Q&A: 18 Recommended Winter Resources & Activities for Families with Special Needs in Western MA

Q&A: 18 Recommended Winter Resources & Activities for Families with Special Needs in Western MA

When our readers ask, Hilltown Families does our best to find the answers. Please feel encouraged to share your favorite places in the comment section!

Jean Engle of North Adams writes, “Once the colder weather sets in, where are the best places to visit and socialize for parents and children with special needs? Are there any specialized activities?”

Holyoke High School’s Adaptive Physical Education Program is an inspiration! Here’s a video of the program they held at Fitzpatrick Ice Arena to inspire other schools and communities to model a similar program in their area:

Lisa Levheim writes, “It’s a little far from North Adams, but Whole Children in Hadley is amazing! They have after school programs and daytime programs for homeschoolers and younger kids.”

Swansea Benham Bleicher writes, “Most family centers will welcome children with special needs. Contact the Coordinators ahead of time if you are concerned: Northampton Parents Center, Easthampton Family Center, Belchertown Family Center, Amherst Family Center, Cummington Family Center, Gateway Family Center, South Hadley Family Center, Ware Family Center

Matt Sawyer writes,Ski Butternut offers skiing and snowboarding adaptive programs for people with special needs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Water as Self-Care

How Things Work

What makes the car stop? How are car brakes different from bicycle brakes? Train brakes? Roller coasters? How do hydraulics work?

These questions pepper my days these days. Raised for sugar, spice, and everything nice, my mechanical engineering knowledge is woefully inadequate. Thankfully, in his updated masterpiece on machines, The Way Things Work Now, author David Macaulay and his illustrated mastodons describe the inner workings of the toilet tank, stapler, and radio, along with Wifi and RAM. And hydraulics.

I’ve been reading about the power of pressure. When a fluid is compressed, it exerts pressure in all directions.  A container not strong enough to withstand the pressure will leak or otherwise be damaged. Properly contained, the fluid will transfer the force of its power into the world around it. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Meet Your Child Where They Are

Who She Is Is Just Fine With Me

When our children encounter difficulties, when they run into brick walls or have a problem that needs to be solved, we need to meet them where they are, help them grow with what they already have in a way that they can.

I have been working against my daughter, Ila, under the guise of “improvement” and the misguided statement “she must be able to do such and such in order to be successful.” I have been working against her, which in turn has been sending her a message that she is not good enough just the way she is, which, of course, is not a message I want to send her at all.

Confused?  Let me give you an instance:  Ila gets anxiety everyday before going into her kindergarten class.  When the door opens, and the teacher steps out, she buries her face into my legs, or if I am squatting down at her level she grips my hair or scarf with a vice-like hold.  I have to peel her off me by prying her fingers open and kind of giving her a loving pat on the bottom towards the classroom while her chin quivers as if I am torturing her. This, as you can imagine, is agonizing each day, and so I decided that as her mom, I needed to “right” it, fix it, and make it so the anxiety was gone.  I decided to start with a good heart to heart conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Autumn Autonomy

Autumn Autonomy

“Safety is what we want for those we love. Autonomy is what we want for ourselves.”   – Atul Gawande

My childhood yard held ample trees: the willow planted in the wet culvert that didn’t grow gigantic like we’d hoped. The huge blue evergreen. The fragile mimosa we were chastised for climbing. The red maple I practically lived in the summer I turned eight. Read the rest of this entry »

Suggested Events for September 23rd-29th, 2017

Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events

Click HERE to discover classes. Click HERE to find out about other community events. Click HERE to leave a comment about upcoming events.

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program, or service-learning opportunity happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our Suggest An Event bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness, and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools, and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Click HERE to find out more.

JOIN OUR TEAM! Hilltown Families is currently recruiting our newest Interpretive Writer and Development & Sales Officer. Click on the banner above to see the full job descriptions, as well as a slew of other available volunteer and intern positions. We look forward to hearing from our community!

