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click to enlarge The Novak family's Monopoly board - ALISON NOVAK
  • Alison Novak
  • The Novak family's Monopoly board

My family recently started playing Monopoly while we eat dinner. My 11-year-old son somehow convinced us that we needed the more expansive Mega Edition, so we've stationed its huge square board in the center of our round kitchen table for our nightly game. The four of us have just a sliver of surface to balance our plates of pasta or black bean tacos, plus our piles of money and properties.

Sometimes the competitive nature of the game can lead to squabbles over the rules or one player's gloating, but playing Monopoly while we nosh also seems to have broken up some of the monotony of Day 300-and-something of the pandemic. Instead of talking about the particulars of our not-always-super-exciting days, we can escape for a bit into the world of Marvin Gardens and Boardwalk.

One of the many lessons I've learned in the course of this COVID-19 ordeal: Novelty is important. Especially in the winter, it can feel really depressing when there's nothing on the horizon to look forward to. So, in the absence of concerts, parties, vacations and visits with extended family, I've found that it helps to manufacture our own special occasions.

Sometimes that means signing up for an online lesson, like the Japanese cooking class my daughter and I just took with my mom and sister through New York City's League of Kitchens. Other times it's a new, pandemic-safe destination. We recently found the perfect sledding hill to bomb down in the Mad River Valley. This weekend, we're planning to skate the 4.3-mile loop at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee. Sometimes it's as simple as watching a TV show that makes me laugh really hard.

This issue of Kids VT marks a year's worth of issues produced during the pandemic. While we've all weathered this storm in different ways, I think it's fair to say that none of us could have expected last March that things would unfold the way they have. In "Use Your Words," Kate Farrell writes about her unexpected journey — from teaching high school, to being on the cusp of starting a new business, to homeschooling her kids. She chose a new routine for her family when she realized the one they had fallen into felt uncomfortable and unsustainable.

In "Pop Culture," Keegan Albaugh writes about the depression and hopelessness that many parents have faced as the pandemic has worn on. He offers ideas for lifestyle changes that may help boost the mood — ones that have worked for him. And in "Growing Up Green," Meredith Bay-Tyack writes about ways to set up your home to encourage self-sufficiency in younger kids — in everything from getting dressed to getting snacks — and take a little burden off parents in the process.

This month in "Vermont Visionaries," Cat Cutillo writes about Vergennes Union High School teacher Matthew Schlein. Twenty-one years ago, Schlein founded the Walden Project, an innovative outdoor program for students based on the teachings of Henry David Thoreau. I felt inspired learning about his fresh approach to education.

We've also included a calendar of 10 fun things to do in March. Who knows? Maybe you'll find something that feels a little novel to you.

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