August 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Body Image, Motherhood, Parenting
Let’s Talk About Beautiful Bubbies!
The other night, my daughter Ila and I were relaxing on the couch watching Rio when she began to press her hand on my left breast (calm down…it was completely covered in pajamas AND a wrap). Now my instinct was to take hold of her hand and firmly say something like, “Stop it, Ila! That isn’t appropriate” because after all…it isn’t. But Hindsight’s voice intervened and whispered that a slicing comment like that might just be one of the reasons that my boys don’t see me as a safe person with which to carry on a conversation. So I gritted my teeth, searched the recesses of my brain that housed a voice of reason and chose to say instead, “Ila, can I ask you why you are doing that with your hand?”
She turned to face me on the couch, blinked and innocently answered, “I am trying to make your bubbies flat…”
August 19, 2013 at 6:00 am (Berkshire County, Contributing Writer, Rebecca Dravis)
Tags: Autoimmune Beta Cell Apoptosis, Diabetes, Parenting, Raising a Child with Type One Diabetes, T1D, Type One Diabetes
What’s in a Name
I have this fantasy in my head: Next time someone asks my daughter, Noelle, about why she is pricking her finger or wearing an insulin pump, she will reply, “I have organ failure.”
Putting aside the fact that I would much rather have other fantasies in my head, I am embracing this one since a recent visit to the psychologist in Noelle’s pediatric endocrinologist’s office. The psychologist is just one other resource offered by the office to address the complete needs of a child with type 1 diabetes; last month we visited the nutritionist to learn that fast food really isn’t all that good for you. I know, shocking…
August 12, 2013 at 9:44 am (Contributing Writer, Hampshire County, Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser)
Tags: Only in Northampton, Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser
We ‘Like’ Living Here
A few weeks ago, my ten year-old-son and I walked back from town toward our house along Elm Street. We do this on a fairly regular basis. A woman stopped us and inquired whether we knew where the Campus Center was, specifically the loading dock. We pointed and explained and asked why she needed the loading dock. She explained that she was on campus for a weaving conference and needed to load her wares in; she was a vendor. We nodded and wished her luck at the conference.
“Only in Northampton do you give directions out for the weaving conference,” my ten-year-old remarked as we continued on our way. He was grinning ear-to-ear with amusement about his little town…
August 7, 2013 at 6:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer)
Tags: nature awareness, Parenting
Hurry up and Wait
Bask in your surroundings this summer and reconnect with nature and your family! (Photo credit: Angie Gregory)
From one thing to the next, in the car seat, out of the car seat, at the camp, off the bus, in the car, out the door, in the building, out the store, off the playground, at the table, to the party, and then…. on the beach. The best summer moment my family has had yet this year was exploring a new swimming spot at the convergence of two rivers, with rocks to jump off and tiny rapids and pools with frogs and craw fish to catch. We spent over four hours absorbed in this small section of river, and it felt so real!
Ironically enough, I picked up a book while rushing around during the day. Stopping quickly at the library, between diaper deliveries with my nine year old, I spotted it… Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children. Though what I thought I was picking it up for was not what I ended up getting out of it, which was how to re-build nature awareness. Tom Brown’s advice as to the best way to accomplish this… really get into your surroundings and bask in it with your kids!
August 6, 2013 at 6:00 am (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting
Rewards & Sacrifices
A gain can often be found at the end of most sacrifices.
Before I began relying on Hindsight–actually WHILE his wisdom was being created in my early twenties and thirties, I’d have to say that I was a mighty self centered human (Then again what 20 something American grown woman isn’t a tad self centered?).
I was 24 when I had my first son and 26 when I had Son2, but let me preface this next paragraph by saying that I felt blessed to have those two boys and even though my young age made me completely inept as a mom, the love I felt for them filled every crevice of my heart. Still does. But back then, one of the main roles I thought a good mother played (mimicking my own) was the role of the great martyr–sacrificer extraordinaire. Nice huh?