Bulletin Board

Sep 23

Get ready for a new Elephant & Piggie adventure! Join The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst on Saturday, Sept 23 for Elephant & Piggie Art-ventures with Mo Willems & Tom Warburton! In We Are in an ART-ivity Book!, Mo Willems & Tom Warburton have created the first-ever Elephant & Piggie activity book, full of drawing, coloring, gaming, & other hands-on fun! Meet Mo & Tom. Get books signed. Take your photo with Elephant & Piggie, watch films, & create art in the Art Studio! Book signing from 12:30-2:30pm. Limit 1 book from home/unlimited books from The Carle Bookshop. No personalization nor signing of board books or stuffed animals. Can’t make it to event? Reserve signed books online, call 413-559-6333, or shop@carlemuseum.org.

Sep 23 & 24

The 19th Annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival is September 23 & 24 from 10am-5pm in Orange, MA. There’s something for everyone at this fabulous family destination. Over 100 booths are vibrant with local artists, farmers, fabulous food, chef demos and skills for local living. Enjoy amazing music, performance, spoken word and dance on three stages. New! ‘The World We Love,’ a giant handcrafted globe in the kid’s activity tent- add your vision and join the celebratory parade at the end of each festival day. Plus hula-hooping, horse-drawn hayrides, and garlic games all weekend. Only $5.00 adults, Kids 12 & under are free! More for travel/parking info and program visit www.garlicandarts.org; Follow festival updates daily on Facebook.

Sep 25

Monday, September 25, 2017, 10am-3pm: Soar into spring with Homeschool Day at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT. Open exclusively for homeschoolers and their families, and featured activities include: hands-on build & fly challenge activities, interactive flight science demonstrations, open cockpit experiences in historic aircraft, aircraft quests, fight simulators, and more! Virtual Flight Center access available for additional $5 per person. Tickets available for purchase on the day of your visit on a first come first served basis. Pre-registration required. Children ages 3 and under admitted free. www.neam.org for an online registration form. Please call 860-623-3305 x313 for questions.

Add your class

Hilltown Families has put together an After-School Classes & Enrichment Programs Directory of classes and programs happening across Western Massachusetts throughout the school year.  Our community is rich in learning opportunities to supplement the interests of children, teens, and life-long learners and our directory makes it easier to find these gems while connecting families with resources that support their interests and education. — Have a class or program you’d like to include in our directory? Click here to find out how to have it added. New and updated opportunities are added throughout the year.

Add your school

Hilltown Families Preschool Directory: Are you looking for a preschool that fits your child’s personality and reflects your family’s values? Check out our growing Preschool Directory, covering all four counties in Western Massachusetts, and find the perfect place for your young one! — Have a school you’d like to include in this list? Click here to find out how to have it added.

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your summer camp, class, community event, school, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, volunteer opportunity, wellness program, local business, after-school class, or non-profit featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Eventsand in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at at sales@hilltownfamilies.org.

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community-building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish, and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to info@hilltownfamilies.org.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
September 23rd-29th, 2017

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an EventCultural Itineraries | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets | Storyhour & Playgroups| Berkshire Family Fun | Advertise/Sponsorship | en Español

Donate Now Read the rest of this entry »

Suggested Events for September 16th-22nd, 2017

Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events

To find out about more event, be sure to visit our Suggest an Event Bulletin Board to see what our readers have recently shared! Have an event to share? Feel encouraged to self-post community events here at any time!

Suggest EventIf you have a community event, educational program, or service-learning opportunity happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, self-post your event at any time on our Suggest An Event bulletin board. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening, along with time, place, age appropriateness, and costs before attending.

Enhanced PublicityServing Western Massachusetts since 2005, Hilltown Families supports development and enhancement of our local economy and community. Local businesses, individuals, schools, and non-profits are encouraged to partner with Hilltown Families through sponsorship and advertising. Let us help get the word out about your after school/homeschool class, event, camp, workshop, fundraiser, business/school, service, open house, volunteer opportunity or general announcement. Deliver your message to thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Click HERE to find out more.

Bulletin Board

Learn in Motion gets kids playing and learning through enrichment programming for schools, libraries and museums, educational introductory sports classes, and special events. Programs get children off screens, active, learning and having a ball. They encourage children to socialize and practice important life skills such as sharing, listening, following directions, working as a team, and overcoming obstacles. Through their programming, Learn in Motion also teaches traditional academic content such as letters, numbers, shapes, colors and more. For more information about their schedule, programs and offerings, visit www.learninmotionma.com, email learninmotionma@gmail.com or call 413-244-2073.

