The Ripple: Your Local River is Alive…and Waiting

Touch the River and It’ll Touch You

The Connecticut River is the lifeblood of the Pioneer Valley.

Thinking of how important it is for nature-lovers to spend time “being in” nature, the conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote: “We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.”

Ethics involve what we judge to be right or wrong; and Leopold is correct: if we are to be ethical—if we are to wisely judge the rightness or wrongness of a thing—we need to have a direct experience of it. It’s easy to forget that a river is alive, and has a life that is valuable unless, from time to time, you touch it. Unless we touch the river, we can’t understand enough about it to be ethical towards it.

Rivers have always provided humans with perfect places to live, whether it be the nhà sông of Vietnam, the chickee hut of the Mississippi shrimp catcher, or the highrise of a hedgefund manager towering over the Hudson. We’ve always been attracted to rivers because they, of all landscape features, are the most alive: kinetic in movement and full of creatures. There is a big difference between viewing a river, though, and touching it. I want you to touch a river this month if you haven’t lately—and let that river be the Connecticut, which flows for over 400 miles from just over the Canadian border to Long Island Sound.

One way to touch the Connecticut River is to volunteer to assist the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s Source to Sea Clean-up, scheduled for Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Bonding Through Art Bombing

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Free Play, After School

We’ve all heard of Yarn Bombing… how about Art Bombing? Read on for Carrie’s Art Bomb idea, a fall version of her Play Bombs spread throughout the community in the spring.

We made the switch again. Library Monday. Music Tuesday. PE shoes needed Wednesday and Thursday. Art Friday. Nightly reading. Pack the lunch. We are in the school routine but missing something.

Third grade could not come quick enough for an 8 year old at our house. Third grade means being on the top floor with the big kids, having the teacher she wanted and more freedom and responsibility for herself and her school work. Third graders earn a second grade buddy in the spring. She is even excited about the tests in March and April. The school makes a big fuss over the third through fifth graders during testing. She wants the fuss. Curious.

“Mom, can I add blank paper to my backpack tomorrow?”

“Mom, can we just play after school today?”

“Mom, can we just draw all day Saturday? Both of us at the kitchen table?”

The answers are, “YES!”

I see what is missing. I realize the social and academic bonuses to school but September always leaves me with the feeling that the hours of 8:50am to 3pm are an obstacle to my fun time with my kiddo. I grow accustomed by October. September is my transition month as the mom with a kid growing up, quickly. We will transition together. Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: Season End Learning Through Gardening

Four September Garden Chores To Enrich The Family Gardening Experience


The gardening season is starting to come to an end and it’s time to start to think about how to help your garden for next year.  This is a perfect opportunity to get your kids thinking about the design of your family garden, and the importance of completing the season through some fall garden chores.  Here is a list of four chores I would suggest you do with your kids this weekend or next: Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Connecting on the Last Days of Summer

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Summer’s Sweet Relief

This way for a welcome diversion!

Last weekend, I went with my littlest kids to the Tri-County Fair in Northampton, MA.  It turns out that there have been close to 200 of them, and it is the oldest “agricultural fair” in the Nation.  Being at the fair is a throwback.  Not to a gentler age, but to the inescapable grittiness that has always been part of fairs everywhere.  Sure, some things are different.  In 1816, a person might have eaten beans and ham with corn bread on the midway.  Now people eat fried cheese cake and chocolate covered bacon.  Decades ago, a new showcase food might have been the now blasé ice cream cone. Last weekend I saw caffeinated peanut butter.

