Just My Type: The Treasured Moments of Watching A Child Sleep

Sleeping Noelle

Amid all of the stress and anxiety of raising a child with two autoimmune diseases, I have found something to cherish.

When our children are babies, we look at them a lot when they are asleep. That’s partly because they sleep a lot, and partly because they look so precious while sleeping. But we also want to make sure they are OK: I’m sure many of us have put our hand on a sleeping baby’s chest to make sure he/she is breathing!

But once the children are sleeping through the night, once they are toddlers and preschoolers and big kids, how often do we have that peaceful moment of just observing them while they sleep?

Diabetes has given me that. Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Local Strawberry Smoothie

Take advantage of strawberry season!

In June, Western Mass is a blush of strawberries as harvest approaches. Don’t be afraid of buying too much as they can be frozen and used throughout the year.

It’s been really exciting the past few weeks in Western MA. Everything is growing like crazy, farmers’ markets are getting busy and the first of CSA share pick-ups are starting to happen. We are pretty lucky to live in an area where we are surrounded by such rich soil, have access to local farms and live where we can know where our food comes from. Thankfully, a good number of farms in the area also offer subsidized community agricultural shares.

One of my favorite things to see at the farmers’ market, is the abundance and variety of beautiful foods. I also appreciate the hard work that goes behind all that we see and buy at the market. It takes a lot of sweat and dedication to make these things happen.

This week at the market, I was really excited to see that it’s Strawberry season. The sweetness and beautiful rich reds in them, say enough. I usually try to get as many as I can, from either local markets, pick your own farms or from my own garden. If you ever find you have more than you need, just freeze them and use them throughout the year. I still have a few quarts of local berries in my freezer from last summer, that go well in many things. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Making a Wish Trains Us to Think Positively

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

I Still Wish

This month, I will wish on my birthday candles like I always do every year. But this year I finally realize I am not the only one wishing!

I still make wishes. June is my birthday month, and on the 19th I will make a cake with my kids, light the candles, blow them out and make a silent wish. Why? Because although I will be 45 this month, I still lean toward optimism and occasionally towards magical thinking. I have never, and will never squander a wish because in a time when we are on the precipice of the 6th Mass Extinction, I need to be a believer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about wishes, and did a little research. A few years ago new age spiritualists and self-help gurus were tripping over themselves to promote an old idea made new again in a book called The Secret. The idea is that like attracts like, meaning if you think negative thoughts, those negative things will happen to you. If you think positively, your thoughts will become reality. This is also known as the Law of Attraction. Supporters of the Law suggest that life has a catalog, and that you can order exactly what you want, and it will be provided for you. So for example, my friend Jen has always admired a stately brick Colonial home in town. She should “ask” the Universe for it, then believe it can be hers- maybe even take a tour and plan where her furniture will go. The best part is that she doesn’t have to figure out how to make it happen. The Universe takes care of that for her. The house is Jen’s for the asking. She will be really happy when I tell her. But what if she isn’t the only one wishing? What if someone else likes that house (like the people who live there), and they wish to stay FOREVER? What if her husband really likes their current house and hopes to stay there with her until they can’t get to the second floor without a Stair Chair? Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Facilitating the Climate Change Conversation

Kids and Climate

My kids are getting older and are more tuned into our conversations. Remember the days as a parent when you could talk ‘adult’ in the front seat about things that interested you and the kids paid no mind?  Now at age 6 and 10 our two oldest are more aware and have context for the information they are absorbing, coupled with the fact that they want to understand what the adults are talking about. There’s no changing it; we are in complex times and as parents we are facing the challenge of how to digest this information and create a productive environment for our kids to thrive in.

We knew as parents we’d be met in their adolescence with difficult conversations about sex, drugs, violence, mental illness, and death… Can we add climate change to that ‘complex’ list?   Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: The Great Balancing Act of Relationships

Positive reinforcement means longer living relationships

Some believe that the relationships you have with your children are the only “required” relationships, in that one must keep working on them for the rest of their lives. They are the only ones we’re not allowed to give up on. Some believe that parenting is a constant try and re-try. Some believe that a good parent is constantly evolving so that the connections we have with our sons and daughters remain strong.