Trial Class Sept 20

A delightful music class for children age 0-5 and their grown-ups, created and taught by national recording artist, Katryna Nields. All songs are hand-selected by Katryna and Nerissa Nields. In HooteNanny, participants sing, play, and dance and make wonderful friendships. Come spend playful, enriching, connected time with your child and be part of the wonderful HooteNanny community. Fall session begins September 27/28, 2017. Free trial class on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 10am. For more information go to www.hootenannyfamily.com or write to hootenannymusicclass@gmail.com.

Sep 23 & 24

The 19th Annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival is September 23 & 24 from 10am-5pm in Orange MA. There’s something for everyone at this fabulous family destination. Over 100 booths are vibrant with local artists, farmers, fabulous food, chef demos and skills for local living. Enjoy amazing music, performance, spoken word and dance on three stages. New! ‘The World We Love,’ a giant handcrafted globe in the kid’s activity tent- add your vision and join the celebratory parade at the end of each festival day. Plus hula-hooping, horse-drawn hayrides, and garlic games all weekend. Only $5.00 adults, Kids 12 & under are free! More for travel/parking info and program visit www.garlicandarts.org; Follow festival updates daily on Facebook.

Sep 25

Monday, September 25, 2017, 10am-3pm: Soar into spring with Homeschool Day at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT. Open exclusively for homeschoolers and their families, and featured activities include: hands-on build & fly challenge activities, interactive flight science demonstrations, open cockpit experiences in historic aircraft, aircraft quests, fight simulators, and more! Virtual Flight Center access available for additional $5 per person. Tickets available for purchase on the day of your visit on a first come first served basis. Pre-registration required. Children ages 3 and under admitted free. www.neam.org for an online registration form. Please call 860-623-3305 x313 for questions.

Add your class

Hilltown Families has put together an After-School Classes & Enrichment Programs Directory of classes and programs happening across Western Massachusetts throughout the school year.  Our community is rich in learning opportunities to supplement the interests of children, teens, and life-long learners and our directory makes it easier to find these gems while connecting families with resources that support their interests and education. — Have a class or program you’d like to include in our directory? Click here to find out how to have it added. New and updated opportunities are added throughout the year.

Add your school

Hilltown Families Preschool Directory: Are you looking for a preschool that fits your child’s personality and reflects your family’s values? Check out our growing Preschool Directory, covering all four counties in Western Massachusetts, and find the perfect place for your young one! — Have a school you’d like to include in this list? Click here to find out how to have it added.

ADVERTISE HERE: Reach thousands of families in Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! See your summer camp, class, community event, school, open house, audition, homeschool program, workshop, volunteer opportunity, wellness program, local business, after-school class, or non-profit featured here in the Bulletin Board section of our list of Weekly Suggested Events and in our weekly eNewsletter, reaching thousands of families living throughout the four counties of Western MA while supporting the community development work of Hilltown Families! Find out more about our advertising options and how you can partner with Hilltown Families in your online marketing by emailing us at at sales@hilltownfamilies.org.

Become a Contributing WriterJOIN OUR TEAM OF CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Interested in becoming a Contributing or Guest Writer for Hilltown Families? We welcome writings that reflect the community-building and educational efforts parents, teens, teachers, artists, activists and community leaders work towards and accomplish, and how that affects, supports and empowers our families. All writing styles welcomed, including local reviews, DIY posts, seasonal cooking/local food, and community-based educational & community service learning opportunities/resources. Send your query to info@hilltownfamilies.org.


LIST OF WEEKLY SUGGESTED EVENTS
September 16th-22nd, 2017

SaturdaySunday
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday

Suggest an EventCultural Itineraries | Forecast | Museum Passes | Weekly eNewsletter | Farmers’ Markets | Storyhour & Playgroups| Berkshire Family Fun | Advertise/Sponsorship | en Español

Donate Now Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: A Tale of Two Trees

A Tale of Two Trees

A tale of two trees. Both serving specific purposes. One providing beauty and respite from the ugliness of the world, greeting those who visit our home with a cheery disposition and pink petals waving. The other doing its part for the universe as well. Acting as shelter to our beloved chickadees bringing sweet music to our backyard. A tale of two very different trees; neither more useful or useless. Neither one better than the other. Both immensely loved.

