One Year Book Birthday

April 18, 2018 by ldecesare

Today is FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS’s one year book birthday. To celebrate, I’m giving YOU a gift.

Only until Saturday: Kindle = 1.12 (SERIOUSLY!) and Nook, iTunes, Kobo, Google = 1.99

Shop and share! Thank you for coming along with me for my debut year!

Forks, Knives, and Spoons Book Deal | motherscircle.net

Also to celebrate, I’m holding a subscriber-only giveaway through April 30th. I send one email a month, occasionally a second, and I don’t spam you or share my list. Sign up here to enter.

Subscriber Giveaway | motherscircle.net

Nook

Kindle

Kobo

iTunes

Teaching Kids How to Handle a Police Encounter

April 10, 2018 by ldecesare

Fourth in this series of guest posts by ex-detective, Dave Williams, an expert on preventing school shootings, is today’s post on Teaching Kids How to Handle a Police Encounter.
Click to read the other posts in the series:
Making Schools Safer One Dad at a Time
5 Strategies to Prevent School Shootings
The Bullying – School Shooter Connection and What We Can Do About It

I grew up in Newtown, CT and I met Dave at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico (he’s now writing fiction) where this ex-detective and I talked a lot about his work and research on preventing school shootings. His book, Textbooks Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community is available now for only .99 – he want to get this information out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to take action, get one and pass it along to your parent-teacher groups, your school superintendent and administrators and read his post below on dad volunteerism at schools. Thanks for being on Mother’s Circle, Dave.

Teaching Kids How to Handle a Police Encounter | motherscircle.net
Teaching Kids How to Handle a Police Encounter

I am a strong proponent of having more school resource officers in schools. Such practice tends to make schools safer, while offering a positive role model for students to observe on a daily basis. However, one of the questions I’m asked most often when I speak to parent groups has to do with what they should teach their kids to do if a police officer ever speaks with them at school, pulls them over in a car, or questions them on the street.

I get it. It’s nerve-wracking to get pulled over by the cops, and for minorities in some jurisdictions it’s downright terrifying.

There’s not much I can do to help calm your nerves after you or your child encounters a police officer, but I can probably help you survive the encounter and conclude with a positive outcome.

First and foremost, be polite. He or she will likely be courteous as well, but there are plenty of unfortunate examples in which a police officer is less than professional. Don’t meet his rudeness with your own. Respect the badge and position, even if you don’t respect the person wearing the uniform. In other words, be the bigger person if the encounter is not going well.

Beyond being civil, I recommend a program I coined called Comply, Record, Complain, and Compliment. I developed and began teaching these principles to kids in an alternative high school where I spent the last year of my law enforcement career as a school resource officer. Kids (and adults, for that matter) who follow these steps will generally have a positive police encounter, while empowering every student to participate in improving their local police department.  Comply, Record, Complain, Compliment – it works.

Comply

Comply with the officer’s instructions. You may believe with all your heart that he didn’t have a legal reason to pull you over. Maybe you’re right about this, and maybe you’re flat-out wrong.  Regardless, that officer holds tremendous authority, and failing to comply with his instructions gives him increasing reason and authority to use force against you. I know that rankles many of you, especially if the officer is in the wrong. What matters is surviving and being free to leave that officer’s custody in the next few minutes. There are times when discretion truly is the better part of valor, and engagement with a police officer, even if he’s rude or wrong, is one of those times. 

Record

Record the interaction.  If the officer does his job well, you can delete it. If, however, he is rude, abusive, or corrupt, you’ve gathered evidence that can be used to change his ways or remove him from the profession altogether. 

What if the officer tells you to turn off the recorder? First, understand that the officer is in the wrong for telling you to turn off your recording device. He or she is a public safety officer—emphasis on public—and they are presumably standing in a public area. Thus, they have no reasonable expectation of privacy, and you are constitutionally allowed to keep filming. 

