Andy Barker, Burlington
Job: Social mission specialist, Ben & Jerry's
Daughters Emma, 10, and Tess, 7
I'm really thankful for good neighbors who help create a great space for our kids to grow up in. We have a small backyard, but the neighborhood has trees to climb, a sledding hill and a place to play sardines, a game that's like hide-and-seek. We don't have pets, but when our neighbors go away, our kids have pets. It takes a village, and our neighbors really are the village.
I'm grateful that the girls want to pursue music and have taken to their instruments — they're getting to be pretty good on their violins. I think I'm now the weak link in the Barker Family String Band; I'm grateful they'll still play with me!
One thing I try not to take for granted is the ability to create our own set of family traditions. We have to accept so much about the world and the way it is, and we can't change it. But in our own family, we can make our own rules and have our own shared understandings and relationships. All four of us get a chance to shape the family in our own way. That's a great experience to have.
Stewart Jensen, Shelburne
Owner of Jensen Strategic Marketing Services
Sons Lars, 10, and Erik, 8
In our house, we celebrate Thanksgiving with a healthy dose of introspection and humble thanks for having enough to eat, a dry and warm place to sleep, loving family, and our good health. We give thanks for those blessings nightly all month long.
We're also looking forward to visiting family in Boston — we've got a big gathering of folks from all over coming together there, so we're excited to see them and to go sightseeing with the kids. We're also thankful for the rapidly approaching winter — we're all avid skiers. We like to get out and take some early-season hikes to get conditioned and excited for the upcoming ski season.
Fall is also the time when my wife re-trenches herself in the kitchen. She makes great soup and does a lot of bread baking. She also makes the world's best pumpkin-spice chocolate-chip cookies — that's something we're all thankful for.
Greg Brand, Underhill
Owner of web-design firm Bluehouse Group
Daughters Nina, 21, and Lindsey, 15
I'm very thankful for how much our family still talks to each other. Now that we have a daughter who's out of the house, the times when we get together for a meal, or to play cards, are even more special.
When they're teenagers, most kids are actively trying to become their own person, and by 21 might not always think they need parents. I'm just thankful that we can still have interesting conversations with them about the world and about their lives.
I'm also grateful that my kids have a love of the outdoors. When they were little, they'd talk about hiking like it was a forced march through the woods, but now that Nina's older, she's going hiking and camping with her friends. Lo and behold, she likes it! You never know what's going to stick. Many of the things they resist or ignore actually end up becoming part of who they are.
Joe McVeigh, Middlebury
Author and English-language teaching consultant
Son Nathaniel, 8
We're really grateful that our son, Nat, had a good experience in the opera Madama Butterfly at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury last month; he played the role of Madame Butterfly's son. My wife and I are both singers, so we were happy for him to find something he liked doing and had a good time with.
It was really cool to see him rising to the occasion; when you're a kid and you're home with mom and dad, you can get away with a lot of stuff, but that's not true when you're part of a production. He was onstage in front of a lot of people and really had to pay attention. It was great to see how very focused he was and how much he ended up loving the experience — especially since he wasn't sure that he wanted to do it initially.
As a freelance editor and writer, I'm also thankful that my workload and deadlines have lessened a bit. As the weather has gotten colder, we've had some fires in the fireplace and have played checkers in the evenings — it's nice to have some of the professional pressure taken off so that I have time to hang out and be with my family.