We spent money on slushies in swirly cups, “won” 50-cent stuffed animals after spending ten dollars, and saw an arctic fox.  It was hot. We had a terrific time.  You see, we were celebrating the beginning of a new school year.  The earlier part of the day was spent trying frantically to connect with friends and make last minute plans for the final day of summer.  Tensions and anxieties were running high as the kids feverishly recognized that summer was coming to an end.  When it dawned on me that the real reason for their irritation and frustration was time, or really, lack of it, I changed my course.  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Take Nature’s Lead

Go with the Flow

Have you ever had that moment, where something you’ve heard over and over again finally takes on a whole new meaning? I found that happening to me once before when observing my neighbors chickens for quite some time feeding in the yard, and truly understood what was meant to be called ‘a chicken.’ Well this moment was a similar embodiment of a saying found routed in nature that was really brought to life by engagement and observation.

On a recent vacation, my family was taking out some canoes and kayaks in a saltwater river that connected the bay side to the ocean side of Cape Cod. The direction of the current was dependent on high and low tide. If you timed it right you could ideally ride the current in one direction and wait for the tides to turn and then have the same ease in riding it back. The trip that we were journeying on this particular time was going to be a short exploration, so we figured it would be easier to ride the current at the end of the trip, so we headed upstream first. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Coping with Your “Child” going to College

Five Things You Don’t Do The Day After Leaving Your Child at College

By JlsElsewhere at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Wasted Time R, Stewart715 at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia CommonsAlthough he’s twenty, just last week, Son1 went “off” to college for the first time. For the past two years, he’d been attending classes at our local community college trying to figure out what he wanted to do. This past spring, all his hard work there paid off and he was accepted to many colleges and universities. He chose a college in Connecticut. (Not a huge surprise since Magicalfairyprincessgirlfriend goes there as well.)

Since this is a first for me, a child leaving…really leaving the nest…I had no Hindsight to lean on, and so I had to rely on my gut instead. The week before, I kept checking in with myself on how I was feeling with all this moving away to a new state, new city, hours away from his family. And well…for the entire week before…heck even while I was setting up his chic dorm room my gut said that I was just fine. All I was feeling, seemingly, was pride and excitement. This move ultimately was what every parent strives for while raising their children. He was unfurling his wings, moving into adulthood with grace and assurance. I am proud. I was and am excited. Even as I said goodbye, the pride swelled in me. “Off you go first born love of my life. Go and live this experience to the fullest.” Then I got in the car…Then I got home. Then…then I woke up the next day and well, the pride and excitement was still there, but so was this distinct melancholy; a weepy sort of lonely feeling that got worse as the day went on. I realized very quickly that the day after dropping my child off to college was going to feel worse than the day of. Tear triggers were everywhere and I learned the hard way the top five things NOT to do the day after dropping your child off at college… Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: The Art of Choosing a Parenting Response

Enjoy the Ride

My five year old son is in his room, slamming the door. Deliberately and with precision. He’s got highly sensitive ears – auditory processing the occupational therapist calls it – and I can only assume he’s seeking Just. The. Right. Sound.  The SLAM! that will echo through the walls and into my bones set my teeth on edge. Sound rises above the bathroom fan but is muted by the water pressure, warm streams trickling down my hair, ears, face, shoulders. The water, the curtain, the closed door give me the ever so slight space I need to view the scene with a hint of detachment. Amusement, even, though shame lingers around the edges, like mildew never quite scrubbed from the grout.

Occupying the weeks between school and camp, we’re back from a 3 day urban adventure: Amtrak, NJ Transit, and a myriad of subway lines.  He’s a stellar traveler, fueled by curiosity and wonder and an obsessive love of trains.  Take him out of his ordinary and he shows his extraordinary. I thoroughly enjoy time with the big boy he’s becoming.

So it’s no surprise really when blubbery-whiny-tedious boy returns upon arrival home.  And along with him, short-tempered-uninspired-reactive Mama. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Putting Words on Feelings

Creating a Environment for Children to Understand & Articulate their Feelings

Our memories provide a way for us as parents and grandparents to start discussions about emotions and the vocabulary of emotions with our children, explaining that we often have many feelings when things are changing. These conflicting feelings are called “double dip feelings,” as written about in Double-Dip Feelings: Stories to Help Children Understand Emotions.