However, if the officer is getting angry, I would recommend that you simply turn off the recording device in most cases. This is unfair, but it may be prudent. Again, comply with his or her instructions, and retain the partial recording for your follow-up complaint. Remember, the last thing the police supervisor (or judge, or jury, etc.) will hear is that officer issuing an unconstitutional order. It won’t go well for him after that. You win if you play it smart. 

Complain

Leave the scene, get to a safe place, and then make a formal complaint against the officer.  If an officer has violated policy, smeared the Constitution, or was rude, threatening or violent without reason, you owe it to every good officer out there to make a complaint. Nobody hates a bad cop like a good cop. They make us look bad and make it more dangerous to go about our business. The few rotten ones tarnish the reputation and pride of entire squads and departments, and we need them gone. One complaint may or may not change the course of a bad officer’s career, but a stack of them just might. 

Compliment

This is perhaps the most important step in terms of making substantive change, yet it is by far the most overlooked. This one involves calling the officer’s supervisor or writing the police chief an e-mail letter to express what a great job the officer did during your encounter. Officers rarely get compliments. They’re so rare that they are memorable, and it’s that kind of memory that can help a jaded officer remember why he signed up for police work in the first place. It can also enlighten a young officer that good work can be recognized, or a veteran that what he’s done with his life mattered. 

Compliments, like complaints, end up in officers’ personnel files, and those commendations go a long way when officers are trying to promote or get into a specialized unit. All other things being equal, the officer with ten compliments from citizens is going to get the promotion over the guy with no such letters. And that is how it should be. Your compliment becomes an act of participatory government. In a single two-minute phone call you or your child take part in career development for good officers, and I assure you it is two minutes well spent. These are the guys you want to make sergeant, detective or lieutenant. Someday he or she may be a chief or a SWAT commander, and that officer will know somewhere in the back of their mind that some of the citizens out there have their back. That’s a big message, folks, and it’s an easy one to send. 

The Bullying – School Shooter Connection and What We Can Do About It

April 3, 2018 by ldecesare

Third in this series of guest posts by ex-detective, Dave Williams, an expert on preventing school shootings, is today’s post about the connection between bullying and school shootings.
Click to read the other posts in the series:
Making Schools Safer One Dad at a Time
5 Strategies to Prevent School Shootings
Check back next week for Dave’s post on Teaching Kids How to Handle a Police Encounter

I grew up in Newtown, CT and I met Dave at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico (he’s now writing fiction) where this ex-detective and I talked a lot about his work and research on preventing school shootings. His book, Textbooks Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community is available now for only .99 – he want to get this information out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to take action, get one and pass it along to your parent-teacher groups, your school superintendent and administrators and read his post below on dad volunteerism at schools. Thanks for being on Mother’s Circle, Dave.

The Bullying – School Shooter Connection | motherscircle.net
The evidence is clear: bullying and school shootings are attached at the hip. Children and adolescents pushed to the brink of rage act out, and sometimes that acting out includes bringing firearms on campus. If we want to reduce or eliminate murders on campus, we’ve got to address the bully element. Fortunately, several programs have shown a history of being effective in preventing bullying and violence.

In a previous article I spoke about the importance of parental involvement in schools as a way to increase morale and productivity, as well as playing a part in making schools safer. This holds true with anti-bullying programs, which tend to be more successful when a significant percentage of parents are involved at a school. In other words, bullying and its negative consequences tend to diminish when parents are more involved in schools and participate in anti-bullying initiatives.

Unfortunately, some schools find it challenging to engage parents. School counselors have reported that it is often the parents of the most at-risk students who seem to be the most resistant to be involved in anti-bullying measures. This may be due in part to some level of denial that issues such as bullying and all its associated problems could exist in their homes. It would certainly be nice if all parents spent time volunteering at their children’s schools, but we know from experience some families are simply unable or unwilling to volunteer.

Regardless, any program being considered by a school district is best served if parent groups are included in the review and discussion.

Parents must be made aware that this problem is a systemic one, and that it is highly likely their child has bullied, been bullied, or witnessed bullying.

Such a message may bring home the critical importance of all stakeholders being and staying involved. The goal parents, school personnel, and students should strive for is a non-bullying environment in which all concerned can learn and grow safely.