At my home, there are two trees. One, a flowering crab tree, planted in the backyard when Son2 was born. It stands near the gate of the fence that keeps the dog in and the unwanted out.  The other, a magnolia tree, was planted 14 years later in the center front yard to celebrate the birth of my daughter.

The flowering crab is flanked by a pine tree. It is eons older and was here when we purchased the house, a leftover from some ancient forest long before a housing development was even a thought. Because of the way the sun rises and sets, that pine casts a shadow on my little crab tree season after season causing the crab tree’s growth to sputter and stall. Had I not been so young when the tree was planted, I might have seen that it’s roots should have been dug up so that I could replant it far away from the pine tree that shadowed it.  It should have been cultivated in a more fertile ground where the light of the sun was unhindered.  It needed a place to grow without the pine tree’s shadowy darkness. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: He’s Her Brother

He’s Her Brother

When my son graduated from college, it was a proud day for all except one; his 6 year old sister. Well, she MAY have been proud, but that isn’t the emotion that oozed from her pores that day and for several subsequent days. As with any little one, all thoughts of his graduation centered around her. How could HIS graduation in any way be about her you ask? Well here’s a quote: “Mama, I know that this is a proud day and all for my brother, but I am just so happy because this means that he’ll never leave me again!” And while both you and I know that nothing about that is even remotely true, we’ll let her have it, even if it is for just a little while.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Meditating and Parenting

Peace, Happiness and Fried Eggs

The object of my meditation.

Fried egg. Toast.

Brown flecks on pure white. Whiter than my t-shirt. I need a new white t-shirt. This one probably isn’t nice enough for work. What’s that stain? Marker? Blueberry? Can I tuck it in or do I need to change before my 1:15? What else is clean? I wonder if the washer is done.

Oh. The egg. The toast. Sunflower yellow yolk. Sunflowers didn’t grow this year. Too dry? Chipmunks eating the sprouts? Chipmunk darting through the garden now. Naturally still one moment and then scurrying someplace new.

Like my mind.

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Honest Questions About Honesty

Honest Questions

A missed call from school. Voicemail reveals the principal’s words: playground altercation.

I reach her 10 minutes before dismissal, so time is limited. The swing-set scuffle was typical and the other child thankfully is fine. “I’m less concerned about the shoving,” she shares in a carefully modulated voice, “than his insisting on a false story.”

When I concur, yes, we’re seeing this at home lately, we’re working on it, her voice relaxes. This was not news to a parent she barely knows. We talk strategy and messaging, educator to parent and mom to mom.

Honesty. Why is it so hard?! Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Crossing the Stage of Life

Crossings: To My Son on Your College Graduation

“Mommy, why did parents cry when their children crossed the stage at my brother’s college graduation? Why did you cry?”

“That’s a good question, my darling. It is difficult to put that emotion into words, but I will try.

For over two decades your brother has been crossing and I have lovingly watched him.

When he was one, he took his first steps crossing the living room headed right for my outstretched and safe arms.

The first time he crossed a busy Manhattan Street was in a stroller that I pushed. He hated it there and threw up on the side of a building and so we crossed right back over that same street to our awaiting car to take him home.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Water as Self-Care

Prime the Well

We climbed Mt. Tom on a recent Sunday that was hotter than forecast by 10 degrees. No leaves meant no shade. We brought enough snacks, but ran short on water. Thirst, headache, and grumpies served as solid reminders of the importance of hydration. The importance of reserves.

I’m attempting to drink more water lately. When successful, I have fewer aches and more energy. I stop at the sink, fill up a glass and sip and – lo and behold – realize I’m thirsty! Water tastes good. I’m reminded of what I’ve been missing.

“How much am I supposed to drink?” clients commonly ask as I make the link between pain relief and hydration. Online medical consensus now gives a formula to replace the old “8 glasses a day” advice from last century: Take your body weight in pounds, divide in half and drink that number of ounces each day.  I’m not sure who first proffered this formula, but mainline medical, fitness, and alternate health sites use it.

What to drink? That’s where the disagreements begin. Recommendations vary widely from “food counts as water” to “any drink counts” to “no caffeine or sugar” to “only unadulterated water – not even herbal tea.”