Making my sons feel as if they and their needs were such burdens wasn’t a great way to grow up and I knew that first hand. However, we do what we know and so back then without the help of Hindsight, I continued to espouse and pontificate all the sacrifices I made daily for “the sake of those boys!” (I know it makes me queasy too. Go ahead and roll your eyes. I don’t blame you.)
Thankfully, my mistakes created a very large cache of “never-agains” and “should-haves” and Hindsight was created…
July 31, 2013 at 6:00 am (Contributing Writer, Kathy Puckett)
Tags: Independent Play
Fostering independent play this summer with icon or photo schedules for the day. Show “alone” activities as well as activities children will do with others. Add a clock icon for each activity that shows the time these things will occur. You can designate an “alone” activity with a star or use color coding…
Independent play is a topic that had come up twice this month. Both a parent and a pre-school teacher asked me for ideas for children who couldn’t play independently. These children were only able to play if an adult was involved. Unfortunately, these adults were either dealing with other children or having to get things accomplished, like making dinner. Sound familiar? Dependent kids are especially a problem when they are home for the summer. A parent can only set up so many activities each day!
Of course, folks of a certain age, like me, remember our summers as total freedom. No one worried about our independent play; we were quite capable of playing alone or with friends, and no adults ever knew where we were except during mealtimes. We were busy all the time and we learned how to solve our own problems in a messy kid way. It was an adult-based world and we all tried to survive to become grown-ups. I remember seeing a parade. The next day, I organized all the kids on the block to take rhythm instruments from my toy rhythm set and march up and down the block. I carried the flag and led the parade. I felt like anything an adult could do, my friends and I could do. Here is an interesting article on the subject of freedom to ponder: Freedom to Learn: The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning.
Now back to 2013, and the problem of helping parents and teachers to foster independent play…
July 30, 2013 at 6:00 am (Contributing Writer, Mister G, music, Video)
Tags: Mister G, mixing music, music, Music Education, Songwriting, Video Blog, Vlog
Under the Hat: Mixing it Up
Have you ever stopped to think about how music was recorded? Or what decisions were made along to way to create the music you listen to?
Mister G takes us into his recording studio this month for a behind the scenes tutorial on how to mix music. It turns out that mixing music is a lot like mixing a cake; you have to start with good ingredients and then blend them together carefully.
Focusing on his bilingual song “ABC Fiesta,” we hear how the individual instruments (drums, bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals) sound by themselves, prior to Mister G mixing the various tracks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children. His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com
July 24, 2013 at 6:00 am (Amy Dryansky, Contributing Writer, Poetry)
Tags: Language Arts, Literature, Poetry, writing
The Bee of Amherst
Emily Dickinson is one of our best-known poets, and many of us can probably conjure up a few of her most quoted lines. But while we know she’s important, I’m willing to bet that most of us also find her poems somewhat difficult. They’re so compact, so very personal, full of references that are difficult to grasp from our modern perspective.
As a result, when we’re first introduced to her work, sometimes the poems that are selected—because they seem more accessible—are also kind of…greeting card sweet (Please, no hate mail!). This is a shame, because when we take the time to read more of Dickinson’s work, we find an incredibly inventive, smart and passionate poet. She can even be quite funny. Hey, I named this column after her—so you know I’m a fan.
Therefore, on behalf of the Belle of Amherst, I offer a poem of hers that I think is a winner for families on all counts: it’s very accessible, but not at the expense of smart. It’s fun to say out loud, and not as twisty in its rhythms as some of her work. It is sweet, but not syrupy—more like refreshing, ice-cold, home-made lemonade on a hot summer day…
July 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: Ecology, heat waves, Hilltowns, Massachusetts, Nature, outdoors, Pioneer Valley, River Walking, Rivers, rivers and streams, western massachusetts
This Land is Your Land
Check out these 5 pointers below on how to river walk, preventing a wipe out due to slippery rocks and strong currents.