I disagree. Not with the sentiment that as a parent we must work and work each day at the relationships that we have with our children. Not even with the idea that we shouldn’t give up on or break up (so to speak) with our children. Hindsight has taught me that our connections with them must remain the most important things that we hold on to as parents. As a parent, I do believe these things to be true.

What I don’t believe is the statement that your children are the ONLY relationships that one isn’t allowed to let go. I believe that marriage, one’s relationship with your child’s parent, also needs to be a priority and should be a relationship that we not only nurture, but hold on to, cherish, and work on, work on, work on. Now of course that isn’t to say that there aren’t toxic relationships; abusive, detrimental or one-sided that must be let go of immediately. But the OTHER kind of marriage; the-leave-the-toilet-seat-up-beer-cans-in-the-living-room-sticky-jelly-on-the-cutting-board-stop-yelling-at-me-did-you-just-flirt-with-that-waitress?-can-we-do-something-besides-watch-tv kind of marriage must not be given up on. I believe that like the relationship you have with your children, a marriage should be a perseverance for the long haul. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Backyard Bird Paradise Brings Toddlers Closer to Nature

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Feeding the Birds, Feeding the Curiosity

The Downy Woodpecker is one of six species of woodpecker found in Massachusetts. They are easily attracted into your backyard by building simple Woodpecker feeders.

Now that the warmer weather is here, it is easy for us to work outdoors.  Creating a backyard bird paradise is easy and fun.  By encouraging your toddler to take ownership of the feeders you will enable your child to build a great relationship with the nature in his or her own backyard.

Relating to nature allows toddlers to feel connected to something bigger, something beautiful and something alive. Toddlers love the opportunity to watch the world; by creating a backyard bird attraction you bring nature to your home and to your child.

In western Massachusetts, there are some very amazing birds that will join in the feeding frenzy if you put out the right seed, including Cardinals, Blue Jays, song birds, and of course the famous Woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers are intriguing to watch and can be easily attracted to your feeders. Using store bought or homemade suet and feeder, you can attract several different types of woodpeckers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Talk: Consensus Building Equates Better Planning

Summer Planning with Children

Planning out the days of summer can be a challenge. But success in having these plans come to fruition comes by having buy-in from your stake-holders in the planning process.

It’s that time of year when summer plans must be considered and finalized. No getting around it. But should the responsibility of figuring out future plans rest on one person? From my experience, although easier, I’d advise against that.

This topic takes me back to a client of mine during graduate school. At the time, I went to the University of Arizona, where research was conducted on the viability of group therapy for people who had had strokes. Each person had different limitations that made it hard to communicate with the rest of the group. One man — I’ll call him John — only had a few words to express himself after his stroke. Since I also was responsible for his individual therapy, I decided to make a small book with topic pages and pictures he could point to, so others would know what he was thinking about during group therapy. I worked hard to make sure he knew where the pictures were located and knew how to use the book and we practiced in every session. I made one for our practice and his group sessions, and another identical one for home. At the end of the semester, John’s wife asked me over for supper. As we were eating, I noticed that John was completely unable to contribute to the conversation and I suggested that he get his book. Neither of them had a clue where it was. I realized that I had taken full responsibility for the vocabulary I decided would be helpful, and never asked for what they wanted or needed. So they were not at all invested in using it with each other all those months. It never became part of their lives. It was only my therapy tool, virtually useless without my guidance. Ouch!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: When I Jump into Your Flow

When I Jump into Your Flow

When I jump into your flow
You’ll take me wherever you go
ever you go, ever you go
You’ll take me wherever you go

Flow.

We’re in one, and sucked into bigger flows that swept into bigger flows. And on and on. Minnows circling in eddies. In white water, stonefly nymphs cling to stone. Anadromous fish are making their way up whatever tributaries aren’t dammed, and being watched and counted at Holyoke and Turners Falls dams. Visit them, because their populations are declining and might soon vanish—just 397 Blueback Herring, for example, have passed Holyoke Dam as of May 21st.

