November 18, 2015 at 9:00 am (Carrie St. John, Contributing Writer)
Tags: Commercial Free, Creative Free Play, Hand Art, Non-Commercial, Parenting, Play, Thanksgiving
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 »
September 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: creative thinker; free spirits, Fairy Houses, Gnome Home, Parenting, Playhouses
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,
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 »
August 31, 2015 at 9:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Controlling, Motherhood, Parenting, relationships
“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 »
August 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
“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 »
June 29, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships, sensitivity
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 »
June 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Hilltown Families, Outdoor Activities)
Tags: Children in Nature, community networking, Nature hikes, Parenting
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 »
March 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships, sensitivity
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 »
February 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: Black History Month, dialog, equality, mindfulness, Parenting, race, racial inequality
Technicolor and Skin Color
Last month, we took our son to see the Wizard of Oz on the big screen. This all-time favorite had yet to debut on family movie night due to my hubby’s flying monkey terrors. As the one who gets called for nightmares at 2 a.m., I had no need to introduce flying monkeys yet. But the rare chance to watch on a big screen was worth the risk.
We needn’t have worried. In the age of computer generated animation, his baseline of what looks real is vastly different than mine was at age 5. Hoisted up to the movie poster for a Facebook photo op, my kiddo commented on the image of Dorothy and Co. on the yellow brick road, Read the rest of this entry »
January 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Question and Answer, Questions and Answers)
Tags: Children, Family Activities, Indoor Activities, Parenting, winter activities
Staying Entertained Inside When It’s Too Snowy or Cold to Go Outside
We asked our readers how their families stayed entertained when they were snowed in… Answers ranged from playing games to playing music and included arts & crafts, baking reading, watching movies, and kitchen science! Let’s their ideas inspire you on this snowy day:
- Amy Meltzer writes: “Blokus, Backgammon, Spot It, Clue, puzzles…baking cookies…and what my girls call “book conferences” when we all get in bed and read together.”
- Andrew Woodland writes: “Play banjo!”
- Gillian Kyle Budine writes: “Cozy up and read!”
- Aviva Lester Sieber writes: “We do arts and crafts, and read.”
- Robin Shtulman writes: “Board games!”
- Leah Pilet-Stinson writes: “Making forts, baking, arts and crafts, set up our tent for indoor camping!”
- Prudence Wholey writes: “Games, reading, Scrabble.”
- Samantha Wood writes: “Reading near each other, watching movies, playing piano and making soups.”
- Mercedes Echevarria writes: “Baking cookies, reading, playing games.”
- Amy Jean Smith writes: “Baking, reading, coloring, playing music and lots of indoor activities that get you moving. My toddler’s favorite is a CD of music with different music for walking, marching, running (in place), skipping and formal walking. And watching the creatures outdoors.”
- Michele Lussier writes: “Books, movies, baking, cuddling/napping…”
- Mike & Mimi Blissed Ross writes: “Creating, music, art, reading, homeschooling, cooking things that require the oven! Dancing! Exercising! Latin music hot hot hot!”
- Jeremia Pollard writes: “We go outside.”
- Dorothy Elaine Lavachia Stant writes: “Go Crazy.”
- Amy Kane-Coyne writes: Playing Banannagrams. Art projects. Baking brownies.
- Michael Muller writes: Games. Reading. Audio books.
- Kate Bailey writes: V.I.D.E.O.
- Aime DeGrenier writes: Coloring, visiting with our awesome neighborhood kids, puzzle.
- Joshua Farber writes: Kitchen table science experiments involving snow – predictions and proposed variations can be drawn by the under-literate crowd.
- Sienna Wildfield writes: Make your own bubble recipe and then head outside and blow bubbles. You’ll be amazed in watching them freeze and then deflate!
[Photo credit: (cc) Michael Hartford]
January 5, 2015 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: mindfulness, New Year's Resolutions, Parenting
Resolve. Re Solve. To solve again.
Recently, a friend lent me CDs by poet David Whyte. I’ve been listening in the car as Whyte reads and reflects on poets from William Shakespeare to Mary Oliver. People who choose words so carefully make me look differently and think differently about how a word sounds and what those sounds mean.