Then comes conflicting advice on how to drink. One liter before noon. Nope, mostly at night. With meals but not after meals. Only hot. Actually, cold is ok. Sip, don’t gulp. Filtered water. Bottled water. Enhanced water. We’ve taken one of the most basic elements of life on earth and made it complex, even controversial.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Take a Breather and Reconnect

Secure Your Own

“Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” The plane safety video shows neat and calm children obediently letting the nearest masked grown-up mask them. The real-life first grade boy next to me fidgets, tugging at the silly band bracelet on his wrist. I smile in a way I hope will reassure him I’d help him with his mask. Then crack open my new novel. He glances across the aisle to his mother. He’s not mine.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Life: Optimism is a Gift, But Resilience is Home Grown

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

Growing Resilience

My son is 15. He will likely move away to attend college in three short years. I stayed home to watch him grow for 12 years before returning to work. I hope I told him I loved him every day. At five he was the kind of boy who sprang out of bed in the morning saying, “It’s my lucky day!” Today he is the kind of guy who considers everyone a friend and is a perennial optimist. It turns out every day really is his lucky day. Many things will go right for him in life, but some things will go wrong. What then? Optimism will certainly help, but resilience is what he will need when simple optimism isn’t enough.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Knowing Your Worth

I Can’t Fix Everything and Maybe I Don’t Want to

Break ups, breakdowns, breakthroughs, soul-breaks, deal-breaks and break-a-ways. When my children’s hearts break, it’s enough stress for this mom to break out into a sweat.

Ok…Ok. I’ll take a break…from the word, break. (See what I did there?) But really…in all seriousness…when will this urgent need to fix all that ails my children finally pass? Let me ask you. When your kids are sad, broken, beside themselves, do you agonize over how to make it better? Or am I alone in that?

This past week was a doozy for this fix-it-all-mama. Both boys, Son1 and Son2, experienced their own particular heartaches and, well, it was as if those things happened to me. Their sadness, their losses, their disappointments became mine. Honestly, the fact that they were hurting was pure unadulterated agony.

But luckily, just in the nick of time, my husband said something that got me thinking. In the midst of a full on mope, he looked me in the eye and said, “Son1 isn’t alone in this experience. What did we do when we were young and this happened to us?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: When My 1st Grader Asks About Sex

Consenting to Questions

It starts simply enough. These conversations do. We pull onto I-91, skirt Northampton afternoon traffic to the edge of town to get my allergy shots.

Mama, why do they throw away the needles? Why don’t they use them again?

My practice is to answer my child’s questions when he asks. The trick is answering only the question he has asked. Questions beget questions.

I explain about contamination, how my blood is on the needle and could share germs with somebody else if the allergy nurse used it again. I can’t recall now whether he asked what germs or whether I volunteered information, but within a quarter mile I was explaining HIV.  How scientists haven’t figured out how to fix the disease from those germs so the best thing is to not get it.

How do you get it? Of course he asks.

Not through sneezes or spit like colds, but from blood and …. take a deep breath as silently as possible so he doesn’t notice the pause before I answer honestly… from the liquids from your penis or vagina. (Yes, I know, not from pee. But I was improvising at 65 mph!)

Which of course begs the question how those liquids get shared. And suddenly I‘m talking about sex with my first grader. Again. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: 20 Welcomed Bits of Advice for New Parents

Solicited Advice

I recently exchanged emails with a friend from yoga teacher training. Ten years younger than I am, she now lives on the opposite coast. Facebook keeps me up on her world travels, recent wedding, yoga for refugees and cancer survivors. But a personal email these days feels as rare as a handwritten letter.

“How’s your private work going? And raising a kid in Western MA? My god, how old is he now? Six?! Are you making a manual on all the great things you’re doing to bring up a kid in today’s crazy world? I’ll memorize them by heart when we jump down the family path :) lots of love”

I started a wry response, naming the importance of deep breaths and good wine. But then recognized, knowing her, she was serious. In a world of unsolicited advice, she was asking.

And I realized I have ideas to share!  Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Stories from Family Holidays to Inspire Creative Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Stories To Inspire Creative Free Play

I was a bit of a geek as a teen so homework was completed right after school, part time job on weekends and just a handful of close friends. I spent a fair amount of free time at my older siblings’ houses playing with their kids. It was a blessing to be a part of their childhoods. I had part time, little siblings that were really my niece and nephews.