Our floods are over for the time being, and the furnace heat of July is driving us to the water where we can find some relief from the breath of fire that surrounds us. We are such sensitive creatures, aren’t we? Below 60 and above 80 degrees, our life patterns get deranged—20 degrees is not a very wide spectrum of temperature, is it? Heat waves provide us with the best evidence that the maxim of classical environmentalism is true: where you are is who you are.
So get thee to a river! This is the best time of year to explore the river bed and the lush riparian growth that flourishes beside it.
The common law of the USA states that river courses are the property of all citizens. I say common law, because right to river access is considered to be an ancient and inherent right—but, depending on where you go, you might find this common law more or less respected.
You might find the history and reality of our common law right to access rivers to be interesting, so here’s a portion of the explanation that National Organization of Rivers provides us:
July 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: Creative Free Play, DIY Art Supplies, Painting, water color paint
Heat advisories. Pop-up thunderstorms. Summer vacations and summer stay-cations. We have been seeking projects and play that are low key and relaxing on a hot summer day; projects that involve family interactions while being indoors near a fan, out of the summer sun and downpours!
In my search for projects for a summer art program, I came across a water color paint recipe. We have tried to concoct our own from a stack of recipes. Many are just not quiet right. The recipe found at the link above solves many of the problems we have encountered…
July 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, Princess Culture
Princesses, Ila and a New Pair of Glasses
Anything can be a princess thing!
Upon finding out that the child I was carrying was a girl (maybe even eons before) I vowed the vow of a mother’s will that my daughter would not under any circumstances be one of those—ugh—princess girls. Princesses, at least the ones that I grew up with, were weak and daft, consumed with their looks and gowns and unable to solve life’s problems without the help of that ever handsome, ever tall, ever strong, ever wise prince or knight in shining armor. Blech. Double blech. It certainly didn’t help that I read voraciously over and over ‘those’ types of books my entire childhood and I BELIEVED and tried desperately to live out the scandalous lie that there would always be a man to scoop you up and set you right.
Being forty and pregnant, Hindsight was already working (although I hadn’t realized it yet.) I had somewhat cynically learned that there were in fact no knights, no princes and even the more unsettling lesson that those of the opposite gender could actually be the ones who put the princesses in peril. No. I was determined that this daughter of mine was going to be strong and independent. She was going to be her own problem solver, seeing life as a series of puzzles that she would take pleasure in solving…alone…not relying on one person except herself…
July 15, 2013 at 9:00 am (Berkshire County, Contributing Writer, Rebecca Dravis)
Tags: Diabetes, Parenting, Raising a Child with Type One Diabetes, Summer Camp, Type One Diabetes
Camped Out in the Parking Lot
My husband and I spent the last two weeks sitting in our cars for six hours a day. That’s right, just sitting. Not driving. Sitting. In the parking lot of Lenox Memorial Middle-High School while my daughter, Noelle, was at Shakespeare & Company’s Riotous Youth summer theater camp.
Yes, it was as exciting as it sounds.
As I have mentioned in previous columns, Noelle’s type 1 diabetes presents an extra challenge in the summer: whether or not to let her go to any camps. After all, many camp facilities don’t employ full-time nurses who could help Noelle manage the disease, and even if they did, the learning curve on managing Noelle and her specific needs and brand of insulin pump, etc., would take more time than the week or two of camp. So what’s a parent to do?…
July 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm (Contributing Writer, Easthampton, Hampshire County, Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser)
Tags: Easthampton, Ice Cream Stand, Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser, Tasty Top
Note 27, Tasty Top in Easthampton
Tasty Top in Easthampton, MA (Submitted photo).
While I have never made an exhaustive search nor done a scientific study, I am pretty confident that the following statement holds true: Tasty Top in Easthampton has the best soft serve ice cream in the Pioneer Valley. Please comment below if you disagree with the better option—and a description of why it’s better.