This fall, my kiddo began bringing home Words of the Week from kindergarten. His teacher posts words like WITH and THE as passwords to enter the classroom, to help kids learn by looking. Participating in his early reading, I find myself taking apart words. Paying attention to how the words I use fit together for sounds. For meaning.
Like that blessed and cursed word: RESOLVE.
Resolve. Re Solve. To solve again.
Something you just solve once, just figure out like 2 + 2, doesn’t need to be re-solved. We re-solve those things that aren’t easily fixed. That we’ve tried a few different solutions for, yet haven’t yet found one that sticks.
So here, dear readers, in no particular order, are my daily re-solutions for 2015: Read the rest of this entry »
December 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: Motherhood, Parenting, relationships, self help, self worth
Give Yourself a Gift Everyday
In April of this year, after some unforeseen and life-shaking circumstances, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed to make some changes. Life-quaking things often bring these realizations, and this time was no different, but as I pondered what to do, I became increasingly aware that my options were not abundant for so many reasons. I knew from experience that hoping that those around you would change, needing them to change for you, wishing and dreaming about the day they would wake up after experiencing three ghosts completely renewed in a Scroogian way–well–it wasn’t happening. The changes I needed to make had to be my own. But how?
Read the rest of this entry »
December 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer)
Tags: art and play, Creative Free Play, Herbal Remedies, natural cures, Parenting, toddler behavior
Making Sick- Ok
Children love creating in the kitchen and by allowing them to help create herbal remedies; it can open the discussion on wellness and how food and plants can keep us healthy in the winter months. – To discover more folk remedies for colds and flu, check out this post from the Hilltown Families archives: 25 Western MA Folk Remedies for Colds & Flus
Having a sick child is the only thing worse than being sick yourself and ‘tis the season. In our Family Child Care, we are very particular in paying attention to the cleanliness of the children and ourselves. As the frequently used adage goes around here, “hand washing first.” When the children arrive from home they are first asked to wash their hands. They also wash after toileting and before eating. The children love washing their hands, we make it fun by singing, making lots of bubbles and discussing the importance of those clean little paws. They are also beginning to understand the importance of it without us, as adults bombarding them with too big words like “contagious” and “spread of infection”; words that can only scare a child without fully understanding them. Often in their private little circle they can be overheard pretending to wash at the play sink, or wiping their sneezes away with a tissue– this is when you know you have done a great job!
Children around the age of two begin to learn about germs. They do not really have any real sense of the huge impact this imaginative creature can have on them but they begin to follow along with the social cues we are teaching them; “cover your mouth” and “ wash both hands”. Read the rest of this entry »
December 3, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Crafting with Kids, Creative Free Play, DIY Crafts, Green Holiday, Green Living, MYO Crafts, natural materials, Parenting
Family Creative Free Play Pays Big Dividends in Crafting Memories for the Holidays
Carving out time to craft has proven to be an essential activity for me. It allows for creative free-form time amongst the schedules, the routine, and the prescribed. I love it when I get into a project alongside the kids. Sometimes it’s baking. Sometimes it’s seed saving and sorting. Sometimes it’s specific materials that inspire a project. I found myself enamored by this beautifully dyed wool roving at the Hartsbrook School holiday fair in Hadley, MA, last weekend and spoke with the vendor about all the ways we could work with the material as a family. I was inspired to try something new. I had never needle felted before and thought that it would be something at least my 10 year old could get into. What I didn’t realize was she was already doing this craft at her school. It’s true the material sat in our fabric closet for exactly a year before I actually put it to use, but I was reignited to the idea when a neighbor showed me some of the needle felting she was doing alongside her billowing basket of cookie cutters, and I jumped in. Read the rest of this entry »
December 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: conquering fear, meditation, mindfulness, Parenting, rules
Our new neighbor stands at her mailbox. I cross to say hello. My son runs to join me, freezes at the edge of the driveway like a dog approaching an invisible fence. I look both ways with exaggerated movements, no cars in sight for 100 yards. Hold out my hand.
This IS a good thing, I remind myself. We live on a busy street. I walk back. Take his hand. We cross together.
♦♦♦ Read the rest of this entry »
November 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer)
Tags: art and play, Creative Free Play, Parenting, toddler behavior
Making Thanks Tangible
These ARE big feelings for little people. How do you get your child to express a clear emotion?