Read the rest of this entry »

What to Play? Creative-Free Music Making!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Make Some Noise

This month is dedicated to the younger set. All the big kids we know have baseball or track or bike rides with friends keeping them active in this warm weather. The toddlers and preK set are looking for things to explore and play with. How about some music/noise? Noise is always attractive to make when you are three. Noise brought outside however, is more attractive to the adults in the house!

Here is a plan for loud bead shakers:

Materials:

  • empty and dry small plastic water bottle from the recycling bin
  • various plastic and wooden beads
  • colored duct tape
  • 6 inch wooden dowel that fits snug in the open end of water bottle (sand the ends smooth)

Add a handful of various beads to the bottle. A funnel will help little ones get the beads in the small opening. We have found a mix of pony beads, wooden beads and fun decorator beads make the best noise. If needed, wrap a length of duct tape around one end of the dowel to secure a tight fit. Place the dowel completely into the opening of the bottle. If you push the dowel into the bottle an inch or two beyond the opening, that is okay. The dowel helps the beads rattle around and prevents beads from getting stuck in the opening. The final step is to cut a 6-8 inch length of duct tape and secure the dowel to the exterior of the bottle opening. SHAKE! This shaker is loud. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Stepping Out of Motherhood and into Yourself

The Woman in Me…

When I mothered my sons, I was consumed by it. It was my job, my calling, my duty. I let everything else go. I became mired down in the details, in doing things right and doing things wrong. Their mistakes were my mistakes. Their mountains were my mountains. Their triumphs were my triumphs. Their sadness, their anger, their tragedies; all mine. I was their mother and that is all. I lost myself. Logan the singer was gone. Logan the writer hadn’t been born. Logan the academic hid her opinions and quest for knowledge. Logan the reader only showed up on a beach in the summer for 30 minutes while the boys were securely and happily playing with their step father. I didn’t even USE my own name. When I spoke it was in the third person. “Mommy will get you a drink.” “Don’t forget, mommy will pick you up at 5.” “Mommy was so proud when you hit that homerun.” The woman in me wanted…longed for SOMETHING, but I thought it was a betrayal to my sons to go out and chase “my dreams.” When I had a chance to work as a staff developer for Columbia Teacher’s College, I turned it down. I couldn’t possibly uproot my boys. When someone asked me to join the community musical and try out for a lead role, I scoffed at the idea. Too much time away from my sons. Who would make them dinner. Who would make sure they did their homework. Who would intervene when the vitriol started between them. I played it safe. I was just their mom, and that’s all they ever saw me as–their mom. As my sons grew, I began to look forward to the day where they didn’t need a mommy as much and perhaps I’d be able to become the woman that was tucked away because of and overruled by the mother in me.  Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Rhubarb Crumble in Season

Rhubarb Crumble

It’s that time of year when little green things are starting to come out of the ground, flowers are blooming and the trees have their leaves again. Without the work of planting new seeds, we get lucky to have those few perennials that come back each year. The only things that I have coming back from last spring are a variety of herbs and rhubarb. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is known for its large leaves and tall, thin red stalks but is mostly known for its strong tart flavor. It’s an easy thing to grow with kids and also doesn’t require a lot of maintenance like other vegetables or fruits. Generally people will combine something sweet with the rhubarb to complement it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Just My Type: Fenway, the Perfect Ending to a Trying Day

Root for the Home Team

The following is a letter I wrote to the Boston Red Sox:

Dear Red Sox,

Sometimes blessings come in unusual packages, like wrapped up in rawhide.

My husband and I attended the Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Wednesday, May 7, with our 8-year-old daughter. It was her first trip to Fenway Park. We wanted to share our story with you.

Right before the game started, a staffer named Mick came to us in our bleacher seats and ask if we wanted to move to better seats, as he had three extra seats in the State Street Pavilion section that were not being used. As we were sitting in the “cheap seats” in the very back corner of the park, under the Jumbo-tron, we agreed and followed him to awesome seats right above the Red Sox dugout. Along the way, he told us he approached us because it was hard to find a party of three and he had seen my daughter wearing her “first visit to Fenway” button.