In my humble opinion, Tasty Top doesn’t taste plastic-y or fake or chemical-laden. It’s a bit rich compared to some soft serve ice creams. There are three flavors, vanilla and chocolate (of course) and black raspberry. Two of my kids (that’s half, by the by) swear by the black raspberry. I’m more chocolate or vanilla or chocolate and vanilla myself. My small gal is chocolate all the way.
Note, if you’ve never been there but plan to go: the servings are gigantic…
July 2, 2013 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: amusement parks, Motherhood, Parenting, quality time, relationships
Slowing Down—A Speedy Hindsight Lesson
Another lesson from Hindsight!
I quite often malign the fact that I am a 44 year old woman with a three year old. It isn’t just that I am not as spry as I was when in my twenties or thirties, it is the fatigue from my blasted heart condition, it is the foggy brain from the medicine I take, it is the aches and the pains that attach themselves to me with every stress that comes with having two teenage boys, and it is the mental exhaustion that sometimes comes with wisdom. Having my friend Hindsight has been an irreplaceable tool while parenting my daughter Ila, but the constant realization that what I DID the first time needs adjusting the second time around can be tiresome…
July 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm (Alice Cozzolino, Contributing Writer, Food, Recipes)
Tags: Cooking, Family Dinner, Food, Old Creamery, recipe potatoes, Recipes, roasted beet salad, root vegetables
Roasted Beet Salad
Check your local farmers’ market or organic produce section for a selection of sweet & colorful beets! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Wow, what a wacky growing season this has been! The extremes we’ve been experiencing are challenging. From drought to flooding, cold to heat and heat to cold, the conditions this season have been erratic and stressful to the plants. Our local farmers need our support to weather difficult growing seasons. Look for locally grown produce at locally owned markets and frequent many of the area farmers’ markets.
Despite the rivers that were flowing in our garden paths a week ago, our garden is producing beautifully. We’ve been eating loads of salad greens and radishes, and about fifteen different types of cooking greens. The strawberries and peas are coming on strong now. Lots of herbs have been enhancing our meals. Garlic scapes are ready, we still have a few stray asparagus stalks, and the rest of the garden is looking promising for abundant harvests. Here’s a recipe for Roasted Beet Salad. It uses several types of vegetables and herbs that are showing up at area farmers’ markets.
June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Kathy Puckett, Video)
Tags: Language, Language Play, Language Skills, sumemr transitions, transitions
The Bridge to Summer
Don’t assume that kids know that camp is fun. You may have to explain what people will be doing at camp so they can be excited about their experience. If they have trouble talking about their feelings, give them two choices to express themselves (“Are you feeling excited or worried?”) and listen well.
None of us are great with change. The beginning of summer is a transition time for our kids and it helps to acknowledge that moving from the routines of the fall, winter, and spring to summer is a time of change. Going on trips, visiting relatives, going to camp or taking swimming lessons are very different from school.
To really understand how our kids may feel, I immediately think of one of my students. She has trouble with even small changes: moving from one room to another in the school. She is an extreme, but clear example of how many children feel about change, without necessarily being able to express it. Change for her means the feeling of losing control and fear of not being able to cope with what’s next; and that is not okay for her or anyone. This past year, I often saw her lie down on the various floors of school complaining that some part of her body hurt, and that she couldn’t move. Many adults had to coax and escort her from place to place. At the beginning of the year, when she came to me, she refused to go back to her class, so I had to deliver her language services in a corner of her classroom most of the year. When I had to evaluate her language skills later in the school year, I took her out to my room and figured out a way to get her to go back to class. We would use a fun app and show it to her teacher when we got back. This made me think about all transitions a bit differently.
