(c) Hilltown Families - New England AquariumLast Friday one of my good friends and I took our kids to the New England Aquarium in Boston. Big day! Our first trip to Beantown. We drove in and took the T to Quincy Market and walked from there to the aquarium, taking in all the sights and street performances.

My friend has twin boys, who just turned five, and she wrangles them together like some sort of supermom character from the League of Justice. I on the other hand become frazzled and exasperated with one little girl. When I asked her how she gets her kids to cooperate she replied, “Oh, I just bribe them. Candy, toys, money … whatever works.” BRILLIANT! Why didn’t I think of that?

(c) Hilltown Families - Penguins at the New England AquariumThe next time I needed Persephone to cooperate, I gave it a try. “Honey, if you get dressed I’ll let you watch Zoobomafoo.” Being the gifted negotiator that she is (“You mean manipulator,” my mother clarifies), she says, “how about I get dressed after watching Zoobomafoo?” Then I say, “how about you get dressed and I let you eat your breakfast while watching Zoobomafoo.” And then she says, “can I wear my Cheetah suit?” At this point I can feel myself slowly rising toward exasperation. “Fine, you can wear your Cheetah suit.”

She gets dressed and somehow manages to “negotiate” the viewing of Disney’s Pocahontas rather than PBS’s Zoobomafoo. I make a Persephone Special (omelet with crushed pretzels and raisins – it was her idea) and hand it over to her. “I wanted pancakes!”

And it continues this way through a series of negotiations until I’m fussing and she’s whining … Now I understand why they say never negotiate with terrorist or children.

This weekend I’m taking Persephone camping at the Clearwater Music Festival. Jim has to work, so it’s just the two of us, along with thousands of other festival goers. Straight from the CMF, we’re headed to the Jersey shore to visit my parents and soak up the Boardwalk culture of Ocean City. All sorts of opportunities will be presented for Persephone to “challenge my authority.” To bribe or not to bribe? That is my week’s question. Read More

Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Toys Recalled Due to Lead Hazard

I know Thomas the Train is a big favorite with many of the little ones, so it might be disappointing to hear that some of them are being recalled by the folks that make Thomas & Friends due to lead paint. There are 1.5 million of these wooden railway pieces in the toy boxes of our kids, so check and see if any of the ones your tot may be playing with is listed below. Read More

Public input sought for new student dental service

(c) 2007 Hilltown FamiliesMany children in our community suffer from dental disease—the most common chronic childhood disease—five times more common than asthma. When a child suffers from untreated dental problems, everyone loses. Due to pain, the child may be unable to concentrate at school and may become disruptive in class, negatively impacting the other children’s opportunity for learning. Ultimately, our whole community suffers when a child suffers.

The good news is that the Hilltown Community Health Centers are working in partnership with Gateway Regional Schools to develop a program to help our community combat this disease. Together, they are planning to bring preventive and restorative dental services into the schools. A taskforce of school representatives, health center representatives and parents have been meeting all year to design a program that meets our community’s unique needs. We have grant funding from MassHealth Access Program and Oral Health Foundation to purchase portable dental equipment and plan the outreach effort. No town or school funds will be used.  Read More

Listen to Podcast:


Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM
Northampton, MA
June 12th, 2007 @ 7pm

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What’s Cooking Grandma?

Small collection of video clips of grandmothers “sharing their special recipes.” Features selections such as “Nana Ruth’s Jam and Scones” and “Nannie Webb’s Apple Crumble.” Includes information about sending in a recipe and brief tips for recording audio and making a film. From the design collaborative Human Beans. (LII) www.humanbeans.net/whatscookinggrandma

Nana Ruth’s Blackcurrant Jam and Scones (8:21 minutes)

Nana Ruth from Arneside, UK shows grandaughter Lauren how to make blackcurrant jam and the scones to spread it on. Read More


School Bus Project

The Hilltown Cooperative Charter School in Haydenville, MA, has a plan … to purchase a school bus for their school and convert it to run on vegetable oil. This bus will be used to transport their students on field trips.