As everyone knows children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, can have a hard time expressing their emotions in socially acceptable ways. Young children love their parents, love their bothers and sisters and their families and friends more than they have the words to express. They cannot spend hours contemplating the complex feelings and compiling a love letter to mommy. They often don’t know that pushing and hitting and jumping on aren’t the only ways to show their friends how much they really appreciate them. With Thanksgiving coming, I thought this would be a great time to offer a few suggestions on how young children can acknowledge their feelings for the people that are so important to them. Read the rest of this entry »
November 3, 2014 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: meditation, mindfulness, Parenting
You are Here
Meditation is like a kindergartener in a corn maze.
My kiddo has been drawing mazes for months. They started as amorphous, blobby worm-like passages with an S for start and an F for finish at opposite ends. But they’ve grown. Evolved. Mutated into intricate intestinal networks. He fills sketchpad after sketchpad, after sketchpad with twists and turns and traps of more and more complexity. We’ve invested in cap erasers and a $1 flea market electric pencil sharpener, so packed with shavings I did wonder about the presence of actual lead from pencils of old.
On a recent Saturday, we coughed up $25 for a family excursion to a local corn maze. Not one for such seasonal fanfare, I was pleasantly surprised to find the experience worth the expense. My imagination had pictured a box hedge maze straight out of the Shining or Harry Potter, depending on your generational frame of reference. Read the rest of this entry »
October 22, 2014 at 9:00 am (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer)
Tags: art and play, Creative Free Play, new baby, newborn, Parenting, toddler behavior
The Convenience of Crazy
Bringing a bit of order to creative free play.
Well, I am officially a mother now. Not just a care provider from 8-5, I am a Mama. I can’t send my daughter home after I have cleaned up and waved goodbye to all the other children. She stays – always.
I have historically been enthusiastic advocate for the arts and as my Bio states: “I revel in hands on messy projects.” But now, I see why some parents avoid it. The ‘messies’ are not convenient. Messy projects do not fit neatly into the nightly routine, the bath, the story and bedtime. It throws a big greasy wrench into the nice white mix of the night and clunks around in there distracting you. It distracts us from the dishes, the laundry and that book that you have really wanted to start. So how do we as parents, balance those projects with the rest of our lives? Read the rest of this entry »
October 13, 2014 at 9:00 am (Contributing Writer, Sarah Mattison Buhl)
Tags: Parenting, race against the clock, rat race, running late, schedules, Stress, time
Where Has the Time Gone?
I’m not sure exactly what I did with my time when I was, say, 22. I know I was living with my BFF in an apartment in Milwaukee, WI, and working in an art gallery downtown. I did not have a computer, a smartphone, or a Facebook account. I think I read. I think I read the mail, read magazines, read books. I remember going to an upscale hotel where I had a gym membership and I exercised. I went out, I had people over. There was no reality TV, but I had plenty of time to watch it if there had been. But, where has the time gone? Really. Where has it gone? Read the rest of this entry »
October 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: Family Travel, mindfulness, Parenting, parenting and yoga, practicing yoga as a parent, stuffed toy, stuffies
Things that Fly
My boy is at school. Kindergarten. A whole new world. He’s only a mile away, much closer than the preschool over-the-river-and-through-the-woods. Still, it feels farther. Distant. I was in and out of his preschool room. Most days we said goodbye at his cubby-hole, but there were regular opportunities to come in and play, read a book, or just cuddle until he was settled.
Now, we say goodbye as he sprints out to the bus. If he remembers to say goodbye. He goes into a big building and hangs his new big backpack in a cubby I have never seen. May never see.
Apparently, stuffies don’t go to kindergarten.
I remember him that very first day, all wrinkled and noisy. Read the rest of this entry »
October 1, 2014 at 9:00 am (Angie Gregory, Contributing Writer, Sustainability)
Tags: Activisim, Climate Change, Parenting, people's climate march
Reflections on the People’s Climate March
NYC Sept 21st, 2014
I felt it was important to go to the Climate March because it was going to be historic—the largest climate rally in history, and people from all over the globe had an opportunity to share a collective stance. Indigenous groups joined with hundreds of thousands of people to be speaking with the same voice with a lot more presence. Singer Angelique Kidjo spoke with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now as she represented the women in Africa who are paying the price for climate change as it is directly affecting their crops and their livelihood right now. In some way I felt just as unheard as them. Al Gore and Bill McKibben stood strong leading the march though all fame aside there was an overall voice throughout of truly this being about ‘us the people.’