Here’s what Mick didn’t know: Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Memories That Make a Life

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

The Only Memory That Matters

May is the essence of all my lovely childhood springs…

May is the essence of all my lovely childhood springs. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know at the time that the month was actually May but, in hindsight, it must have been, because the high school band could be heard practicing their marching music in the distance for the Norwegian Syttende Mai parade—a major annual event in my small, Midwestern hometown. My mother opened all the windows and let the warmish springtime breeze drift in along with the band. I remember the sheer, white curtains billowing around her as my mom took down the heavier winter drapes. I remember our enormous crabapple tree heavy with pink blossoms. I remember eating my Chef Boyardee Ravioli out of an orange plastic bowl, while sunning my newly rediscovered knees on the back steps. In my memory, I often ate my lunch on those back steps, but did I? Am I recalling one day in May that somehow got changed in my memory to a lifetime of May days focused on my knees? One thing I know for sure is that apple tree has grown a lot from then until now. Maybe my memory of May has grown in proportion to that tree. Details lost in remembering? Read on

Parenting Green: 6 Reasons to Bike Ride with Your Family

Biking with Your Family

It just feels good to get out on a bike. It’s liberation, it’s exhilaration, it’s exercise, it’s transportation, and it’s free*! The little trips add up and if you can run your smaller errands by bike you’ll likely feel better, live longer, and save money. Now that you have a family, don’t let transporting children be the burden that puts you in the car. Taking them biking is fun and you can plan what type of biking system to use based on the length of the trip, the time constraints, or the weather. So really, it’s just about integrating it into your life and creating a new habit (or reviving an old one!).


We used to live in the Hilltowns and taking biking trips around where we lived was challenging, I won’t lie. The driveway was gravel (which is a hard surface for kids to get moving on) and we were surrounded by a lot of hills. These can be deterring factors. Finding a large paved lot or getting to a place that has less inclines can make it easier for everyone. If you’re schlepping from the Hilltowns into the Valley to do your grocery shopping you might as well bring your bikes to get around town and enjoy the paved paradise…I challenge you to watch how cars get stuck in traffic while your crew keeps in forward motion! Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Parenting An Adult

Give and Take: Parenting An Adult

Son1 is twenty, and it’s no secret that in many ways I bumbled and fumbled my way through raising him. Just as it’s no secret that I use those bumbles and fumbles to guide my parenting decisions for his four year old sister, Ila. Looking BACK has made it easy to move FORWARD…but parenting an adult…well…once again, I find myself in unchartered territory. When it comes to knowing what’s appropriate and not appropriate, what actions stay behind the imaginary line and what actions step over that line, I have no experiences to lean on. And so, I will admit, that I’ve been a bit nervous. I mean, he was a guinea pig once. I don’t want him to be one again.

But believe it or not Hindsight’s wisdom DOES provide me a road map. After all, the things that make up good parenting at four, probably make up good parenting at any age. So lately, I decided to try this theory out. Could I transfer my new parenting truths when it comes to Ila and make them parenting truths for my 20 year old? This is what I came up with: Read the rest of this entry »

Language Play: Learning Isn’t Accomplished in a Straight Ascending Line

Carry Over Time

So it is finally spring in western Massachusetts. And for kids in school this is a time of field trips, assemblies, and visits to the next grade. The pleasures and fears of the future intensify during this time. Then school is over and they are free to enjoy a break, sleep in, and be outside in the sunshine.

This building of intense feelings may affect our children. It often makes it harder to reach them! The best thing we can do to ease the change is to keep things calm and light and help our children stay in the moment. When people are emotional, they can’t think or access their knowledge. I have often told my high schoolers that the best thing they can do before a test is to relax so their brains will work better. This is true because our emotions can block access to our memories. For younger children, it is up to us to control things since they haven’t yet developed the inner control to do this for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: How Books Can Inspired Songwriting

Under the Hat: Setting the Stage

Ever since he was a little kid, Mister G has loved to read and make up stories. His parents read to him all the time and took him on weekly trips to the library. Looking back, he now sees that this love of books set the stage for his career as a songwriter.

In this month’s Under the Hat, Mister G and his mom, children’s book author/illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, reminisce about the role books and stories played in their household when he was growing up.

Next time in Under the Hat…

The Ripple: The Cure For All Things Pavement

The Cure for All Things Pavement

Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you! Tuning into this “wheel of time” is one way that we leave our pavement-based perception of place. If you are lucky, you’ll get to see mergansers, a sort of river loon, as they hunt for the same trout that are hunting the invertebrates.