As an Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP,) I work with people of all ages on their communication skills. This includes how to express emotions appropriately. As we all transition our children and ourselves to new routines, I’m thinking about the emotions that these changes trigger. I remember as a child the excitement and dread of starting a new year at school. It was always great to see friends again- especially if I hadn’t seen them all summer. But the sense of losing freedom, being on someone else’s rigid schedule, having to learn the new teacher’s style of teaching, and all the demands of acting older were kind of terrifying. I remember checking out the text books as we covered them with brown paper bags. I could never imagine how I’d learn all the hard stuff between the covers. It sure would have helped to have had someone notice my trepidation and to reassure me. Hardly the culture of the 50s! Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Power in Separation

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Separation an Adventure

With the beginning of a new school year upon us, many parents might be planning on sending their children to school, daycare or even playdates for the first time. If your child experiences separation anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help ease their transition and enjoy their time away. As a daycare provider who often helps families move through separation anxieties, I cannot stress enough how significant it is to help your child build this early trusting relationship. In my opinion, children often learn to trust during these times of separation. They learn to trust that you as the parent will always return. “Mommy’s and Daddy’s always come back” is my go-to line. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Setting our Watches to the Geological View of Time

There’s Gold in Our Hills!

Gold in Mt. Tom anyone?

I met a person who was panning for gold in one of our hilltown brooks this summer who knew a lot about geology—at least enough to know that gold is produced by volcanic activity. We don’t think of our biome as having volcanic bones; Iceland, Hawaii, and the Pacific Rim come to mind, but Huntington?

Look closely, though, and you’ll find evidence of igneous geology all over the place: from Mounts Holyoke and Tom which were bubbling lava when hungry raptorsauri ran wild here 200,000,000 years ago, to the weirdly eroded lava ash boulders people place out by their driveways in Goshen, to the cocoa puff pumice balls that float in eddies just downriver from the Turners Falls dams. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: A Child’s Growing Independence Brings Change

The Winds of Change

She swings by herself. Grabs the chains that hold the brown plastic rectangle that serves as a seat. Her muscular arms pull her up deftly and her bottom plops down. Her legs that are a full two inches longer than they were in June start to pump. Feet flex as her legs straighten and toes point as legs fold. Soon, very soon, actually unbelievably soon, she has a momentum that would satisfy any child. I am sitting in the swing next to her and she is chattering away about the dog and his bone and the hole he dug, but I am lost in the sight of her wispy hair and the way it covers her round cheeks as the swing takes her back and wiggles in the air like an octopus’s tentacles as the swing moves her forward.

“Slow down,” I long to say, but I know it isn’t about the swing. It’s not about the swing at all. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: The Loving Power of an Auntie

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

A Legacy of Love

My Aunt Janine was a teacher who had pop-up books and a knack for telling stories…

This August, we’re having a baby! Well, it’s not exactly our baby. In truth, my brother and sister-in-law are having their first child, and we are all over the moon. It is a guilty pleasure to watch this little life unfolding from afar, because I know sleepless nights are coming their way. I know that they may argue about the best way to get their cranky cherub to sleep, and they may wonder who else in the world is awake, rocking their own newborn at 3 am; I know I did. But now, having nursed my last baby five years ago, I see this tiny girl’s arrival with fresh eyes, and with an entirely different perspective: I get to be her aunt. Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Climate Change Education & Action

People’s Climate March

There is something important happening in September. It’s the People’s Climate March in NYC. They claim it will be the biggest climate rally in history. They also say it will be pet and family friendly, so I’m using encouraging Pioneer Valley locals to get to the march on September 21st, 2014. A local team of people are working on organizing charter bus transportation and carpooling to the march in NYC in September. You can travel round trip for $25 or less getting back the same day, so don’t let cost or time stand in the way. The atmosphere and tenor of the event is meant to be dignified, fun, impacting and empowering. This is not the place for terror and fright as it will certainly be permitted by NYC, peaceful and safe for all who come. Keep an ear out for fun, local, and creative activities leading up to the support of the rally.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Your Introduction to Sacrifice & Life on the Back Burner

Best Laid Plans

The spitting camel has wangled his way into the summer schedule!

