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

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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 »

Off the Mat: Positivity Downs Winter’s Walls

Cabin Fever Gratitude

It’s 4 degrees outside and snowing. Again. I’m at the kitchen counter with my coffee dregs. 10 feet away, building a marble set, he’s forgotten I’m here. What can I get done without moving? I reach my phone and type email with my thumbs. Usually, I take advantage of voice dictation, but speaking would remind him I’m here. I wonder how many generations will pass before the phrase “all thumbs” is considered an asset. Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Remaining Color Blind

Technicolor and Skin Color

 "WIZARD OF OZ ORIGINAL POSTER 1939" by MGM - http://daw.dyndns.org/images/movies/posters/wizard%20of%20oz.jpgalt source: [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.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 »

20 Recommendations for Staying Entertained Inside on a Snow Day!

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]

Off the Mat: 2015 Resolutions to Connect, Play & Practice

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 »

Hindsight Parenting: Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About Me

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 »

Let Them Grow: Empowering Children to Support their Wellness

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

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 »

Parenting Green: Eco-Craft Ideas for Holiday Gift Giving

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 »

Off the Mat: Moving Beyond the Edge of Code Yellow

The Edge

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.

Come on.

NO!

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 »

Let Them Grow: Finding Ways to Allow Little Kids to Express Big Emotions

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

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 »

Off the Mat: Maze of Meditation Leads to the Senses

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 »

Let Them Grow: Messy Process of Creating Art Brings Creative Free Play

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

The Convenience of Crazy

Paint brushes

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 »

The Good Life: “Time is the Longest Distance Between Two Places”

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

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 »

Off the Mat: Lessons in Unconditional Love from Piggett

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 »

Parenting Green: 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.’

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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 »

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 »

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