When we are happy and secure about what is happening, we don’t want it to end. Going back to class and showing something she liked from her speech session acted as a bridge and a way to prolong the activity she liked into a new setting. We all need to understand our future activities and have something good to look forward to in them, and we all need to have choices. Maybe only two choices, but some sense of a choice. A good teacher uses bridging at school by asking kids to share their favorite things from home during meeting time and sending school projects home so parents can ask their children what they are doing that’s fun at school…
June 26, 2013 at 9:00 am (Amy Dryansky, Contributing Writer, Poetry)
Tags: E. E. Cummings, Language Arts, Literature, Poetry, writing
Take a Poem to the Beach
To kick off the summer, here’s a poem by E.E. Cummings. Cummings is known for his inventiveness—his play with language and form. That playfulness is usually most obvious in the capitalization (or lack of) and punctuation (seemingly random) in his poems, and kids love to see a grown-up breaking those rules.
maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and
may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
[From "The Complete Poems: 1904-1962" by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage.]
In this poem the sense of play is also present in the parenthetical asides; they create an extra intimacy—I feel like the poet is speaking just to me, letting me into his confidence. Sort of like when you watch an episode of The Office (or a Shakespeare play), and the actors break out of character and speak directly to the camera/audience…
June 24, 2013 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: Ecology, floods, Hilltowns, Insects, Massachusetts, Nature, outdoors, Pioneer Valley, Rivers, rivers and streams, western massachusetts
An Invitation to Think Outside about Floods
Floods, like weeds, are problems. Occupying places we don’t want them to, they ruin things we are growing.
Weeds are plants in the wrong place. And what’s a wrong place, we decide.
Floods are the return of ocean to mountain. They decide with the objectivity we (would) laud in our courts of justice. They’re not elitist; they are levelers.
Floods would not be a problem if we didn’t take more than we are given, placing things in flood plains like cities, farms and vacation homes. Everybody likes a water view, and to build structures as close as possible to them. The closer you build, the more likely to get leveled…
June 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: letting go, Motherhood, Parenting, relationships, spontaneity
By letting go, it just might help to hold close those whom are dearest to you!
Spontaneity— def. “The state or quality of being spontaneous.” Control— def. “The situation of restraint.” Two words that are completely and utterly opposite in nature. I would have to admit that the old mom—the one I was or the one I am trying to shake—was the latter, always and forever the latter. Trying to control every stinkin’ situation that came or could come our way. To me, back then…maybe a teeny tiny bit even now…controlling and anticipating every nuance, nook and cranny meant that I could head off trouble; fights between the boys, accidents, trouble with school work, etc. You name it, I tried to control it. Heck, if I could have controlled the time the sun rose and set, I would have. But looking back, my controlling nature did nothing but make the household tense. Anticipating never really stopped anything from happening. Planning out every scenario never seemed to go the way I had imagined. The boys still fought. Accidents still happened. Things still occurred that hurt or stung or caused trouble in some way. Hindsight tells us then that controlling the outcomes, planning for each and every thing that may possibly happen only makes one weary and most definitely not happy or satisfied.
Then there’s spontaneity—which I have to admit is such a foreign concept to me. Doing something on impulse just hasn’t happened much in this 44 year old’s life. Things as small as a Sunday drive has to be mapped out for me otherwise it just feels like wandering. However, really…what is so wrong with wandering?…
June 17, 2013 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Rebecca Dravis)
Tags: Diabetes, Parenting, Raising a Child with Type One Diabetes, Type One Diabetes
Here’s to New Beginnings
I can’t wait to meet Jean’s daughter, to hold her, to embrace the innocence of a blank slate and to pray that her life will be blessed with health and happiness.
My best friend Jean is eight and a half months pregnant with her first child. I’ve known Jean for almost two decades, since her first week at college when she walked into the office of the student newspaper of which I was editor and said she wanted to be a reporter. Our friendship has ebbed and flowed with life over the years, as some of the best friendships do, but I know I can always count on her and her on me.
So it was with nothing but excitement that my daughter, Noelle, and I attended her baby shower last weekend. Thrown by her mother and sister-in-law, it was a pretty extravagant affair, and Jean was showered with onesies and hooded towels galore. Noelle was having fun running around with Jean’s cousin’s daughter, a year younger than Noelle, a girl with whom she has played many times before at Jean’s family parties. The atmosphere was festive and happy and hopeful.