We’re halfway through the summer. We’ve had a week of a vacation to the most popular destination in the country. We’ve had major Pinterest wins and Pinterest fails (don’t try the water blob…unless you want to sweat and swear…then by all means go right ahead.). We’ve had lesson after lesson; music, equine, swimming, OT and PT. We’ve begun the process of “real reading,” on the request of my daughter herself. We’ve gone to beaches, to parks, to fairs, to bouncy palaces, to zoos (where the camels got close and up front spitting on me for good measure) and to fancy schmancy concerts where we got to sit on the lawn and listen to the likes of James Taylor and our favorite Beatles tribute band. We bought an amazing sprinkler made up of individual flowers that spray water out at gentle angles and even put the kiddie pool directly underneath the kitchen window so that we could fill it up with warm water from the tap. Pretty successful huh? Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all…so why is it that the moment I realized we were at summer’s halfway point, I got a ginormous pit-of-death smack dab in the middle of my solar plexus? Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Rainbow Dress at the Green River Fest

Free to Be

Spinning my boy, wearing our rainbow sundresses. (Photo credit: E Goffredo)

The venue: 2014 Green River Festival. For those unfamiliar, it’s a music fest – Happy Valley style. Vendors sell food on a stick, but it’s chicken satay. The hotdogs? Grass fed beef. The fried dough is topped with rustic pesto and goat cheese. This was our third year enjoying eclectic music and family friendly extras, like circus acts and hot air balloons. It was here, two years ago, my son first expressed his desire for a dress.

I was choosing between two upcycled t-shirt sundresses in the Maker’s Market. She makes kids’ sizes, too, but they’re more costly than I would spend on one unit of children’s clothing, especially one designed for single-season wear. He’s an only child. There’s no amortizing the cost.

I want a sundwess too, Mama. I want mine to have a numbuh fwee on it so peopew wiww know I’m fwee.

I give a non-committal response. Maybe we can.

The dress is seemingly soon forgotten – until it comes up again the next year. This time maybe doesn’t suffice because it’s accompanied by that kicker of all questions: why
Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Summer Language Stimulation

Midsummer Language Skills

The summer months are racing ahead. Many of our children are going to day camps or traveling with family. I know from my work schedule that families are shifting their plans daily, almost hourly in some cases. Spontaneity can be a double-edged sword for children. Too much can make them off balance but too much structure can stress them out. I see some children in my practice who lose ground with inconsistent speech therapy due to their looser schedules. But I also see others who gain skills over the summer, when the rigidity of schedules is relaxed.

I’m pondering today about this. So much seems to be determined by the personality of our children. For some, a loosening of structure takes away pressure, and they can learn and be creative at their own pace. Others depend on a schedule to be okay. As parents and teachers, we need to honor these learning/living styles in order to help kids be successful and happy. Of course, this applies to the style that works for their adults as well! What’s the style in your family? Does it work for all your children? Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Basil Pesto & Peas

Summer foods that are easy to grow and that kids love.

One of the foods that we love to make a lot in the summer is basil pesto. We grow a lot of basil in our garden and at this time of the year it’s very abundant. We also are very lucky that many of our farmer friends hand off some of their extras to us. I love the taste and smell of basil…it’s one of my favorite culinary herbs! It works in so many dishes and also goes well in some fruity summer drinks. Just last week, we added basil to some seltzer water with simple syrup and sour cherries that we picked from a friends tree in their backyard. It was delish!