To that end, Dr. Dan Olweus of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program provides four fundamental principles for a non-bullying environment:

  • Warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults
  • Firm limits as to unacceptable behavior (which are clearly communicated to students and parents)
  • Consistent application of non-hostile, non-physical sanctions when there are violations
  • Good role modeling by the adults involved (at school AND home)

These principles are utilized consistently in successful programs. Schools and parent groups interested in fostering such an environment should bear these principles in mind during their research, planning and implementation phases. Doing so provides a solid foundation upon which to build an effective anti-bullying model for which any school could be proud.

Space here doesn’t allow me to elaborate on each, but here’s a list of programs that have proven effective to get you started. I’d love to hear about other programs you’ve found successful.

  • Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers
  • Resolving Conflicts Creatively
  • Student Mediated Conflict Resolution Program
  • The Good Behavior Game
  • The Family and Schools Together Program
  • Second Step Program
  • Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
  • Five Track Method

What is consistently clear is that bullying is a fundamental reason for the rage associated with most school shooting incidents and that failure to undertake preventive measures can have dire consequences. What is equally clear is that bullying can be minimized or even prevented with reasonable effort, training, structure, and communication.

Think of bullying as if it is a symptom like chest pain. Treated, we can lower cholesterol levels, lose some weight, eat healthier, and exercise to better insure a long and healthy life. Ignore the symptoms, however, and at some point you’re looking at a full-blown cardiac event—only in this case the metaphor symbolizes children shooting and killing other children.

Thus, we should consider school shootings as largely preventable. Two of the best medicines known to foster such prevention include anti-bullying programs and parental involvement. I submit that it’s time for every school throughout this country and beyond to take its medicine.

5 Strategies to Prevent School Shootings

March 27, 2018 by ldecesare

We know there’s a problem, but how can we prevent school shootings? Second in this series of guest posts by ex-detective, Dave Williams, an expert on preventing school shootings, is today’s post on 5 Strategies to Prevent School Shootings.
Click here to read the first in the series: Making Schools Safer One Dad at a Time.
I grew up in Newtown, CT and I met Dave at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico (he’s now writing fiction) where this ex-detective and I talked a lot about his work and research on preventing school shootings. His book, Textbooks Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community is available now for only .99 – he want to get this information out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to take action, get one and pass it along to your parent-teacher groups, your school superintendent and administrators and read his post below on dad volunteerism at schools. Thanks for being on Mother’s Circle, Dave.

5 Strategies for Preventing School Shootings | motherscircle.net
Let’s begin with the agreement that every teacher, parent, principal, staff member, AND child holds value in a school. From custodian to administrator, shy child to class president, every person who enters a school makes a difference in terms of how well each child learns, how happy and welcoming the environment, and how safe each person on campus lives each day. 

Most of us buy into the idea that we can make a difference in terms of the quality of our child’s education. Yet too many of us throw up our hands when it comes to school security. It feels like a beast beyond our control, which leads us into quagmires while waiting for elected leaders to “fix” the problem or debates that never resolve.

Folks, we can’t wait any longer. Making our schools safer falls to every parent, teacher, student, staff member, and administrator, and we do our best and most protective work when we work together toward common objectives. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of five achievable goals every school can implement. The result will be that students are safer, and also that they will FEEL safer. I can’t imagine anything more important than that.

1. Harden the Target

Hardening the Target means designing or modifying schools to be fortresses, but with a catch. Schools must remain welcoming, happy environments, or the whole idea of creating atmospheres conducive to learning is crushed. This sounds impossible, but it has been done and it can be done in your school utilizing such principles as:

  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
  • Shatter-resistant window film
  • Low-tech door stops
  • A system to “funnel” visitors into a waiting area until they can be identified and allowed entry
  • Higher-tech solutions such as surveillance cameras enabled with real-time viewing accessible by responding police officers
  • Alarms on every door that also create a cell phone alert when breaches occur

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a great place to get you started. 