But I couldn’t help but think back to my last month of pregnancy with Noelle…
Read the rest of this entry »
June 11, 2013 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Theresa Heary-Selah)
Tags: naturalists, western massachusetts
Naturalists and Educators to Know About in Western MA
Award-winning musician and author Sarah Pirtle founded Journey Camp twenty years ago. As a peacebuilding camp Journey Camp has impacted the lives of many young people by providing a vision of social change while connecting with the the natural world through the expressive arts.
Support your live, local, free-lance, free-range, grass-fed naturalist!
Some naturalists and educators are funded by a school or a camp. Others hang up their shingle and take the kids into the woods. This post offers a smattering of freelance naturalists in Western MA. They are people who are highly qualified and experienced educators and naturalists who teach children about their local environment, wilderness survival skills, nature science and social skills. I interviewed many of these people in preparing this post, and I regret not being able to capture the joy in their voices when they talked about how much they love what they do!
Twenty years ago, Sarah Pirtle created Journey Camp, a peace-building camp that helps children develop earth awareness while fostering their creativity. Her goal is for children to have a “deep experience of feeling close to nature.” As a prolific creator, Sarah also writes books, curriculum, and songs that support a world in which humans respect each other and the natural world. She loves to combine ecological awareness and the arts, and recently created an 18 feet humpbacked whale puppet that a dozen kids can get inside and move!
At Journey Camp, the students create characters and stories which help them to understand the connection that people have to the earth. Sarah has two summer programs. One is based out of Woolman Hill in Deerfield, MA. A newer one was launched in the Hilltowns at Taproot Commons Farm in Cummington, MA a few years ago with the help of Hilltown Families founder, Sienna Wildfield.
June 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Northampton, Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser)
Tags: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser, Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club, Track, western massachusetts
Note 26, Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club
(Photo credit: Sarah Buttenwieser)
I got an inkling that running in some organized fashion could be fun for kids when my third grader decided it would be cool to do the run portion of Safe Passage’s Hot Chocolate event. There’s a two-mile walk we’d done numerous times and a 5K run. We ran. Well, we jogged and walked. We loved it.
❥ The Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club knew about this kids-like-to-run thing too. I guess that’s why they organized a series of track races for kids and why it’s become a giant social scene. When I took Remy there last Tuesday, otherwise known as the most glorious day of weather in 2013—and I challenge 2013 to do better but c’mon, keep trying pretty please—I felt as if I’d stumbled in upon everyone.
(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)
Picture the high school track. Picture swarms of children in t-shirted rainbow array, on the grass or on the track. Picture their parents on bleachers and on the grass. Picture more children, mostly the younger siblings doing whatever it is younger siblings do at events like this (a combination of hanging on their parents, pulling their parents around or cavorting together). There you go.
To quote my ten-year-old that very evening: “Track was so much fun!”
June 5, 2013 at 11:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Health & Wellness)
Tags: Herbal Remedies, Violets, Wellness
I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space. But while on our trip, opportunity arose for me to find my groove. That’s when I turned towards violets!
You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.
Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.
I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…
June 4, 2013 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships, sumer time, summer bucket list
Preparing for Summer
I used to hate summer. You heard me. H.A.T.E. While most educators count down the days until the end of the school year, my dread grows the closer the end of June comes. No, no…I have no aversion to heat, (at least not the kind of heat we get here in upstate NY. Now Florida’s heat…blech!). No, no it isn’t that it is because it is skimpy clothes and bathing suit season. Although, never being svelte and swarthy has always made me keep a cover up on at the beach, and really I have never been one for shorts. However my intense dislike for summer really never was about any of that. It was all about the fact that for two and a half months, I’d be in charge of entertaining my children (All right…instead of judging, could I at least get props that I admit fully to feeling that way?)…
May 29, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Kathy Puckett, Video)
Tags: autism spectrum, Language, Language Play, Language Skills, Silent Films, speech language pathologist
Silence is Golden
I have always loved silent movies. My dad was a Charlie Chaplin fan and we would often go into the city to see Chaplin’s full length movies on the big screen. When I was a student in graduate school, I worked with stroke groups, many of whom depended on understanding and using gestures to communicate. I heard that other clinicians were training better communication to this population by watching sit-coms with the volume off, but I immediately thought of silent movies and jumped at the chance of using them for therapy.