To make this happen, on June 22nd from 5-11pm they will be having a BASH to raise some CASH! And a might fun time it should be doing so. Read More


One thing I LOVE about summer is all the outdoor fairs & festivals. Music festivals, community festivals, wool fairs, rivers festivals, ecology fairs … you name it, there’s a community celebration for it. I find that festivals are an excellent way to expose myself and my daughter to different aspects of our culture, and the culture of other countries, such as the Cultural Survival Bazaar. Not only are they a fun time, they offer opportunities to expose us to what we might not otherwise experience in our own day to day experiences.

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The Cultural Survival Bazaar on the Amherst Commons happened last weekend.  My daughter rounded up some friends and they danced to the music of Yarina, an award winning Native American group of Ecuadoran musicians. Learning about the instruments indigenous cultures play is a great way to introduce these cultures to the kids. Yarina played a variety of traditional insturments, including:

  • Nami - Yarina is commited to preserving our heritage through artistic expression. With a belief in freedom for all people, we dedicate this music to our founding fathers, whose world we share with our children today.Pan Pipes (bamboo tubes tied together)
  • Quena (bamboo flute)
  • Charango (small ten-string guitar made of armadillo shell)
  • Bombo (a wooden drum with cowhide cover)
  • Chacchas (shaker made from sheep’s hooves)
  • Rain Stick

The MA Library system has several titles for borrowing, or you can click here to support the artists by purchasing their music. The next Bazaar in our area will be in Lenox, MA, the weekend of June 30th. Click here for more details.

Depending on which direction you live in, this weekend offers a number of festivals you can attending: RiverFest2007 in Shelburne Falls, Children’s Book Festival in Amherst, and the Dragon Boat Festival in Pittsfield. Read More

A: YES! The Worthington Swim Club!

Worthington Swim Club

Worthington Swim Club - (c) Sienna Wildfield

In addition to all the swimming holes found in the Hilltowns, the Worthington Swim Club adds a swimming pool to our swimming options. It does cost a few clams along with a few community hours, but for many, a swimming pool is their preference. Read More

Listen to Podcast:


Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM
Northampton, MA
June 5th, 2007 @ 7pm

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This past week Hilltown Families contributing writer Bill Childs posted the article, Music Compilations Worth The Bother. Bill offers a review of seven compilation albums, and later adds to his list here. My daughter saw the album image from The Bottle Let Me Down and liked it the best. As a consequence we’ve had to play in the car for at least a week now! It’s a good thing the album’s great! The title of the album appears as a tattoo on a babies arm, which led my daugher to whine for a tattoo too. We pulled out a tattoo of Gustafer Yellowgold’s head from the Brooklyn Hootenanny, and all was well. Read More


This flyer was posted on the activist bulletin board in the back of Cup & Top in Florence, MA. It reads:

Local Flyer - Food Not Bombs


Food Not Bombs

Needs Volunteers to:

  • Coordinate food aquisition
  • Help prepare, cook, serve
  • Secure a kitchen to cook in
  • Work on publicity

Interested? Want to get involved?
Contact Jonah: resisting@riseup.net

What is Food Not Bombs?
An international organization found in hundreds of communities across the globe which is devoted to developing positive personal, political, and pionomic (?) alternatives by cooking & sharing food with people who need it.

Read More

The Airship Is Coming!

Material about the history of blimp transportation and communication. Features an exhibition about these giant airships, “from the very first zeppelin that flew over Lake Constance in Germany in 1900 to the last, which was broken up there in 1940.” Also includes a video clip, maps of zeppelin routes over Denmark, and a game. In English and Danish. From the Post & Tele Museum, Denmark. [LII]
Read More

Family Concert at Cup & Top with Mr. Richard

Mr. Richard @ Cup & Top

“Richard Peeples [Mr. Richard] has a gruff singing voice that suggests he is more cartoon character than human, but that’s just part of his charm. On his second CD, he lathers his native Louisiana groove and gumption onto songs about dancing skunks and stolen toes.” – Cookie Magazine, April-May 2007

This past Saturday Mr. Richard did a free performance at Cup & Top in Florence, MA, presented by Valley Free Radio’s Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. Read More

It’s Officially Summer!