Before there were roads, there were trails and before there were trails, there were rivers. The Nile and the Mississippi—can you see Cleopatra and Huck & Jim making their ways on these liquid highways? Have you heard the tale (more or less true) of how Native Americans followed the paths of deer that traveled up and down food-rich riparian corridors; and that Routes 5 & 7 were laid over such paths?

Once upon a time, people knew their places from the perspective of the river; and what is so wonderful is that this perspective is still available to those who pine for a way of seeing, and being, that is not pavement-based. This summer, you could float down the Deerfield or Connecticut Rivers—and you ought to!—but floating down means that you’ve already driven up it. Nothing wrong with that; in fact it can’t be avoided given our moment in time; but the proper way to get the feeling and the vision of being placed in a biome is to head upstream, like the Atlantic Shad are doing right now. (Reminder: the operators of the Holyoke and Turner’s Falls dams open their anadromous fish viewing stations around Mother’s Day, and—despite the fact that both dams are causing extinctions—they are worth visiting.)

If you want to change the way you and your family view your “place” by leaving the pavement and making your way up a river valley, you are lucky! Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Planting and Water Stations for Toddlers

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Next Stop: Planting Station

Spring is here and its time finally to start that garden. 
Toddlers love to play in the dirt, but are not always the most gentle with seedling and plant. This is a great learning opportunity, a time to teach your young children about the delicate parts of nature. Demonstrate to them how a stick is easy to snap; however, a seedling can break with just a gust of wind. At dinner time make the connection between food you serve and how it is grown and harvested.

Let your toddler explore the magic of the life cycle of plants by creating a planting station for them. Use an existing sand/water table or a child size picnic table to create an area just for them.  Here is what you will need… Read the rest of this entry »

Just My Type: Difference of Opinion

Difference of Opinion

In my little corner of Massachusetts, a town board and a town committee recently disagreed over the best course of action. The committee was charged with making a recommendation to the board, which it did; the board decided to go a different direction. The thing is, I believe both groups have people who are caring, hard-working and community-minded. — It’s really hard when there’s a fight but no clear villain.

That’s how I felt recently when I saw a Facebook post from the JDRF North Central CT/Western MA, our local chapter of the organization charged with finding a cure for type one diabetes. In their post, Not just a gadget, JDRF was encouraging people to rally against a New York Times article, Even Small Medical Advances Can Mean Big Jumps in Bills. In particular, JDRF objected to the term “gadget” The Times story used in referring to medical devices like insulin pumps.

I already had read the story before I saw JDRF’s post. I felt sick after reading it. I have long thought the idea of a cure for diabetes is not going to happen because pharmaceutical companies are making an obscene amount of money off of diabetics  Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Creative-Free Play in the Spring

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

April Showers

Spring. The peas are planted. The bulb flowers are starting to emerge. The kids are running out of school seeking the sun and fresh air. Mud. Worms. Puddles. Bugs. Green grass.

One of the best things my mom did for us was providing hours of unstructured free play. She gave us the gift of just being kids.

With this fresh, new season I am challenging you to head outside with the kids, but take nothing from inside. No toys. No sports equipment. Nothing. Snack before you go. At least for an hour or two, forget all the ideas that today’s kids need classes and team sports and organized fun and electronics. It is okay to get bored to the point that you need to hunt around and investigate your surroundings to occupy yourself. Some of the best memories from my childhood are wandering about with my brother exploring the creatures living in the creek, poking at things with sticks and sending leaves floating in the puddles after a heavy rain. We had a lot of free play time growing up in the countryside in the 70s. My mom never had to be reminded that kids need exercise and fresh air. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: When Your Child Loves Your Spouse More Than You

I Love Daddy More!

Ila’s chin quivered as I undid her car seat buckle after school a week ago.

“Is daddy home?”  She asked.

“No, sweetie, he’s working,” I replied gently.