Later, with better access to films, I discovered silent movies from all over the world. I had always watched comedies, but I now located silent movies that were profound with serious content. The acting was subtle, but conveyed such humanity. They were filled with rich communication. After watching them exclusively for months, I watched a contemporary movie and felt disappointed with the stiff bodies and unending dialogue of the actors (blah, blah, blah). What a loss for the world when silent movies were scrapped for “talkies.”
Then I worked with another population that needed to learn to attend and use facial expressions and body language. Since facial expressions and body language are 55% of communication, my children on the autism spectrum needed to be able to read people’s faces and gestures in order to navigate their social worlds. I told them that people can say anything but their faces and bodies are more reliable information. Out came the silent movies…
May 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ecology, Kurt Heidinger)
Tags: blackflies, Ecology, Hilltowns, Insects, Massachusetts, mayflies, mayfly, Nature, outdoors, Pioneer Valley, Rivers, rivers and streams, western massachusetts
Before May Flies, Meet the Mayfly
Every September, just after the leaves start to fall, I go out with Sienna and Hilltown Families citizen scientists to do a Rapid Biotic Assessment (RBA) of the East Branch of the Westfield River downstream from the RT 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. Returning to the same site as the year before, we collect aquatic bugs—including mayfly nymphs—and, based on what we’ve gathered, we can tell how healthy the river is. If a river has a lot of mayflies, it is a healthy river—with lots of big and healthy trout in it (We’ll invite you to help us; so be on the lookout for our invitation!).
Imagine never getting swarmed and bit by mayflies as you revel in the vivacities unleashed by the ubiquitous green fountain of spring. Imagine gardening, or hiking, or simply sitting on a park bench without having to constantly swat and flinch and keep from going mad as the mayflies crawl on your neck and arms and ears, looking for a sweetspot to slice skin and lap blood. Now, imagine your dream of never getting bit again by mayflies comes true, right now as you read this! Because mayflies don’t bite.
Blackflies: they’re the little flying vampires that mob us in spring—not mayflies. Here is a picture of a mayfly. Notice its two long tails (though some have three), and large transparent wings. Most are an inch or longer.
Here is a picture of a blackfly…
May 22, 2013 at 9:00 am (Amy Dryansky, Contributing Writer, Poetry)
Tags: imaginative ideas, imaginative writing, Language Arts, Literature, Poetry, writing
Big Ideas (in the Ordinary)
This month I invite you to take all of those lost imaginative ideas and share them by writing with your child! In fact, you could try a writing game where you just put a bunch of ordinary stuff from your house on a table, then challenge each other to write a poem that has all the stuff on the table in it… and, if you like, feel free to post your family’s writing here in the comments. I would love to see what you come up with!
I’ve noticed that often when we try to write, we get stuck because we think we need to write about “big” subjects. So we sit and chew on our pencil and stare into space and decide our lives just aren’t exciting enough for Art with a capital A. It’s really a shame, because lots of interesting, imaginative writing gets lost this way.
The poem I’ve chosen for this month’s column, “Today,” by Frank O’Hara, is a great antidote to this kind of inhibition. O’Hara was immersed in the New York art scene, and his poems reflect the exciting changes that were happening in the visual arts of the 1950’s. They’re colorful, irreverent, noisy, seemingly casual but secretly well-crafted.
But what I appreciate most about this poem (and others by O’Hara) is that it shows us that anything can be in art, and art can be about anything. Just by writing about it, by putting the ordinary stuff of our lives into a poem it becomes changed and celebrated. It becomes interesting.