(c) Hilltown Families

We spent the weekend huffing and puffing until we finally got my daughters kiddie pool blown up – which officially makes it summer for us (even though it’s technically spring). Last year we had a round pool that just barely made it through the summer. This year we decided to get a lap pool… We mowed a patch of lawn, put the pool in a place where we wouldn’t mind killing the grass, positioned the slide, negotiated with Persephone to not use the tetter-totter as a diving board, and invited friends of the family over. While the grill blazed and adults swatted bugs, the kids filled the pool up with toys and blades of freshly mowed grass, initiating her shinny new green blow-up pool into swamp status.

In addition to blowing up the swimming pool, cooking out with friends & family and putting away the winter coats & sweaters (or rather shoving them under the bed), I took my daughter to the Sheep & Woolcraft Fair at the Cummington Fairgrounds last weekend. Mind you, I don’t know how to sew a button on but the beautiful yarns and knitting paraphernalia displayed at the fair have inspired me to learn to knit … in my “spare” time.

Both of my daughter’s grandmothers were talented seamstresses. My mother made much of my clothes growing up. I remember a green satin jumpsuit she made that I wore in one of my elementary school pictures, thin metal gold belt included (have I dated myself?). And Jim’s mother was a seamstress in Greece before moving here after he was born, and now spends her days knitting blankets and crocheting doilies at the kitchen table. You’d think somewhere along the line the talents of sewing and knitting would have rubbed off on me … but they haven’t. Too many other exciting things to master, like how to build a tower out of playing cards, or 20 fun things to do with a string.

This coming weekend offers several outdoor educational opportunities, as well as international dance and music, and opportunities to participate in fundraisers for wonderful community service programs. Read More


Join the residents of Buckland and Shelburne Falls, MA, on June 4th – 6th, 2007, in a ceremony with a Chinese Delegation to formally establish the Sister Village relationship between Shelburne Falls, MA, and Mutianyu.

Residents of Buckland and Shelburne and interested members of the general public are invited to attend the official ceremony establishing the sister village relationship between Shelburne Falls and Mutianyu. The ceremony will be held on Monday, June 4, from 12:00-12:45pm at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, located at the corner of Main and Church Streets, Shelburne Falls. Read More

Northampton Survival Center
3rd Annual Open House and Fundraiser

  • Free Food
  • Face Painting
  • Magic Show &Balloons
  • Games & Costumes
  • Storytelling
  • Live Music
  • Rain or Shine

On Sunday, June 10th from 1 – 4 pm, the Northampton Survival Center will host its third annual Open House, opening its doors to all families in the 16 communities it serves throughout Hampshire County, including seven hilltown communities.


This family-friendly event will take place rain or shine, and will feature free food, face-painting, and a magic show. Award-winning storyteller Jennifer Jacobson will present fables and true life stories about how children make the world a better place, to delight listeners of all ages. Special musical guests “The Lonesome Brothers” will provide live music for the event from 2 – 4 pm.
Read More

Lore of the Blue Moon

On May 31st the second full moon of the month will appear. Call this second moon of the month a “Blue Moon” and you’re bound to get the hackles up on a folklorist or two. Whatever the exact lunar phenomenon, the colloquial expression “Blue Moon” has seeped into the fabric of our culture. People use the phrase “Once in a blue moon” when referring to something that doesn’t happen all that often. And the name “Blue Moon” is used to name all sorts of products, from bed sheets to beads, cookbooks to storefronts.

Folklorist Philip Hiscock writes in his article Once in a Blue Moon: Fact and Fantasy About Blue Moons: “According to old folklore, some people say, the second full Moon in a calendar month is called a ‘blue Moon.’ They go on to explain that this is the origin of the expression ‘once in a blue Moon.’ But it isn’t true! The term ‘blue Moon’ has been around a long time, well over 400 years, but its calendrical meaning has become widespread only in the last 20 years.”

Read More

Listen to Podcast:


Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM
Northampton, MA
May 29th, 2007 @ 7pm

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Read More

Music Compilations Worth The Bother
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

Pity the underachieving compilation CD.

