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Ups and Downs 

click to enlarge On top of Stowe Pinnacle - ALISON NOVAK
  • Alison Novak
  • On top of Stowe Pinnacle

On a muggy Sunday last month, my family decided to climb Stowe Pinnacle. My husband, Jeff, and I had done the hike a handful of times in our pre-kids days. We recalled it being beautiful and just slightly more challenging than our old standby, Mount Philo. Our kids are 9 and 6 now, so we figured they were ready to enter a new phase of hiking.

Within 15 minutes of setting out, my shirt was completely soaked with sweat. The path was steeper than I'd remembered, and I quickly assessed that it would be a long haul, especially for my youngest. I activated the run-tracker app on my phone and watched as our pace slowed the farther up we went. I tried to keep positive despite my own discomfort. "C'mon, we'll stop for a snack when we get to that big tree stump," I beseeched them. And I thanked the heavens that we'd brought M&M's for fuel.

We made it to the top, where the views of the fields and farmland below were spectacular. We sat quietly, ate smooshed PB&Js and let the sweat dry. Going down took nearly as long as going up: One kid had tummy troubles; the other tripped on a rock and fell. Eventually we reached the bottom, with the knowledge that — though it might not always be pretty — longer hikes are now an option for our family.

I can't help but think of that hike as a metaphor for the upcoming school year. Our expectations are high when we send our kids off in September with new backpacks, fresh haircuts and sun-kissed skin. Soon, reality sets in. Lost water bottles. Early-morning grouchiness. Homework power struggles.

Some kids face more difficult challenges. Growing up in Norwich, Sam Drazin, who was born with a craniofacial anomaly called Treacher Collins syndrome, experienced social isolation starting in middle school. He overcame adversity to become a teacher and recently started Changing Perspectives, a nonprofit that helps kids learn about disabilities and develop empathy. Read about the important work Drazin's organization is doing with local schools in "Lessons in Kindness."

Continuing our back-to-school theme, Jessica Lara Ticktin interviews a high school principal and his software-company exec wife about how they juggle demanding jobs and raising their daughters ("Balancing Act"). In "The Art of," contributing editor Meredith Coeyman gets tips from an art teacher/mom on bringing kids to "grown-up" museums. And Megan James spotlights the newest, and youngest, member of the State Board of Education — Rutland High School junior Connor Solimano — in "One to Watch."

In this issue, we also celebrate early fall with a corn-maze roundup ("Fit Families") and a "Habitat" showcasing a local family's backyard fire pit — the perfect place for toasting marshmallows on a crisp September evening.

Cheers to the start of another school year! Surely it will bring unanticipated challenges, but hopefully there will also be many opportunities to stop and enjoy the view.


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