the Essex Chips 5K, the Easy-As-Pie 5K and Family Fun Run in Norwich, Poultney's Katie's Center Mother's Day 5K or Lund's Mother's Day Ride and Walk for Children.

Is a nice leisurely stroll more your speed? Try this wildflower walk in Marshfield or this bird walk in Huntington.

Nava Tehila Ensemble
  • Nava Tehila Ensemble
For music lovers, Waterbury’s Zenbarn Studio welcomes the Nava Tehila Ensemble with a concert benefitting refugees, capped off with a bonfire.

On Saturday, a contra dance in Cabot encourages movers and shakers of all ages to cut a rug in a folksy atmosphere.

No matter what you choose to do, here’s to a lovely family weekend.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Congratulations to our May Writing Contest Winners!

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 3:30 PM


Writing Contest Winners

In our April issue, we asked kids to use their senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch to write a sensory poem about spring. We selected two winners, who’ll each receive a $25 gift certificate to Crow Bookshop in Burlington. You’ll find their writing below.

Lindley Pickard, 10, Shelburne

Spring is a season that surprises all. One year it’s a warm spring, the other is cold. Spring brings warmth and beautiful sights, flowers and colorful lights. I hear the birds coming back North. I hear the cool wind as it gives my spine a chill. I can see the grass on the tall hill as the snow melts away. The best part about spring is that it always reminds you of peace and love.

Emilia Poczobut, 7, Barre

I see the sky is blue
and the ponds are too.
I feel the pool is cool.
I hear bees waking up in trees.
I feel showers for the flowers.
The grass is green, better put on sunscreen.
The cherry blossom smells awesome.
You don’t need a coat when you’re on a boat.
I taste sugar on snow, it is time to go.

Tags: , ,

Congratulations to our May Coloring Contest Winners!

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 3:29 PM


The artwork this month saluted spring’s arrival with bursts of blossoms, sparkling raindrops and smiling sunshines. Taylor, 9, surrounded her cotton-candy pink snail, inching over mint-green grass, with tiny flowers. Anaia, 5, chose a rainbow of colors for her slow-moving creature’s shell, surrounded by pen-and-ink Easter eggs decorated with zig-zags. Our enthusiastic judges had a blast deciphering 7-year-old AJ’s mystery message written backwards in a spiral on his golden snail’s shell. Thanks for the stellar submissions, young artists. Keep ’em coming!

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

"Here Comes Peter Snaily-Tail”
Emilia Carini, 9, Underhill


“Day and Night Snail”
Cindy Do, 8, South Burlington

“Let’s Party, Spring is Here”
Jiya Sekar, 4, Montpelier


Tags: , ,

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Mother-Kid Outing: The Fungus Among Us in Shelburne

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:49 AM

Dillon holding a mushroom - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Dillon holding a mushroom
I love mushrooms. Shitake, portabella, oyster or white button — you name it; I’ll stir-fry it, roast it, toast it and make the most of it when preparing meals for myself.

My children? Not so much, unless you count gathering the toadstools that pop up frequently in our yard. So when I heard about “Responsible Mushroom Foraging & Harvesting,” a free seminar hosted recently at Shelburne’s Pierson Library, I was hungry for more on the spores, envisioning a spring and summer full of 'shrooming around the Green Mountain State.

It took a bit of healthy bribery (Books!) to get Dillon, 10, and Harper, 8, to the library, but once we entered the back conference room, they seemed transfixed by the folding table display of what looked not like the soil-dusted stuff found wrapped in cellophane on the shelves of Hannaford, but gnarled knots of dense, Hobbit-esque growths.

“If you’re here with the intention to harvest mushrooms you can eat,” said presenter Elliott Cluba, a Vermont-based naturalist, herbalist and primitive skills educator, “this is not the class.”

Elliott Cluba - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Elliott Cluba

“We’re talking about medicinal mushrooms,” he continued before launching into a gentle lecture on how we would not, should not and really could not munch one of these medicinal mushrooms. “You’d have to hammer it or take an ax to it," he explained. "The cells are essentially the same as crustaceans. Imagine trying to eat a lobster shell.”