I learned a great parenting lesson from my oldest sister, Penny, nearly 25 years ago. She dives right into the winter holidays the day after Thanksgiving. She has an incredible collection including a wall of elves, a near life size snowman, a shelf of angels and a cabinet filled with Rudolph, Frosty, Grinch and Little Cindy Lou Who and all the other television characters we grew up with in the 70s and the Nativity. She makes the tree a family showcase with ornaments made over 20 years ago my her children. Holiday fills their home. When my nephew, now a college graduate and police officer, was 3 or 4 years old, she started a grand tradition that fed perfectly into his love of stories, play and imagination. A mysterious elf visited the house. The elf made tiny foot prints, ate cookies and left surprises. This was well before the current Elf on the Shelf craze. My sister created the fantasy he craved. Stories were told. Questions asked and answers often came on the fly to continue the magic of the elf for a very curious little boy. No one ever saw this elf. He came and went under the dark of night. Andrew never needed to actually see him. The stories alone kept the elf active and alive through December.

The excitement and mystery my sister created for my nephew is something I try to add to our house now. Plant a seed. Put a mind to work on the possibilities. Watch the love of a good story. Create fantasy. Give childhood a bit of magic.

What a great time of year to tell stories! Share family stories. What was this time of year like when you were little? What holidays did you celebrate? What special activities did you do? Boost family memories by telling stories about a special day spent together. Create new mysteries and adventures. What if Jack Frost did paint the windows with snowflakes? What does he look like? How does he get around the earth? Spark ideas to get your little ones telling stories and playing fantasy games. Storytelling improves vocabulary, writing and spelling. It’s fun. Stories can lead to hours of pretend play with parents, siblings, friends and visiting cousins using dress up, toy people, construction toys and tiny animals. Stories encourage children to create images in their minds bringing the story to life. Make illustrations! All ages can create stories with spoken words, drawings or detailed written tales.

December Collections

We are always collecting and saving items in bins and on shelves for creative projects. This month maybe games or a book or two related to story telling and a game to spark an idea:

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December Resources

Related Posts:

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

Hindsight Parenting: To Give a Portion of Myself

The Gift of Myself

I do not have the ability to support my children monetarily. I admit that for a long time that could sometimes get me down, especially during the holidays. There are so many things that I wish I could get, buy and do for my kids; cars and college tuition, toys and tech, a modern sleek house they could be proud to bring their friends to, well-needed vacations and well-earned rewards. But I can’t. It just isn’t in the cards and hasn’t been for awhile. But then, just in time, while reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, I came across a line of his poetry that turned me around, that reminded me of what was important. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Simple Play at the Table

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Where did all the play go? Am I the only parent that is mourning its loss?

The new math makes sense to me. I read Old Dogs, New Math: Homework Help for Puzzled Parents last winter after a friend with middle school aged children mentioned the math concepts coming my way. I like to be prepared. Current reading readiness makes sense. At first I was a bit surprised by the way letter formation and penmanship is introduced in kindergarten—broken down into simple strokes and marks—no letters. I came from the generation of blue, lined practice paper with dashes mid way to mark the height of lower care letters and teachers that loved red marks. I decided to watch and wait. It worked. So far I am on board and enjoying the elementary school experience with my daughter.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Fairies Gather Here

Fairy Summer

There’s a magic to childhood, especially early childhood. Developmentally, I’m told, it’ll last another year, two tops. Yet I don’t want my son to lose his belief in magic. I (want to) believe in fairies. I want my son to stay open to that which he cannot see.

What did Dwagon do today?

My son prompts our bedtime story, then leaves the telling to me. Blurring the line between real and imaginary, I spin an improvised tale of a magical dragon who lives in the Holyoke Range. Dragon often finds himself in similar situations to my guy, with similar fears and worries.

Given our nightly sojourns with his magical friend, I’m surprised by my kiddo’s early summer assertion that fairies aren’t real. He turned to me for confirmation,

Wight, Mama?

Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I was relieved when he accepted this at face value, then gladly helped his human playmate build a fairy house. Later that day, he constructed more under our lilac bush.

♦♦♦

It took a while to find my stash of confetti hearts that night. A few sprinkled around the entrance seemed enough to create the intended effect.

