Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Sun. Feb. 23, 2020: Resiliency through Connections AND Multigen Workshop: Making Personal Altars

    Last Sunday was the final in a rich month of exploring the theme for the month, "What does it mean to be a people of Resilience?"  The worship service was on the idea of leaning on one another for support through hard times and Rev. Joan told the story of Two Frogs, by Christopher Buice.  It's worth a read if you weren't there!  To tie in with that story, during the Spiritual Exploration time in the Children's Chapel, we made butter by shaking a jar of cream. It is hard to do on your own, but with a group to share the work... no problem.  What a rich treat at the end of our Explorers time!  

To continue the theme of interconnectedness, at the 9am we made a web out of yarn, and talked about spiders and their process.  Some children were inspired by the image of dream catchers, and made their own out of a hoop that has been kicking around with no purpose in the corner of the room for years!  

At the 11am, we used yarn that--on it's own--breaks easily.  When woven together with other strands, it becomes strong, just like our friends and families, and congregation, makes each of us stronger!  

In the afternoon, we were fortunate to have Johanna Nichols lead us in a lovely workshop of a spiritual practice that involves making personal altars in your own home.  She shared her own experience of how this practice has helped her over the years, through different life transitions, and some guiding ideas that she uses, including lining up certain elements and ideas with the four directions and center.  We had all ages actively engaged and sharing in a meaningful way.  There was time for breaking out and making our own altars in the space, and then sharing them with the group at the end.  Many thanks to Johanna and the participants for creating this special learning experience together.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Crossing Paths participants visit Shao Shan Temple to learn about Buddhism - February 15, 2020

The middle school Crossing Paths participants had a great visit to the Shao Shan Temple in East Calais on Saturday morning! This was part of their month-long exploration of Buddhism. Many thanks to the youth for being such respectful visitors and full of curiousity. Thanks to the kind people at Shao Shan for their hospitality and teaching, and the parent facilitators (Julie Erickson Bond and Cara Robechek) and drivers too. Julie Bond wrote: "It was a great experience for everyone - the Abbess and Abbott were terrific teachers and spent a lot of time with the group explaining concepts, asking questions and leading g us through chants and meditations." 

One of our hosts, Kenzan, of Shan Shan, wrote this blog post of the visit: "A group of middle school youth from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Montpelier, VT came and visited Shao Shan Temple on Saturday, Feb. 15. They came as part of their program studying different religions. The enthusiastic and curious group had a chance to hear about Soto Zen Buddhism, ask questions, listen to a typical service, participate in chanting, experience walking & sitting meditation and offer incense." Could be a neat field trip for some adult or all ages group in the summer.  Please reach out to the people of Shao Shan before your first visit.  Their website and contact information is here.  

One core element of the Crossing Paths program for middle schoolers to learn about other faiths is the 8 Practices of Welcoming.  These are ways of being that are good practice in general, but especially when learning from others about their traditions and culture.  They are as follows:  

The Eight Practices of Welcoming 

Be fully present.
Be curious.
Be open to being changed.
Be comfortable with discomfort.
Be an appreciative listener.
Be light-hearted.
Be gentle (allow and heal mistakes.)
Be yourself.  

~ Crossing Paths, a Soul Matters UU curriculum

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Talking with Young Children About Sexuality - Feb. 2, 2020

Bodies are Amazing!  Talking with Young Children about Sexuality
Sun. Feb. 2, 2020 ~ Unitarian Church of Montpelier
Led by Mara Iverson and Liza Earle-Centers 

It was a really nice circle of parents, Lifespan Spiritual Exploration volunteers, educators, and caring adults who gathered for our discussion last Sunday. This discussion was inspired as an alternative to a full 8 session K/1st OWL class, which can have challenging attendance requirements and is currently only available in an outdated version from 1999.  We have invested in a UCM lending library to accompany parents and educators on this journey, and it can be found in the vestry under the LSE bulletin board. We'll have a follow-up session sometime in April.

Mara Iverson, OWL instructor and Director of Education for Outright VT shared her expertise and knowledge, along with humor and compassion. Thank you, Mara! We'll remember that no matter what words we share with the young people in our lives, values are "caught, not taught" and so we better be living out our beliefs in the ways we interact in our daily lives with our families and with others. I talked about the idea of 'radical inclusivity' and always speaking or acting as if all different identities are present in a given room and to think of using as inclusive language and activities as possible. Below is a summary of the goals of this session--drawn largely on the original K-1st OWL curriculum.

Thank you to Mara for the great co-facilitation, and Meredith and Liz for help with set-up and clean-up.