The past couple weeks we have also been eating lots of peas, in particular sugar snap peas which happens to be a favorite snack in our house. We also picked lots of shell peas from a farm we have a CSA share with, shelled them and froze them for future use. It takes a little time to do this, but it’s always nice to have these preserved in the freezer for when a recipe calls for them, like pesto!

See our recipe for basil pesto and pasta with peas

Under the Hat: Energize Your Child’s Imagination through Literacy

Reading Supports the Development of a Creative Mind!

Reading is fun

Reading requires imagination and can inspire creativity.

I was a lucky kid: my mom was a children’s book author and illustrator and I grew up surrounded by books. For years, my mom and I had a weekly date at the library. I’d always check out the maximum number of books and couldn’t wait to get home to start reading. I loved everything, but my favorite stories were the really scary ones.

Not too much has changed over the years; I still have a stack of books on my bedside table and I still love learning about all sorts of things just by lying still and reading.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Squelching through Wetlands Reveals Nature at its Most Natural

The Beauty and Ickyness of Upland Wetlands

Thanks to wetlands, mountain rivers should be clear while valley rivers like the Connecticut can resemble a river of milk chocolate.

Last week, I stood by the side of the East Branch of the Westfield River in Chesterfield with a group of intrepid explorers, astonished by the gasp and growl of its raging flood waters. “Where’s Augustus Gloop?” I heard someone ask; “He would love all this hot chocolate!”

Laden with brown soils that had eroded from roadsides, construction sites and fields upstream, the river did look like it was made by Willy Wonka. A wild and scenic river like the East Branch of the Westfield should not look like hot chocolate because of its federally-registered conservation status, and the fact that there is little development in the hilltowns. And yet here was unmistakable proof that torrential rain on vegetation-less lands was causing extensive erosion. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Helping Toddlers Form Authentic Friendships

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Fostering Friendships for Toddlers

By encouraging your toddler to be a good friend, they will make good friends and have lasting meaningful relationships into their later years and even adulthood!

Watching toddlers and preschoolers grow and mature is a beautiful and amazing thing. It is such a small window and one day it swings open and the toddler who was waddling and whopping with his friends just six months ago, is now the preschooler with a strong moral compass and a kind heart. It is remarkable how fast this transformation can be and it is even more incredible to be apart of it. Watching early friendships form, fostering a child natural longing for meaningful relationships, is awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time.

Laying the Groundwork: The Foundation of Friendships

Younger toddlers do not yet have the ability to see the world from others perspective. So often it is hard for them to play “with” other children. They often play “alongside” them instead. It’s not that they don’t like or care for one another, it’s just where they are developmentally. Children even at birth love one another; love spending time together.  We are social creatures; it is what we do. Put two infants face to face and anyone can see how that interaction is special in itself. However, babies and young toddler haven’t really developed a sense of what is a friendship. It is not a give and take yet; it is more a large game of take. Read the rest of this entry »

The Comment Box is Mightier than the Sword

It’s a Facebook Miracle

Uh-oh you haven’t updated your status in 5 minutes!

In the end, resistance was futile.

Since the minute Facebook stormed onto the scene a decade ago, I knew I did not want to get caught up in the hype. I began to detest all “social media,” not only as a regular person who found it tedious and self-serving but also as an actual journalist who saw the demise of the fourth estate. If anyone can say anything anytime, then who the heck knows if anything anyone is saying has any truth to it? But it was Facebook that caught the brunt of my wrath, as I watched otherwise sane people get sucked into this never-ending vortex of “status updates” and “likes” and “friends.” Read the rest of this entry »

What to Play? Make Your Own Toys!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Getting back to creative basics, and making your own toys!

