Category Archives: Motherhood

Love in the Poultry Yard

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“I think those hens are about to start a #MeToo movement,” my husband said, coming in one night after tucking our chickens into their coop.

Yes, spring fever has struck our poultry. Watching the chickens and ducks act on their hormonal urges, I can almost hear the voice of Friend Owl in Bambi: “Nearly everybody gets ‘twitterpated’ in the spring!”

In that Disney-fied, animated world, being “twitterpated” involves a lot of animals fluttering their eyelashes, blushing under their fur, and slinking off into the flowers. That is not the truth; at least, not in our poultry yard.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Watching My Daughters Climb

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All four of our daughters love climbing, but one of them has elevated climbing to a lifestyle.

I’m not talking about “climbing” in any metaphorical sense; I’m talking about actual climbing, defined in Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary as, “to draw or pull oneself up, over, or to the top of by using hands and feet.”

My climbing daughter has always scaled whatever was available, with the goal of getting as high as possible. She began, as a toddler, with the boulders and trees that filled the yard of our house; her first word was “rock.” At two years old, she amused herself during her big sisters’ swimming lessons by climbing the trees by the town pool. It was from one of these trees that she fell that summer, thankfully from a height of only about four feet – she was on her way down – thus earning the dubious honor of being the first of our children observed for signs of concussion.

In recent years, this same daughter has climbed rocky cliffs by the Maine coast. She claimed a willow tree in our yard (named “Willowbee”), in whose branches she sits whenever she needs time alone. She once scaled the six-foot-high, spike-topped metal fence that borders the library parking lot, rather than simply using the entrance. When we visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on a recent trip to New York, I found it necessary to warn her beforehand that the trees there were not for climbing. The friends we were visiting understood my warning the next day, when they watched her attempt to climb every city fence we passed.

Raising this daughter has made me curious about the human impulse to climb. What ancient code in our DNA compels us to lift feet off the ground, pull up with arms, and attempt to defy gravity? Was climbing necessary to avoid predators? Did an elevated perspective improve one’s success in hunting and gathering? Were climbers valued members of society because they could keep watch from the heights and be the first to spot impending danger?

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

(Not) Wheeling and Dealing at Barter Day

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When we began homeschooling our children about two years ago, it was a choice born of necessity: Our family would be spending five months in Berkeley, California while my husband was on sabbatical, and in order to have the flexibility to make the most of our stay (and to avoid navigating the Berkeley public school system), homeschooling seemed the obvious solution. I assumed it would be a contentious, stressful, and painful experience. More than once, I assured myself (and my daughters), “We can survive anything for five months!”

When we returned to Vermont and continued homeschooling our children, it was a choice born of love. The actual experience of homeschooling my children proved my expectations wrong: It felt nothing at all like ‘surviving,’ and more like thriving.

Homeschooling in Vermont has meant that our family has become part of a group known as the “Addison County Homeschoolers.” That’s the name assigned to the group’s email list and its Facebook page, but the group itself is a bit diffuse. In a style that I’ve come to identify as very Vermont, our homeschool group is more like a loose collective of families who tend to do their own independent things, but who gather on occasion for community events.

These community events include a couple of theater productions each year, weekly open gym and sharing times, an annual spelling bee, and a monthly meeting.

This month, the Addison County Homeschoolers came together for something that was once an annual event, but that hadn’t happened in a year or so: Barter Day.

Click here to continue reading about our Barter Day experience in this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Curses!

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“Mommy broke the compost bin and said a bad word!”

On the first Friday of March, my daughters broadcast this announcement to every person we saw: friends, family, neighbors, check-out clerks. It was BIG NEWS in our household, because it was the first time my daughters had heard me swear.

I am not a swear-y person (at least, not outside of those conversations that happen behind our closed bedroom door when I update my husband about certain events of the day.) It’s just not my habit: I didn’t grow up in a swearing house, and to this day I’ve never heard my own mother utter anything stronger than, “Darn it all!” I try to set a similar example for my daughters, while encouraging them to be careful about what comes out of their mouths.

“The words you say paint a picture,” I’ve told them more than once. “Think about what kind of picture you want to be painting.”

To this end, not only the “big bad swear words” are verboten in our house; we also try to avoid words like, “shut up,” “stupid,” and “hate.”

All this to say: If curses are coming out of my mouth, it’s a sign that something is dramatically off; that something has pushed me outside the limits of who I want to be.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Safety

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It was this year’s peculiar cocktail of sub-zero temperatures, accumulating snow, thaws with mixed precipitation followed by a return to freezing temperatures – combined with the heavy clay soil and topography of our property – that turned our yard into a skating rink.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think we had three ponds on our land, when what we really have are three huge frozen puddles. This distinction means nothing to my daughters, who slip and slide with abandon over the smooth expanses of ice in their snow boots. Where air has gotten in between the ice, they stomp on the top layer so it fractures into thin shards that they pick up and eat — nature’s original popsicles.

My husband and I, with higher centers of gravity and work to do, snap metal crampons onto our boots when we go out to walk the dog or feed the poultry. We walk gingerly and drive slowly. We play it safe.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

This Little Light

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One week ago, my daughters made beeswax candles for the first time. Before you get impressed, this was not the sort of candle making that involves dipping wicks into a vat of hot wax; our sort of candle making involved ordering sheets of colored beeswax and a spool of wicking. Cut a length of wicking about one inch longer than the beeswax, lay it at one end of the sheet, and roll. Voila!

It’s one of the simplest and most satisfying crafts our family has ever done. Everyone – from our four-year-old on up – was able to produce nice-looking and useable candles. The older girls got fancy, rolling their beeswax sheets into spiral tapers and cutting shapes from different colors to decorate their candles.

My parents hosted the candle making in their mudroom, perfect because the floor’s radiant heat made the beeswax more pliable. All together, my daughters and some friends spent two hours rolling beeswax on that floor, producing an impressive number of candles.

Most of these candles were gifts for friends and teachers. That’s the beauty of winter candle making: No matter what you celebrate this time of year, it involves candles.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Missing Santa Claus

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Our family missed Santa Claus this year.

Ever since we moved to Vermont seven years ago, our family has attended the “Very Merry Middlebury” festivities in downtown Middlebury on the first Saturday of December. This annual celebration, designed to welcome the winter holiday season, includes a hot chocolate hut, horse-drawn carriage rides, a scavenger hunt for themed ornaments in Main Street’s shop windows, and various craft fairs. The Sheldon Museum’s spectacular model train diorama is open to the public, as are the impressive entries in the Vermont Folklife Center’s gingerbread creation contest. Inspired children can make (and eat) their own graham cracker “gingerbread” houses at Ilsley Public Library.

Santa Claus himself begins the day, riding into Middlebury atop a town fire engine.

We look forward to the Very Merry Middlebury tradition every year. But this year, there was some consternation among the adults in our family when we noticed that the schedule listed Santa’s arrival at 9:15 AM.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.