  1. To encourage parents/caregivers/educators to model positive attitudes around our bodies and sexuality
  2. To empower parents/caregivers/educators to have healthy and open communication about our bodies, families, gender, consent, etc.  
  3. To strengthen the role of parents or caregivers as their children’s most important sexuality educators. 
Important elements of sexuality education at this age level:

  • To strengthen and support each child’s sense of self and self-esteem.
  • To help children understand the place of sexuality in human life and loving.  
  • To help children recognize and appreciate their bodies as good and beautiful, private and special.
  • To help children gain understanding and accurate information about human sexuality, reproduction, and gender 
  • To help children prepare for the normal changes they will experience as they grow and develop.
  • To help children develop interpersonal skills that will keep them safe and healthy.
  • To help children learn to make decisions that respect themselves and others and that anticipate possible consequences. 

Session List for K-1st Our Whole Lives
(With expansions and recommendations from us added in)

Books/resources to support
(some great ones in our LSE library)
Session 1: Our Wonderful Bodies, Part One (Useful for all sessions on the list)
Session 2: Our Wonderful Bodies, Part Two

Session 3: Healthy Bodies, Safe Bodies

Session 4: Families

Session 5: Families and Feelings

Session 6: Babies and Families

Session 7: Birth of a Baby

Resources for your own background knowledge: 

Gonads Podcast from NPR

Teaching Consent to Kids (3 min. Video--uses gender binary language, but still helpful)
4 Ways Parents Teach Kids that Consent Doesn’t Matter (common parenting practices to avoid)

Family Inclusive Language graphic (click the magnifying glass icon to enlarge)

Gender Unicorn by TERS (Trans Student Educational Resources)

Transgender and Non-Binary Children: Books to Help Adults Understand

Conjugating ‘they’ as a singular pronoun

Resources to share with your children / students: Jr. (videos on many body and sex topics designed for ages 4-9)
Consent for Kids (3 mins. video great for very young children) 
Consent and Communication (2 min. video with humor)

Great Diverse Children's Books with Transgender, Non-Binary and Gender Expansive Children

Some of the books in our lending library:

Singing as a Spiritual Practice

I don't sing because I'm happyI'm happy because I sing. ~ William James

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” - Maya Angelou

Thank you, Lisa Kynvi, our fabulous student minister this church year!  You gave us all such fabulous advice for how to include song more in our daily life for encouragement, invitation, and strength!  Thanks for the treasure trove of songs you shared!

Talking With Children About Climate Change - Jan. 28, 2020

We're thrilled about the fabulous turnout for this event.  36 people total showed up for "Talking with Children about Climate Change". We had a lively discussion about how to discuss climate change with children of various ages, talked about ways we could take action with our families, and shared some tips and resources for ways to navigate this overwhelming issue. These are some very tough questions and we thank everyone for being open to being vulnerable together. While we may never have all the answers, we at least will have a community to lean on as we muddle through it all. 

These conversations are certainly ongoing and have already brought up additional questions to bring into future Mother Up! gatherings. Some related questions that came up included addressing grief, decreasing consumer culture in our families, and how to not shame other kids and families. We look forward to exploring these challenging questions with all of your as we continue to build community together.   

Mother Up! Montpelier's monthly dinner and discussion evenings happen the 4th Tuesday of each month in our very own vestry here at UCM.  5:30-7:30pm.  

Some of the resources we shared are here:  ( I still need to make some of the links live. ) 

"How to Have a Hard Talk with Kids About our Changing Environment" -- an insightful interview with David Sobel about not terrifying kids with doomsday data

General Development Guidelines for Raising Kids that Care about Climate Change 

  • Birth - Kindergarten or even up to age 8 ~ Let your child/grandchild/students fall in love with nature! The focus should be on building a bond with nature.  As much as possible focus on direct experience with the outdoors. Books are great reinforcement. Free play with friends and family and even by oneself (with caregivers supervising from nearby) are essential.  Great hands-on stewardship activities include caring for a garden, picking up litter, planting trees.  

There’s generally consensus that we limit young children exposure to dire scientific reports or images. Discussing the heavy, detailed reality of climate change with very young children opens them to fear and grief, yet they are unable to process what could possibly be done to minimize the damages that scientists predict.  

  • Sometime 1st grade-3rd grade ~ Timing depends on when you feel they are ready.  Many recommend that you wait until you hear them asking questions about Climate Change based on something they’ve learned or overheard or seen, or questions like “Why are we walking instead of driving?” … have a conversation that teaches them the basics.  NPR’s Life Kit program offers this as a model: 

"Humans are burning lots and lots of fossil fuels for energy, in planes, in cars, to light our houses, and that's putting greenhouse gases into the air. Those gases wrap around the planet like a blanket and make everything hotter.  A hotter planet means bigger storms, it melts ice at the poles so oceans will rise, it makes it harder for animals to find places to live. And it's a really, really big problem, and there are a lot of smart people working hard on it, and there's also lots that we can do as a family to help."