The next morning, I lingered at the sink, watching out the window. A perfect vantage to observe his discovery.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Knowing Better. Doing Better

Control Yourself

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ― Maya Angelou

As many of you know, my 18 year son is currently incarcerated due to his battle with addiction. Most of us know that as parents, when our children fail, we turn inward, we regret, and if we have any conscience at all, we analyze and analyze and analyze ad nauseum what we did to contribute to the downfall of the children we love. I am no different. As Son2 struggled and drowned in alcohol and drugs, I drowned in guilt and panic and soul-aching regret.

And while this kind of work has been fiercely private, there is this woman who lives in my small town, who knows nothing of who I am and even less about my son, but who inexplicably thinks that she knows exactly what it is that I did to contribute to my child’s demise. If you listened to her talk or if she wrote you a letter on the subject, she’d tell you that it was because I was too permissive. She’d say that I let Son2 get away with it all–the lying, the drugs, the partying, the ditching school–all of it. If you believed her, she’d tell you that I didn’t parent one iota, if you listened to her.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Growing Pains

On Pain

“Why did you hurt me on purpose, Mama?,” comes the zinger from the back seat. In this month’s “Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer Ginny Hamilton explores growing pains, painful patterns, and the truth that life hurts sometimes.

My kiddo sits in the grocery cart. He’s really too big, but containing him removes one variable from the shopping experience. Getting him in is akin to a choreographed 50s swing dance move – jump up, arms around my neck, lift hips, shimmy down. We both grunt and groan good-naturedly with the effort, usually prompting my teasing exclamation – Stop growing!!!  And his grinning response, No! I’m supposed to grow! or You’re kidding Mama. You want me to grow.

This is true. And not. But that’s a topic for another day.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Bravery is Being Scared But Acting Anyway

Dad’s Dreams, Mom’s Heart

What’s an anxious Mama to do when presented with a last minute chance to travel to Alaska with her Dad? I remind myself what I teach my son: Bravery doesn’t mean not being scared. Bravery is being scared but acting anyway.

Date night, Pioneer Valley. Scrunched down in my seat at the Academy of Music, tears roll down my cheeks. And I let them, which is unusual for me. On stage, Heather Maloney sings,

I am made of
All the same stuff
That makes the seasons what they are.
I am made of
Dirt and stardust
My daddy’s dreams
My mother’s heart.

What do I know of my dad’s dreams? What did he hope to be when he was six? A country boy with a frog in his pocket, he knew the answers but rarely raised his hand because of his lisp. I know he was often the kid picked last. I know he preferred Gene Autry to John Wayne. Were there dreams in between being a cowboy and a retired chemical engineer? Had to be. An outdoorsman turned corporate traveler, I learned last summer that he’s made it to all but six U.S. states. Next week, he and I check Alaska off that list. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: The Bumpy Inconsistent Emotional Journey of Parenthood

Sensitive Souls

I am a teacher; have been for 23 years. If you don’t know, a teacher’s clock is different than other adults. For us, this week is the end of the “year.” June is when the last chords play on a song that has it all; soft parts, loud parts, fast, heart-racing tempos and slow, feet-dragging beats. In June, I am pensive and melancholy because of the ending…the missing of students and parents and colleagues with which you spend most of your day. In June, I am reflective. I look back and take stock.

My “year” started in September.
My daughter went to kindergarten.
My eldest went away to college.
My 18 year old went to jail.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Hike it Baby” Connects Young Families and Builds Community in Western MA

National Network Promotes Wellness for Baby & Parents to Enjoy Nature & Community

Sometimes, opportunities for outdoor adventures with young children can seem limited – small humans aren’t always game to battle the elements for very long, and adventuring with a baby can certainly seem like a daunting task. Local outdoors enthusiasts have nothing to fear, however, thanks to the Hike It Baby Pioneer Valley. Part of a national network of Hike It Baby groups, Hike It Baby Pioneer Valley offers parents with babies and young children opportunities to explore the outdoors while surrounded by other families with babies and young children. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Letting People Help

The Village Helps

Yoga instructor and pain specialist Ginny Hamilton has never been good at asking for help. In this month’s Off the Mat: Reflections on the Practice of Parenting, she shares a story of independence and interdependence from her first days of motherhood.