To do so, you may find it helpful to first anthropomorphize the underachieving compilation CD – perhaps imagine it with arms, legs, and a little CD face. Done? Now, pity it. Well done.

You know the CD I’m talking about. You’re digging through the used bin and you come across it – a clever name, perhaps, and maybe a worthwhile beneficiary – say, the International Association to Reduce Moderate Irritability in Gym Teachers. You dig some of the artists, haven’t heard of others, and figure you might as well give it a try. You buy it, put it in the CD player, frown vaguely, and never listen again.

The problem with most compilation CDs is that they’re filled with leftover tracks, the ones that weren’t good enough to even be the filler tracks on the artists’ real albums, or else they’re throwaway covers of songs you didn’t like the first time around.

Happily, these flaws are not endemic in kids’ music compilations. Some, as you’ll see below, represent the only kid-appropriate tracks done by the artists, while others are somehow able to get artists to contribute killer non-leftover tracks. Check them out: Read More

Ba Ba Black Sheep…

This past weekend saw the 33rd Annual Massachusetts Sheep & Woolcraft Fair. There were lots of animals, woolcrafts and workshops at the fair.

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Several children’s workshops were offered throughout the weekend, including Family Felting and Kumlhumo, Stick Weaving, Beginning Spinning, Felting Treasure Bags and Kool-Aid Dying. Read More

Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me!


Click here to subscribe to the Hilltown Families weekly eNewsletter! Have it delivered to your email in box once a week for free!

It is easy to make your own non-toxic bug spray by using store bought essential oils. Essential oils are steam-distilled pure concentrates of the natural oils present in plants, flowers, roots, and trees and can be purchased at your local health food store.

The high amounts of essential oils that are so often found in store bought natural bug sprays are unnecessary, and can be made at home using less.To make your own insect repellent, combine rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, vodka, or olive oil with one of the essential oils listed below. Read More


These are just some of the ways that companies market to children in schools, as they seek to promote their brands to a captive audience of students:

  • Channel One
  • BusRadio
  • Corporate-sponsored teaching materials
  • Advertising in hallways, cafeterias, gymnasiums and even on textbook covers

In 2000, a government report identified marketing to schools as a growth industry. But here in Massachusetts, that could change. Read More

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is here. Growing up in the hills of East Texas, Memorial Day weekend marked the opening of our neighborhood swimming pool. With great hopes that this weekend will be sunny and beautiful, we plan to follow this youthful tradition by blowing up the kiddie pool! My daughter’s beside herself. Yesterday she was running around the yard in her water-wings, river shoes and underwear. (And she’s got the bug bites on her back to prove it.) She wouldn’t take them off at bath-time. So why not … let her bathe with her swimming attire on. She got very frustrated with the water-wings. “They keep popping up!” she hollered as she tried to keep them submerged.

With the lilacs in bloom, Memorial Day weekend also marks the 33rd annual MA Sheep and Wool Craft Fair at the Cummington Fairgrounds – one of the oldest sheep fairs in New England. Is it my imagination, or have we had cruddy weather for the past couple of years during the fair? I’m actually hesitant to check the weather report. I’m going on wishful thinking!

The fair is a great opportunity to take the family to discover more about one of the oldest industries in the world. I’ve included a few of their events in this week’s list that are specifically for kids and families, but there is much more going on at the fairgrounds during the weekend. Visit their website for a complete schedule of events. Read More

Listen to Podcast:


Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM
Northampton, MA
May 22nd, 2007 @ 7pm

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Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Park

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

This past weekend we stopped by the Springfield Museum and my daughter got to romp around the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Park. Dr. Seuss grew up in Springfield, and is honored throughout the city with banners and a sculpture park. There were many kids there climbing on the structure, which a sign nearby clearly prohibits. Parents were shouting things like, “Joey, get off Horton.” “Hazel, don’t climb on the Grinch.” “LIAM! Don’t push your brother into Thing Number 2!”

I noticed one of the benches a screaming parent was sitting on had a tribute to Taj Mahal. I later learned that Taj Mahal (born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) is the official Blues Artist of Massachusetts. Voted on and approved by the Senate and House of Representatives. Taj Mahal grew up in Springfield too, another claim to fame of the city.