So what made my husband and I want to bring our children when the thought of taking 3 kids to the grocery store is daunting? Well, I guess it’s because we recognized that daily discomforts and mood shifts would be a part of our day with kids anyway, so we were ready for that. It was just something we were going to do. To have them not only experience a civil action for a cause they believe in, but also to let them know just how important our actions are. It’s a unique opportunity to broadcast the small ‘work’ we all do every day as individuals to minimize our impact. Read the rest of this entry »
September 29, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: back to school blues, child anxiety, Motherhood, Parenting, relationships
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 »
September 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Hindsight Parenting, Logan Fisher)
Tags: child independence, growing up, Off to College, Parenting, Parenting Advice, Parenting Styles
Five Things You Don’t Do The Day After Leaving Your Child at College
Although he’s twenty, just last week, Son1 went “off” to college for the first time. For the past two years, he’d been attending classes at our local community college trying to figure out what he wanted to do. This past spring, all his hard work there paid off and he was accepted to many colleges and universities. He chose a college in Connecticut. (Not a huge surprise since Magicalfairyprincessgirlfriend goes there as well.)
Since this is a first for me, a child leaving…really leaving the nest…I had no Hindsight to lean on, and so I had to rely on my gut instead. The week before, I kept checking in with myself on how I was feeling with all this moving away to a new state, new city, hours away from his family. And well…for the entire week before…heck even while I was setting up his chic dorm room my gut said that I was just fine. All I was feeling, seemingly, was pride and excitement. This move ultimately was what every parent strives for while raising their children. He was unfurling his wings, moving into adulthood with grace and assurance. I am proud. I was and am excited. Even as I said goodbye, the pride swelled in me. “Off you go first born love of my life. Go and live this experience to the fullest.” Then I got in the car…Then I got home. Then…then I woke up the next day and well, the pride and excitement was still there, but so was this distinct melancholy; a weepy sort of lonely feeling that got worse as the day went on. I realized very quickly that the day after dropping my child off to college was going to feel worse than the day of. Tear triggers were everywhere and I learned the hard way the top five things NOT to do the day after dropping your child off at college… Read the rest of this entry »
September 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Contributing Writer, Ginny Hamilton, Parenting)
Tags: Family Travel, mindfulness, Parenting, parenting and yoga, practicing yoga as a parent
Enjoy the Ride
My five year old son is in his room, slamming the door. Deliberately and with precision. He’s got highly sensitive ears – auditory processing the occupational therapist calls it – and I can only assume he’s seeking Just. The. Right. Sound. The SLAM! that will echo through the walls and into my bones set my teeth on edge. Sound rises above the bathroom fan but is muted by the water pressure, warm streams trickling down my hair, ears, face, shoulders. The water, the curtain, the closed door give me the ever so slight space I need to view the scene with a hint of detachment. Amusement, even, though shame lingers around the edges, like mildew never quite scrubbed from the grout.
Occupying the weeks between school and camp, we’re back from a 3 day urban adventure: Amtrak, NJ Transit, and a myriad of subway lines. He’s a stellar traveler, fueled by curiosity and wonder and an obsessive love of trains. Take him out of his ordinary and he shows his extraordinary. I thoroughly enjoy time with the big boy he’s becoming.
So it’s no surprise really when blubbery-whiny-tedious boy returns upon arrival home. And along with him, short-tempered-uninspired-reactive Mama. Read the rest of this entry »
August 27, 2014 at 9:00 am (Candice Chouinard, Contributing Writer)
Tags: emotional resiliency, new school year, Parenting, separation anxiety
Making Separation an Adventure
With the beginning of a new school year upon us, many parents might be planning on sending their children to school, daycare or even playdates for the first time. If your child experiences separation anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help ease their transition and enjoy their time away. As a daycare provider who often helps families move through separation anxieties, I cannot stress enough how significant it is to help your child build this early trusting relationship. In my opinion, children often learn to trust during these times of separation. They learn to trust that you as the parent will always return. “Mommy’s and Daddy’s always come back” is my go-to line. Read the rest of this entry »
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