Make sure to pair any discussion of Climate Change with some actions that will help you AND your children feel empowered to be part of the solution.  Continue connection time with nature.  

4th grade -  6th grade and older ~ Depending on the child, they can start to handle more complex science.  If they are wanting more information, help them find sources, without letting them get overwhelmed with dire predictions.  It is still important to limit their exposure to doomsday accounts of human extinction. They can engage more fully in activities to counter climate change.  It’s a great time to help them find other young people who are interested in doing positive action in their communities. This age group can be powerful spokespeople for the cause.  It’s important to also make sure they take breaks to just be a kid, to just have fun exploring all the wonderful people and aspects of being alive in the world. Continue connection time with nature.

From NPR “How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change”

1. Break the Silence

  • Talk with other adults! Share our feelings, fears, questions, and challenges with each other.

2. Give your Kids the Basic Facts 

Suggested script, based on conversations with several educators and psychologists, that could be used for kids as young as four or five:

"Humans are burning lots and lots of fossil fuels for energy, in planes, in cars, to light our houses, and that's putting greenhouse gases into the air. Those gases wrap around the planet like a blanket and make everything hotter.
A hotter planet means bigger storms, it melts ice at the poles so oceans will rise, it makes it harder for animals to find places to live.
And it's a really, really big problem, and there are a lot of smart people working hard on it, and there's also lots that we can do as a family to help."

3. Get Outdoors

  • Let them get dirty and fall in love with nature.  Through play and outdoor exploration, teach kids to appreciate the web of relationships in nature

4. Focus on Feelings

  • Listen to how our children are feeling and thinking about the climate crisis and help them                   manage those feelings.
  • Do positive activities as a family, spend time in nature, have a break.

5. Take Action as a Family

  • Compost,
  • Pick up trash
  • Build a solar oven
  • Write a letter to a representative or school administration
  • Bring your kids to a protest or meeting
  • Support teenage activists
  • Don't push any particular action onto our children

6. Find Hope

  • Frame problems so we can continue to hope and not collapse into cynicism, apathy, despair
  • Reassure them that adults are on the case
  • Remind kids to enjoy being kids!
  • Celebrate victories together

Talking With Children About Climate Change ~ Jan. 28, 2020

Blessing of the meal: 

I thank the Earth for feedin’ my body,I thank the Sun for warmin’ my bones, 
I thank the Trees for the air that I breathe, I thank the Water for nourishin’ my soul.       
~ by Ana K. W. Moffett    (link to a video of the song here.)

Closing Song:

Chorus: You gotta put one foot in front of the other and lead with love, 
Put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.  (repeat entire chorus)

(Verses are call and response) 1. Don’t give up hope, you’re not alone
Don’t you give up, keep moving on.  

2. Lift up your eyes, don’t you despair
Look up ahead, the path is there

3. I know you’re scared, and I’m scared too
But here I am, right next to you
Other Resources: 

  • The Parents' Guide to Climate Revolution-Mary DeMocker 
  • Last Child in the Woods-Richard Louv
  • Simplicity Parenting: Using the Power of Less to Raise Happy, Secure Children – Kim John Payne
  • Drawdown-Paul Hawken
  • Dirt to Soil-Gabe brown



Climate Reality Project 
  • Breaks down ways to talk with children based on different types of personalities: Pollution Preventer, Climate Change Warrior, Habitat Hero, Biodiversity champion
  • Includes conversation starters for each personality type

Chicago Academy of Sciences
  • Breaks it down by age (2-5, 6-9, 10-12)
  • Guiding questions and activities
Carbon Cowboys
  • Collection of videos on regenerative agriculture 

Kids Stories: 


Our Climate Our Future 
  • Free educational video series, great for teens
  • Videos of youth sharing climate stories from around the country
  • Resources for educators 

Upcoming Events: 

Mother Up! Montpelier meets monthly at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier on the 4th Tuesday of each month from 5:30-7:30PM.

5th Annual Festival of Trees and Tu B’Shevat Celebration
Sun. Feb 9, 1-4pm at North Branch Nature Center.  Free. Fun activities for all ages, indoors and outdoors.  Find out more on Facebook Event page.

Earth Day Activities at the Unitarian Church
Sat. April 18th - Visit our FB page for more details closer to the date.  

In Bloom Conference: Promising Practices in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education
Saturday, May 16, 2020
hosted by North Branch Nature Center
Moretown Elementary School
Join our facebook group - Mother Up! Families Rise Up for Climate Action

Peace is Something We Do

This piece was written in September 2011, shortly after the floods caused by Hurricane Irene.  I could have written it this week.  At the ti...