DIY toys stimulates creative free play. Make this cup & ball with materials you have at home! (Photo credit: Carrie St. John)

While looking for some DIY toys and games for my summer campers to make or design and to inspire play, I found a great book at Gabriel Books in Northampton, MA. John has amazing finds in his $1 box on the sidewalk. I am guessing these are the books he considers duds. Not his best sellers. They take up valuable shelf space. I frequently find good things in that box. I have never had it in me to be a tag sale person or thrift shop hunter but I love to stop and check on old books. This find, Easy-to-Make Old-Fashioned Toys by Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., is dated in style and illustrations. It was published in 1979. I was 8 years old. I am dated, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Modeling a Positive Body Image

Modeling Self Confidence

“Sing silly words to the Doc McStuffins CD mommy!”  Ila exclaimed.  This is often a game that we play in the car to pass the time.  So I obliged.  I admit that I relish the belly giggles my daughter gets and so it is a challenge for me to make her laugh and the lyrics that I sing can be quite nonsensical.  The particular song that was on was Doc singing the virtues of eating a good diet; “Eat good food and your body will thank you. You’re gonna love the way you feeeeel.  Eat good food!”  But instead I sang, “Eat JUNK FOOD and your belly will be big.  You’re not going to like the way you feel.  Eat junk food!”  And then…..well…then nothing.  Just silence.  A LOOOONG silence.  And then Ila saying, “Turn off the music mommy.  Stop singing.”  I immediately did what she said out of worry and confusion.  There was a little more silence then I looked in the rear view mirror  and she was whispering to herself, “But my belly’s big.  But my belly’s big.  But my belly’s big.”

She pushed down on her stomach hard and pulled the seat belt strap tight to try and flatten it.  My heart broke.  Into a million pieces…it broke.  It happened–her first out loud moment of body hatred–just four years old. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Small Hardships Swept Away by Joyous Enthusiasm

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

For the Kids: Summer Travel

The RV: Liberation for some. Captivity for others.

Like some families, I am traveling with mine this month for summer vacation. We started in Albuquerque with the five of us, my father-in-law, and an RV.  This is not a trip I would have imagined taking prior to my married life.  The mere suggestion of such a hideous vacation would have sent my snobbish idealism into overdrive. A lot has changed since then. When my kids were little, my friend Kristie wisely advised me to plan our trips around them.  She said, “When they’re happy, you’re happy.” She also told me to wear elastic pants so I could go to the bathroom one handed while holding an infant in the other (Namaste, my dear friend.  Namaste).  On day eleven of our 23-day trip, I’ve decided to write about hardship. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Finding the Time to Get Grounded

Around Here Somewhere

Believing it best to start honestly, I have a confession to make: I’ve lost my daily yoga practice. I know it’s around here somewhere. In fact, I’ve used it a few times recently. But then I misplace it again. It’s somewhere under the pile of magazines I want to sort before recycling; the outgrown toys I think might bring in a bit extra on Craigslist; the clean now-too-little big boy underpants that need a new home. (Can you donate underpants or is that too “eew?”)

Haven’t unrolled the mat in a while? Breathe. Stretch. Set the intention.

I miss it. I’ve had it for years! Each morning, I’d drag myself out of bed, pee, then go to my mat. Sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes more, sometimes just 10. Sometimes I’d fall back asleep there for a bit. Regardless, the act of breathing, stretching, connecting within – the intention to start my day on the mat – changed my day off the mat.

Don’t get me wrong. I then went on to drink my coffee, was often late to work, and didn’t necessarily greet my fellow commuters with enlightened bliss. But I felt better physically. Was more grounded. More clear headed.

So where did it go?

Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Make Yourself Re-useful

Lead by example and develop new habits in reusing materials

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. But do it from reusable water bottles.

I know this to be true about water bottles… They make you drink more water; especially when they’re new, and you’re a kid. It’s worth it to me for our kids to get excited about the purchase of a new one, especially now that summer is finally here. I often forget in those first weeks about switching gears into full-hydration mode, and making sure that everyone is drinking enough water. Without fail, getting a new containment method for liquids provides enough entertainment that even I have fun drinking more.