I’ve always been fiercely independent, which is not necessarily a useful trait in the blurry days of new motherhood. Pushing 40, it was my first time around – and for me the only time. Thankfully, my sister came to help. She played with her newborn nephew overnight so I could sleep, taught us to swaddle, and fed me while I fed him. And she provided the other main support I wanted: company as I tried to go about daily business by myself. I drove, baby in back, sis in the passenger’s seat. We took the subway downtown, bought button-down tops to make nursing easier, and she stood guard as I nursed in a dressing room.

The store clerk, an older woman with a Middle Eastern accent, cooed over my tiny son curled up in the ergo carrier. “I’m amazed at how people in this country bring babies out so young. In my country, the mother stays home. Aunties bring what you need to you.” Her tone wasn’t critical. More sympathetic, offering condolences.  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: The Binding Thread of Peace for Mother’s Day

Honoring Traditions, Honoring Ourselves

This Mother’s Day, I expect to receive more handwritten letters. My six year old loves to demonstrate this newly acquired skill. Ms. Jarvis would be proud.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m contemplating paths to outer peace – on a global scale of state on state violence, on a societal scale of institutional violence, on a frighteningly personal scale of schoolyard gun violence, on a kitchen counter scale as two 6 year old boys negotiate train positions.

Did you know that early efforts to establish Mother’s Day were responses to the Civil War? Abolitionist, peace, and women’s rights activist Julia Ward Howe organized the Mother’s Day for Peace, calling on women to stand up against the horrors of war. Less well known, activist Ann Jarvis was in the trenches, caring for Union and Confederate soldiers. She organized meetings of moms who had lost sons on both sides of the conflict. Her daughter led the charge to make Mother’s Day an official holiday and reportedly was widely outspoken about the almost immediate commercialization that followed. Apparently the younger Ms. Jarvis lamented Hallmark creating Mother’s Day cards. She had envisioned hand written letters figuring prominently in Mother’s Day celebrations. I can only imagine she’s rolling in her grave as we greet mom via text message. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: The Reflections of Parenting Bring Self-Awareness

The Mirror

One of the truths of parenting is that my child is also my mirror. I see my expressions looking back at me. I hear my tone, my words, my affect in his bubbly little voice.

“Let your mat be your mirror,” the teacher said. “What does your yoga practice reflect about your life?”

Ah! That was easy to answer. Teacher after teacher would remind me to slow down, to find ease. To relax. Not to work so hard.

I immediately recognized the reflection in my mat-mirror: Work-a-holic off the mat, work-a-holic on the mat. 110% effort. Muscle through. Overthinking everything, not allowing flow. Filling every empty space with busyness. Not accepting myself as good enough. Erring on the side of perfectionism instead of acceptance. Hard work was my emotional currency: how I tried to earn my worth.

So for my self-study project during the months of my yoga teacher training, I worked to cultivate the opposite tendency from my habitual relationship with work and time. I committed to take Fridays off for the final months at my high stress job and to reflect on that experience. (Work-a-holic + no kids then = oodles of unused vacation time.) While I did not take off every single Friday, I was much more conscious of my inner dialogue about my choices for spending that time. And I did take off far more days than I had anticipated! Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: Have No Fear of Feelings

Sensitive Souls

Being sensitive is what makes me who I am; someone who strives on a daily basis to improve, a writer who notices the most minute life details, a philosopher who searches for meaning in the most mundane places.

When I was 9, while eating dinner in a fancy restaurant with my parents and sisters, an elderly woman at another table began to choke. The two men seated with her stood up quickly and one grabbed her around her middle to perform the Heimlich maneuver (although at the time, I didn’t know that was what he was doing). There was quite a lot of commotion surrounding the scene; silverware clanking on dishes, women gasping, and chairs scraping, but I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of the poor woman’s face. She was so clearly suffering, and so terribly full of fear. In an instant, her fear seemed to wash over me and I began to panic as well. My body started to shake. I felt the familiar sourness of nausea. My hands trembled and my armpits prickled with sharp needle-like jabs. I was overwhelmed with dread and turned to my mother who was standing across the table from me. I appealed to her with the only word that my dry lips could form, “Mommy?”

There was a lot of meaning in that single utterance…Mommy can we help? Mommy I am scared. Mommy I don’t like how fearful I feel. Mommy will it be ok? Perhaps because she was feeling just as scared, or maybe because she didn’t have any answers to those invisible questions, she responded with a scolding “Logan, don’t start!!”  Read the rest of this entry »

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