And then…the saddest cry in all humanity came from the depths of her.  Tears swelled and cascaded down her tiny face.  She cried hard…her-little-mouth-opening-with-no-sound-coming-out hard.  I scooped her up and asked, “Sweetheart, what is the matter?” Read the rest of this entry »

Awaken to the Moments

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

Grace Uncommon

I hope we can all awaken to the moments when we are in the presence of such gifts, and better still, to recognize the potential for it in ourselves. The good news is that grace will come, even when you are too busy to roll down the window and wake up.

Spring comes as a miraculous surprise to me every year.  The fresh air arrives out of nowhere and makes me giddy.  The branches are bare and the ground is muddy, but I am intoxicated by the scent of the wind.  In the bustle of my life I often overlook graceful simplicity, because I can’t seem to slow myself down to see it.  Like many parents, I spend most of my time in a minivan.  But when I happen to roll the window down, the unexpected, graceful spring air wafts in and I am blessed; I stop feeling sorry for myself and I step back into my body.  Persephone has returned, and so have I, fully awakened by the uncommon grace of spring.

Two weeks ago I accompanied my daughter to the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton.  She was performing in the ballet Beauty and the Beast with the Pioneer Valley Ballet (PVB).  As I waited to drop off my darling dancer along with the other parents, a little boy not more than four exclaimed, “Look!  The fust- flowah-a-spring!”  All of us swung our heads to view this improbability, and lo and behold, he was right.  There it was, poking its dainty purple crown purposefully out of the mud.  The spell was broken when the same sweet cherub jabbed his umbrella within a hair of this purple miracle and announced, “I’ne- gonna-deeg-et-up.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: The Gift of Honey

Raw Honey: Learning, Eating & Appreciating

Our family eats honey regularly. The jar lives on our kitchen table.  It’s used daily in tea, we pour it over yogurt, and spread it on toast. It’s something I enjoy and use often, something I place value on. When our friends had us over recently and offered to send us home with a frame of honey straight from their hive, I couldn’t say ‘no,’ though the impulse to negate such a generous offering was stirring. I am so glad I accepted. The 2-5lb weight of the frame was surely felt.  It was densely full of honey, capped off by sweet smelling wax.  How did the bee make two distinctly different substances from one tiny insect body (okay, many tiny insect bodies)? Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Anger, Quarrels & Love

Anger: The Unvarnished Truth

We had the blowout of the century last week, my husband and I.  The blowout of the century.  The topic isn’t as important as the pure seething vitriol that came from both our mouths, flung at each other with all the might we could muster.  It was a horrific display of the worst of our humanness.  I had had it.  He had had it.  For weeks the blood boiled in both of us and reached the point where the pressure cooker burst–burst wide open.  It was late at night.  The dog was sleeping.  The cat was sleeping.   Ila was sleeping…or so I thought.

The next morning, we both did our best to paste a shiny smile on our faces so that she wouldn’t suspect that our feelings for each other at that moment were less than fond (to put it mildly).  Although I didn’t notice then (shame on me) looking back now, Ila was very quiet that morning. She moved through the routine as if she was walking through molasses.  The car ride to school wasn’t full of top-of-her-lungs “Frozen” songs and she was shy and clingy when it was time for me to leave her in her classroom.  That afternoon, after picking her up, her tiny voice cut through the silence and pulled me from my very busy mind.  “Mommy, why aren’t you married to Aidan’s daddy anymore?” Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Learning Activities for Mud Season

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Mud Season Activities

Mud Season is the time between winter and spring. It is when the snow disappears and the grass has yet to grow. It’s when mud is the primary ground cover. It is still often too cold to take your toddler out for long periods of time, but it is warm enough to get out there for a short spell and get dirty. It is in between snow boots and galoshes; ice and mud puddles. It is the time of year that we start to think about spring but it isn’t spring enough to be able to act like spring yet… or is it? Here are several learning activities you can take advantage of during mud season with your young children that have hints of spring and loads of fun: Learning Activities for Mud Season

Language Play: Learning to Play an Instrument Support Language Skills

Hearing, Language, Learning and Music

Wondering how to help encourage kids to practice their musical instruments? See what works for other parents in western MA and suggestions working musicians offer too in Hilltown Families post, “Getting Kids to Practice Their Musical Instruments.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The last two weeks, I participated in an online continuing education training concerning language listening skills. I came away in awe of the new research being done on something that we don’t really think of as necessary to learn. We think of it as something optional to learn or even optional to have available at our schools. All the latest research shows us that learning to play an instrument helps us to listen to language and improves learning and cognitive function throughout our lives! But it’s especially a benefit for kids with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder (listening and understanding language at the level of the brain), specific language impairment, autism, and stroke recovery.