Slightly red with embarrassment at having arrived late to Cluba’s talk, I took notes on the role of chaga mushrooms in Chinese medicine dating back 5,000 years, and its habitat on silver birch trees and old New England fences. Dillon and Harper, meanwhile, passed around samples. “It takes 10 to 20 years to grow, and I want to make sure we don’t take another awesome living organism and wipe it off the planet,” said Cluba.

Still, the half-dozen of us in the audience were curious about the potential poison in these puppies, the “herniated mycelium that had pushed itself out of a tree.”

“When I started doing this in my early 20s — well, I’m happy to be alive, because I was pretty excited,” said Cluba. “Mushrooms! I’m going to eat them! I’m not scared! I know what I’m doing!’ And I didn’t know as well as I should have.”

Dillon and Harper were unfazed — or fazed? I couldn’t tell. Harper sat transfixed with his legs crossed, and Dillon looked earnestly through her owl-like glasses at Cluba.

“I’m glad there are a couple of kids here,” said Cluba with a nod toward my tots, "because kids can see things a lot clearer. It’s about taking a peek and seeing things.”

It was also about learning some nifty new info, such as how drying mushrooms in the sun increases their vitamin D content, and tips for storing the spores. “You never want to put mushrooms in a paper bag — ever,” said Cluba. “They don’t like having their moisture contained.”

Midway through an April staycation, the talk also reminded me of my growing relationship with my kids as we push ourselves into the natural world. “A parasitic mushroom is something that parasitizes something that’s living, and then grows off of its host,” said Cluba, “and a symbiotic mushroom is something that works with an organism and helps it to grow, helps it to be stronger."

Sarah Tuff Dunn writes a monthly blog post on an unusual excursion she's taken with her kids. Read her previous posts on a poetry workshop at the Fletcher Free Library and a visit to the Fleming Museum here and here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April's Birthday Club Winners

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 9:46 AM

Congratulations to these April Birthday Club winners!

  • Bayley
Bayley lives in Winooski and turns 7 on April 14. She’s a happy-go-lucky girl with a big heart and a love for animals. She enjoys arts and crafts and ice skating.

Bayley wins entry for two to Petra Cliffs’ Friday Night Kids Club.

  • Naomi
Naomi lives in Moretown and turns 9 on April 3. She loves skiing, biking, climbing, swimming and playing sports with her friends. She has a contagious smile that matches her great sense of humor.

  • Corwyn
Corwyn lives in Burlington and turns 6 on April 9. His hobbies include skiing, mountain biking and playing games with friends, especially the board game King of Tokyo. He’s also a huge go-karts and
Star Wars fan.

  • Bryce
Bryce lives in Orwell and turns 4 on April 26. He’s a happy kid who enjoys riding his four wheeler and playing superhero games outside. He also loves his new baby sister, Kayleigh.
Naomi, Corwyn and Bryce each win a day pass to Petra Cliffs.

Join the Birthday Club! Submit your child's information online at

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Congrats to our April Coloring & Writing Contest Winners!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 12:37 PM


"Rainbow Space Duck" by Bronwyn Withers, age 5, South Burlington
  • "Rainbow Space Duck" by Bronwyn Withers, age 5, South Burlington

Nearly 150 creative coloring contest submissions covered our judging tables this month! Eleven-year-old Zoey Copp summed up the spring season with her bright yellow duck surrounded by a storm of rainbow drops. Madeleine Lantman, 5, dressed her waterfowl in a green top hat surrounded my multicolored grass. Lucia Hackerman gave her masterpiece an interactive twist, challenging our judges to find the four-leaf clovers hiding in her green mosaic. At right, find the three winners of annual memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.