May 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships
I Am On Your Side
Mother’s Day has come and gone and I of course have been reflective. Yes. I have been thinking. I have been thinking about those mommies from Newtown. I have been thinking of mommies of those injured or killed in the Boston bombings. I have been thinking of moms who are no longer part of their children’s lives directly, but instead have been replaced by an addiction to drugs or alcohol or gambling. I have been thinking of the moms whose children are drowning in a world of mental illness with no life preserver in sight. I have been thinking of moms whose children are incarcerated, runaways, or just plain lost. I have been thinking about any mom who may be experiencing one or more of the nightmares we all have imagined or prayed wouldn’t happen to our beloved children. All weekend, I thought of them. How do they celebrate their roles as mothers? How do these moms keep moving forward when the worst tragedies have infiltrated the dreams that they had for their children and the futures they had imagined for their families?
Dear readers, we of course can look to our friend, Hindsight, to guide us and them—but not our own Hindsight—not if we are in the thick of it. No—we use the Hindsight of the moms who have gone through it and come out somehow into the light (does that ever completely happen? Perhaps it’s a dim light, but a light no less.) And since it is inevitable (it IS inevitable) that all of us at some point will hurt because our children are hurting, I think it is essential that we learn what to do from some of the masters moms who have learned to cope and even come to appreciate more their titles as mothers even though their children are troubled somehow.
The great Maya Angelou’s mother, Vivian Baxter, was a force to be reckoned with, and a stupendous example of how a mom might cope and continue to mother a child that has hit a bumpy road or even one filled with craters…
May 20, 2013 at 6:00 am (Contributing Writer, Rebecca Dravis)
Tags: Diabetes, Parenting, Raising a Child with Type One Diabetes, Type One Diabetes
Another year wiser?
The fact that it was my birthday made the day even more ridiculous.
It was Friday, April 26. Instead of going on the surprise getaway to Cape Cod that my husband tried to plan, I had to work. I work for the Girl Scouts, and one of my tasks that day was to deliver a prize to a girl in a troop meeting in Sheffield. Here’s how I had it planned: I would pick my daughter up from school at 3:05, be in Sheffield by 4:15, be out of Sheffield by 4:20 and back in Williamstown by 5:30, when Noelle’s baseball practice was schedule to start. I had the prize ready to go (I purchased a helium balloon earlier in the day to attach to it), I had snacks for Noelle to eat in the car and her baseball clothes ready to go.
I could do this. Read the rest of this entry »
May 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: Creative Free Play, guessing games, Literacy, Storytelling
A favorite game, Guess Which Hand, can be used to help tell stories, promoting childhood literacy! Choose a tiny object that has a special family memory or something fun to start a story about your day as a parent…
We recently attended literacy night at our school. My little one enjoys any and all extra free time with friends on school grounds. Whatever the activity, she loves to go. She asks to go to PTO meetings. It means time being silly in school running about and connecting with friends from other grades. Literacy night was perfect for her. Many friends from class, a storyteller/musician and to make it perfect—the parents were ushered into another room to hear from a literacy expert. Parent free silly time.
While the kids heard fantastic tales and played instruments in a very interactive experience (we could hear them across the school), the parents were reminded of early literacy basics such as daily reading with our children and practicing language skills at home. The imagination and ideas that result from reading stories together help in so many areas of early learning. We were given a bit of parent homework on literacy at various stages. I’ll add it to my summer reading and research stack. I try to leave events like this with one item to work on. One thing is manageable. More can be too much during the crazy end of school year rush. One extra on top of culture night, science fair and field day. The facilitator’s point that resonated with me this night—the average child only experiences 3 minutes of one on one, eye to eye conversations each day. The reminders to empty backpacks and put dirty clothes in the hamper do not count. She was talking about real one on one conversations about your day, friends or the playground happenings. Time where you both sit and truly listen to each other. I can top 3 minutes.
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