Read More

Hilltown Families & Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Present …


Uncle RockJoin us for an intimate performance with Uncle Rock in the beautiful Hilltown of Shelburne Falls, MA. Make a day exploring Shelburne Falls following this Saturday morning performance. “Unlike some of the classic New England towns that are overrun with tourists in the summer and fall, Shelburne Falls remains a bit of an undiscovered pot of gold at the end of a bridge decked with a rainbow of blossoms.”

Reserve your tickets for UNCLE ROCK!

  • July 28th, 2007 @ 10 a.m.
  • Children’s Art Museum
  • 14 Depot Street (behind the Trolley Museum)
  • Shelburne Falls, MA.
  • Tickets are $6.
  • Call to reserve your tickets!
  • 413.296.0096.

“[Uncle Rock’s CD, Plays Well with Others] is the album you imagine your former-rocker husband would love to make for your own kids–if only you had let him buy that Stratocaster last year instead of replacing the washer and dryer.” – Cool Mom Picks

Plays Well with Others is an album with some great cuts of kid-friendly roots-rock.” – Zooglobble.com

Read More



After dropping the kids off at school or their homeschool progam, drop on over to Elmer’s and enjoy an informal breakfast, tea or just coffee in the company of other hilltown parents. A good opportunity to meet other parents and to discuss the issues around their education and development.

Elmer’s Store is located at 396 Main Street in Ashfield, MA. A warm and inviting place to get together for breakfast and/or conversation.

  • Breakfast at Elmer’s
  • Main Street in Ashfield, MA
  • Wednesday’s at 9am-ish

Join other hilltown parents on Wednesday’s at 9am-ish for an informal, grassroots gathering to share and unite.

Click here to discover the 2008 schedule, etc.

2007 Old Fashioned 4th of July Parade in Chesterfield
with Quilts, Antique Cars & Horse Drawn Buggies

This year will mark the 60th annual 4th of July Parade in Chesterfield! To recognize this milestone, this year’s parade will reflect the theme of “An Old Fashioned 4th.”
Read More


April 5th, 2007

Dear Parent Support Community,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Childbirth Center at Cooley Dickinson Hospital to inform you of a recent development and to request your support. Hampshire OB/GYN sent a letter to its families on Tuesday, April 3 that outlined their decision to discontinue nurse midwifery (CNM) services at births as of June 15. They will continue to offer nurse midwifery care during prenatal and postnatal office visits and for gynecological visits. Hampshire OB/GYN is the only obstetrical practice affiliated with the hospital that currently provides CNM assisted births. We are working to further understand the decision made by Hampshire OB/GYN and to create a response plan to their decision. Read More

Spring Festivals

(c) Hilltown Families.  Hummingbird in West Chesterfield.It’s that time of year for plant sales and spring festivals. There are a couple spring festivals happening this weekend. One in the Hilltowns and the other in the Valley, and in a couple weeks is RiverFest in Shelburne Falls.

There are several plant sales this weekend too. If you have a plant sale you’d like to share, click here to post it.
If you have a family friendly event or educational program you’d like to let us know about, or would like to submit your event to the Hilltown Families calendar of Suggested Events, email Sienna at swildfield@juno.com. Comments are warmly welcomed! Read More

Springfest Celebrates Building Community Through Music

On May 19th from 11am-4pm the Northampton Community Music Center will host its annual citywide celebration of building community music in Northampton, MA. More than 200 children, adults, and faculty will play live music at various locations throughout downtown.

Read More

RiverFest 2007
Celebrating Energy That’s Clean & Green

(c) Hilltown Families - RiverFest 2006 in Shelburne Falls, MA.As spring turns to summer, the village of Shelburne Falls is once again preparing for its annual educational celebration of the Deerfield River and the surrounding countryside … RiverFest 2007!

RiverFest 2007 will take place, rain or shine, on Saturday, June 9. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Energy That’s Clean & Green,” and event organizers are making sure that visitors will have plenty of opportunities to go with the flow. Read More

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