"Squeaky Stripes" by Hallie Miller, age 7, Milton
  • "Squeaky Stripes" by Hallie Miller, age 7, Milton
"Lucky Ducky" by Iana Mecca, age 12, South Burlington
  • "Lucky Ducky" by Iana Mecca, age 12, South Burlington


Our two writing contest winners this month impressed us with their thoughtful and powerful entries about a  emale that inspired them, in honor of Women's History   Month in March. They each won $25 gift certificate to the Crow Bookshop in Burlington. Here are their submissions:

Zahrah Muhammad, age 9, Essex
Someone who inspires me is my older sister, Firdaus. She inspires me by being confident about herself. She does this by talking in a loud and clear voice. Another thing she does that inspires me is to persevere and never give up. For example, I take ice skating lessons and there’s on trick that I can’t complete. My sister knew that I was struggling so she helped me learn the trick. I  ppreciate her and I am pleased to call her my sister.

Sam Skolnik, age 9, Middlesex
Seven months ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the night so clearly, me and my sister out on the porch in the crisp, tranquil night air, the tears. The air, the earth and the trees felt so indifferent, blowing around in the late autumn silence. I was shocked. I had no idea, not even the slightest hint that my mom, a healthy, fit, productive woman somehow could even have a risk of getting such a horrible disease. I was still shocked, when months later she ecided to do chemo. And again I was shocked, when the beautiful hair began to ruthlessly but slowly fall off her head. But I was even more amazed at how she handled this horrible process of destroying the monster that was trying to eat her, take her. She stood strong and tall above that monster, beating it back but paying for every inch of it. She still isn’t done beating that horrible monster back, but she’s close. She didn’t flinch, or try to hide. No, not my mom. She took that monster and wrung its neck. She took it and tossed it right out the window, strong and hard. And that is the woman who inspired me, told me through her actions that even when things are hard, you keep fighting, don’t flinch away. Never back down. And I will take that and listen to it. Thank you, mom, for showing this to me.

Find the Kids VT Writing Contest on page 40 and the Coloring Contest on page 41 in our April issue! You have until April 15 to submit your entries.

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Mother-Son Poetry Experience at Fletcher Free Library

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 11:58 AM

Third-grade writer Harper - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Third-grade writer Harper
When Shelburne Community School staged a third-grade author celebration last month, my 8-year-old son, Harper, was beside himself with excitement about his latest work, titled “Stupendous Skiing.” The words had just seemed to flow out of his Ticonderoga No. 2. “Have you ever wondered how to ski,” Harper wrote. “Well this book will tell you. Downhill or cross country. You name it. Skiing is the most popular snow sport in the world. So let’s get reading!”

As a mom, I was proud. As a writer who suffers from the occasional block — well, I was jealous. But when it came to his delivery, I was empathetic. Harper refused to read the words aloud, instead choosing to run around the classroom and eat Oreo cookies at 8 a.m. Chip off the old block, as they say.

Fletcher Free Library
  • Fletcher Free Library
So when I saw that Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library hosts something called the “Poetry Experience” on the first and third Saturday of each month, I had a bit of a light-bulb moment. Perhaps this could give Harper and me the tools for not only the written word, but the spoken word, too. We recruited our neighbor Ariel, a fourth grader, to join us on a frigid Saturday earlier this month. Upon arrival, we found our way to the library’s basement Community Room where there was a circle of empty chairs.

We sat there. And sat there. And sat there. The Poetry Experience was supposed to run from 1 to 3 p.m., but by 1:30, nobody had shown up. We decided to stage our own workshop, making up riffs on “Roses are Red” and haikus about chewing gum, and eventually giving up to check out the engaging “Exploring Human Origins” exhibit upstairs.

When I track down Rajnii Eddins, a poet, rapper and Burlington School District paraeducator who oversees the Poetry Experience, I learn that a family emergency had prevented his attending the workshop, which sprang out of his mother’s work as a writer and performer. “It’s about self-expression and imagination, not critique,” Eddins tells me over the phone. “Everybody has a story that’s valuable. It’s a safe space to be creative and vulnerable and willing to share. As a hip-hop artist, I know that one can benefit from having a platform.”

The Poetry Experience typically sees between five and 10 participants as young as 7 and as old as 80, says Eddins. Participants get time for writing and sharing their work. They also work in tandem to create a collaborative story or poem. Which means that Harper, Ariel and I weren’t too far off in creating our own Poetry Experience. In hindsight, it was a success — with not an Oreo cookie in sight (we went to Lake Champlain Chocolates afterward instead).