There are so many choices of BPA free plastic ones and gloriously colored stainless steel ones, you’ll be sure to find your muse. In the $15-30 sticker price, you might convince yourself you’ll be done buying them because they last forever, but they also get lost so easily. (Maybe they’re all where I left my reusable bags.) Then I think about all those moments when I want a cold drink when I’m out and about: an iced coffee, or chai, or a smoothie from the cafe. These are ALL moments we can hand our reusable container over the counter and have it filled up. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: The Rise and Fall of The “Cool” Kid

Popularity is a Bad Word

Most of know the movie and how cool kids had quite the air about them. Of course it’s not restricted to girls. Popularity and ‘cool’ kids applies to boys too.

Dear Moms and Dads of Future Cool and Popular Kids,

I’ve seen your children—in my classroom, on the playground, at my daughters preschool. I’ve seen them shun the non-conformists, the quirky kids, the ones who may be poorer, or look different, or think different. I’ve seen them. I know them. I once wanted desperately to be them (and perhaps in retrospect WAS one of them.)

It must feel mighty comfortable there on the top. It might feel good to have the daughter who is the “it” girl or the son who’s the “it” guy. However, don’t get too comfy with your child’s top of the world status. Nope. I wouldn’t. Here’s the thing, I know something because of my mighty friend, Hindsight, that was just confirmed by scientist Joseph Allen. It might be great to be on top of the school food chain but that stature is short lived and quite often those kids deemed popular flounder as young adults because they don’t learn the highly necessary skill of learning to adapt to challenges and the constructs of real life. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Applying the Puppy Blueprint in a Toddler’s World

Puppy and Toddler: Nine Teaching Tips

The Puppy learns through play as it helps sharpen the senses and develop problem solving skills- just like toddlers.

I bought a 4 month old puppy last month. It’s been a lot of years since even my grandchildren have been “puppies” and I’m working to reacquaint myself with the motivations of my new dog, Cricket. Luckily, I’m also working with toddlers lately in my practice. I’m finding that I can use many of the same guidelines when teaching both.

Obviously, children have many more cognitive skills than dogs, but I’ve found that some general guidelines apply to both toddlers and puppies!

1. A puppy and a toddler learn through play. It’s their “job” to use all their senses to develop fine and gross motor skills, social skills, and problem solving skills. As disruptive as that can be for time schedules and efficiency, learning happens in play. Toddlers are experiencing most things for the first time. So allow time for these rich moments of exploration. (Last night, during potty time outside, Cricket discovered fireflies!) Also, all activities should be fun so they will want to do it again. Repetition is how they learn deeply. It’s up to the adults to keep activities safe and fun.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Pulling the Chicken Chore Card

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Keeping Chickens with Toddlers

Chicken CoopHaving chickens is rewarding in many ways; they connect us directly to the food chain, give us a sense of belonging to the land and allow the children to take a hands on approach to caring for animals. Having chickens in or backyard brings the farm to us. It gives us the familiar rewarding feeling that hard work can bring. This sense of accomplishment is tri-fold to a toddler!

We have just recently begun the art of animal husbandry at our family day care, and my toddlers love chickens! When they pull the chicken chore card, they are so excited, becoming focused and eager. The chicken chore is combined with the compost chore, since the compost area is nearby. We usually have four chicken and compost helpers per day. With the proper preparation is in place, I have found caring for chickens to be extremely easy and rewarding for toddlers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Lifeline Waterways

River Trees

Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

Imagine—by float, boat or walking, you’re in the river as it wends past farmland, backyards and woods, through plains, valleys and gorges. After an hour, the initial thrill of united movement, of flesh and water and flow, has passed, and so have the conversations. The river begins to insinuate your skin and re-network your synapses; you start thinking like a river. Feel the expansion.

Hear the river sound; its voice (like ours) combines the everything it passes through, and that passes through it (for it breathes and eats with its mouth open): the more obstructions, the more turbulence; the more turbulence, the louder the growl. Read the rest of this entry »

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