In a three year assessment of kids who had music training vs. those who didn’t, the kids with training did better at reading, speech in noise, and had stronger brain responses to sounds including language. Their brains changed! Of course, the longer the training, the better the cognitive changes, but scientists now know that the effect usually requires at least two years of music training. These results appear to be long term, too. Musicians have much fewer problems when older with hearing in noise, even if they’ve stopped their training at some point. We’re not talking about listening to music; we’re talking about active engagement in learning music. Current research studies are focusing on the effects of singing and drumming on understanding language…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Celebrate the Shortnose Sturgeon!

Our Friend, the Shortnose Sturgeon

Short-nosed sturgeon

Since the Atlantic Salmon was declared extinct in the Connecticut River two years ago, I have wandered the river banks with students, wondering what a healthy living river is like. That the Shortnose has survived under such duress, with such poor assistance provided by humans, made us love it—because it expresses the brisk vitality that remains in that 400 mile waterbody. The Shortnose does not give up, and neither should we. Before we lose this last clan entirely, let us try to assist it, and raise the Shortnose’s image and story to the forefront of our biocultural awareness. Let this environmental-adapter epitomize us and our still beautiful Nonotuck biome, at this moment of epochal transition.


Spring equinox has passed and the great thaw is underway, turning greys into green and silence to chansons. Have you enjoyed the cold (as much as the otters, who fished the icy pools)? The ice it brought let us walk rivers and tributaries as if they were sidewalks, and grand boulevards. What a wonderful feeling!

The perspective gained by walking above the river was as rare as the record-breaking weather that enabled it. Seeing the way trees lower, extend and up-curl their limbs over the water, to catch the sun on each yearning pinkytip; and noticing deep punctures of buck hoof puzzled over by bobcat pads as wide, soft and light as hamburger buns—such perceptions awaken dormant parts of human being, sparking awareness of how lucky we are when we find time to unplug. Despite the best attempts of technologists to rewire us, we’re wild; and, when we step into places without signs or brands or passwords, a brisk vivacity and slight confusion welcomes us, and matches our character, as Shakespeare made plain in this description of some dukes chillin’ in the forest of Arden: Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Mix and Match Creatures

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Mix and Match Creatures

Mix & Match Creatures inspires creative free play while supporting quality family time!

We were spoiled over our February stay-cation. The end of a relaxed week brought 50+ temperatures and SUN. With books and beverages in hand we sat outside in February enjoying a warm-ish afternoon. Spring appeared to be on its way. We were fooled. The frigid, icy mornings returned with the restart of school. This put me over the edge. I am joining the throngs of other whiny voices waiting for warm breezes and lighter jackets. We were hibernating as much as possible.

The little one has also retreated to avoid going out. She is reading and drawing around the clock. Small breaks are only taken for food and to carry the cat around the house. He has convinced her he needs private transportation from her bed to his lounging spot in the living room. It is exactly like the Olivia Trains Her Cat book! I had no idea cats had this power over kids until now.

I love that she reads and draws but I would like to interact with my girl. What can I set up at the table to entice her into a little family time?  Mix and match creature drawings…

Hindsight Parenting: When Little Boys Grow Up

Not Nurse Nightengale

When Son1 was 17 he had the brilliant idea that he wanted a three person sling shot. It was made out of high tech stretchable exercise bands and was made to launch water balloons at “friends.” I immediately said no to the ludicrous idea knowing full well it wouldn’t be just water balloons that he and his friends would be launching…Nuh uh. I knew my son well enough to know that there would be lots of mischief making with a toy like that. Not surprisingly however, his father DID purchase it for him and my super mom senses were correct that he would choose to use said toy in a way that was NOT recommended…yup…that one fateful day in which he decided to put a potato in the harness that was meant for a water balloon. Yes, I said a potato.

So…picture this if you please… Read the rest of this entry »

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