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Milton High School Students Explore STEAM Education, With a Dog

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 12:56 PM

Milton High School students work with Austin as teacher Courtney Reckord looks on - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • Milton High School students work with Austin as teacher Courtney Reckord looks on
On a Tuesday morning last month, Courtney Reckord's high school students welcomed a new classmate: Austin. The barrel-chested mutt wagged his way into Reckord's Full STEAM Ahead class at Milton High School, greeting teenagers with wet-nosed nudges and enthusiastic prancing. Maybe Austin knew that it was his lucky day; these kids were about to make him a brace for one of his injured back legs.

As the acronym implies, Full STEAM Ahead draws on science, technology, engineering, art and math. Throughout the semester, Reckord and her students tackle projects that necessitate a holistic approach to learning — one intended to motivate students to solve problems by learning new skills. Most of the kids in the elective class are sophomores, with a smattering of juniors and seniors.

Reckord, 41, also happens to be the first educator-in-residence at Burlington's Generator makerspace. Along with the title comes a $500 monthly stipend, some of which goes toward supplies for Full STEAM Ahead. She also gets a work station at Generator and access to their equipment, including laser cutters, 3D printers, and woodworking and metalworking tools.

Preparing the cast - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • Preparing the cast
The art teacher — who moonlights making jewelry — has worked at Milton High School for eight years. And while she occasionally incorporates techie elements into her classes, this is the first one she's taught that is entirely dedicated to STEAM curriculum.

Reckord’s students have already made personalized skateboards with laser-etched designs. They customized cardboard pinball machines from local company Cardboard Teck Instantute. Now, they're setting their minds toward making Austin a new leg brace.

Two years ago, the 7-year-old dog had anterior cruciate ligament surgery on both hind legs. His owner, Rhonda Keyt, says he struggles to get up on the couch and sometimes favors one leg over the other. When Keyt saw Reckord's post on Front Porch Forum looking for a dog with a disability, she responded. Reckord scheduled a visit with Austin and immediately fell in love.

Students prepared for the dog's first visit by taking a field trip to Yankee Medical in Burlington to see how braces are fitted for humans. The first step in making the brace is taking a cast of the injured leg. So when the dog arrived, the kids got down to business — after some requisite petting and exclamations of how friendly he was.
Teacher Courtney Record cuts off Austin's cast - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • Teacher Courtney Record cuts off Austin's cast

The pup was skittish at first but soon settled down. He patiently allowed the kids to slip a stocking over one of the legs, then wrap it in plaster-covered gauze, which would harden into the shape of his limb.

After letting the cast set, Reckord snipped it off with scissors. Austin jumped to his feet and resumed running around the room, wagging his tail.

One student tenderly wiped excess plaster off the dog's leg. Then, the kids said their goodbyes to Austin with affectionate head pats.
Over the next few weeks, they'll be researching and prototyping the brace. "They are using the plaster cast as the negative," Reckord explains. "They will then create a plaster 'positive' that is close to the shape of the leg. They will use that to form the brace, in order to get it close to fitting. Then we will make minor tweaks to get it to fit better."

Austin will come back in late March to try on the contraption and see if it helps him.

Reckford isn't sure how it will all unfold. "It can be scary doing projects like this," she acknowledges, "because sometimes they don't work out." The kids might have to learn other skills, like 3D modeling, to make a hinge for Austin’s brace.

You can't be attached to the outcome, Reckford says. The benefits are in what students learn along the way.

Tags: , , , , ,

  • Sign up for Wee-Mail!

    camps central

    Camp Farwell

    Camp Farwell

    Newbury, VT

    Founded as the first girls camp in the US, we are a family run business providing a completely elective activity program, which allows campers to choose only the activities meaningful to them. Girls build skill and confidence in their favorite activities and build self-esteem, self-concept, and leadership skills. Campers are…(more)

    other camps » learn more »

    Reader Reviews

    • Re: Common Roots

      Rating Star Rating Star Rating Star Rating Star Rating Star
      • Laurie is an incredibly caring and dedicated teacher with tons of experience teaching paper making,…

      • on May 3, 2017
    • More »

    Kids VT says...