2. School Resource Officers (SRO) in Every School

I’d like to see an SRO in every school. Why not? Cost? Don’t talk to me about cost when it comes to the safety of our children. There’s a school nurse in or readily available to most schools in this nation, and I submit an officer assigned to schools can be just as important. An SRO comes trained and equipped to protect our children, and he or she also adds value in another way: as a positive role model of a person who has dedicated their life to the safety of others. We hear bad news about police officers all the time, but the fact is that the vast majority of officers—perhaps especially those working in schools—are doing their job to protect and serve. What parent wouldn’t want a bit more of that in their kid’s life?

3. Training for all Stakeholders

Training for parents, teachers, and kids needs to encompass two primary objectives. First, each must be trained to look for impending danger so that we can stop violence before it ever happens. Witness interviews following school shootings that have occurred over the last twenty years show a strong inclination for kids planning a shooting to share their plans before the tragic day. This means parents, students, and teachers must understand that they may hold the key to thwarting an attack. Much like our nation’s mantra regarding terrorist attacks, “If you see something, say something,” those who attend schools daily can save lives if they speak up. 

The second area of training is geared toward survival strategies if and when the horrible day comes to your school. I hate that we have to teach kids about what to do if someone comes to school with a gun, but that is a better alternative than leaving our kids confused and panicked if an attack occurs. My generation used to have atomic bomb drills. Yes, it was a little scary, but so were drills to survive tornadoes and fires. We train for the worst day, hoping it will never come, but knowing such preparation will help each of us survive if it ever comes. 

4. Bullying Prevention Programs

Bullying is one of the most common factors in school shootings. [Check back next week for Dave’s post on The Bullying-School Shooter Connection and What We Can Do About It.] Kids who plan to shoot people at their schools (or actually carry out their plans) are consistently shown to have been victims of bullying prior to the attack. The anger that builds within them over a period of months or years boils over in tragic, homicidal rage. It’s avoidable, and there are a number of programs proven effective in reducing bullying behavior while also empowering students to take life’s punches and keep going. 

5. Parent Volunteerism

Schools with a steady stream of parent volunteers tend to be safer and more effective at educating kids. The data is clear in this regard, and any parent interested in keeping schools safer needs to strongly consider volunteering at least one day a year. I’ve previously written about my experiences with the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program, but you may choose to be a homeroom mom or dad, help the coaching staff, volunteer as a reading tutor (check out the Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring program for grandparents—amazing), or to chaperone a field trip. The point is, get involved, because those small efforts pay off in student morale, attention, educational achievement, AND safety. 

There’s the nutshell list, and it’s a list that works. Someone at the next PTO/PTA meeting is going to tell you it’s too expensive, too hard, or too unrealistic for that school district. I wish I could be there when you tell them otherwise. 

Making Schools Safer, One DAD at a Time

March 6, 2018 by ldecesare

Please welcome today’s guest blogger, Dave Williams, an expert on preventing school shootings. I grew up in Newtown, CT and I met Dave at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico (he’s now writing fiction) where this ex-detective and I talked a lot about his work and research on preventing school shootings. His book, Textbooks Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community is available now for only .99 – he want to get this information out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to take action, get one and pass it along to your parent-teacher groups, your school superintendent and administrators and read his post below on dad volunteerism at schools. Thanks for being on Mother’s Circle, Dave.

Making Schools Safer | MothersCircle.net
One of the simplest, yet most effective strategies for making schools safer involves increasing parental volunteerism in schools. Amazing things happen when parent participation goes up. Standardized test scores rise, as does attendance and optimism among students. Violence and behavior requiring correction go down, and students, teachers, administrators and parents all tend to feel better about the school and each child’s opportunity within that school. Aside from the time a parent might need to take away from work, I see no downside. It is win-win infinity.

Unfortunately, the ratio of male parent volunteers to female is still less than half in most school districts. Moms simply volunteer more often to chaperone field trips, organize school functions, and bring treats for birthday parties, and that’s on top of being full-time in the workforce. Shame on my gender, because our kids need us right alongside the moms, especially during a time when we’re all concerned with school safety, bullying, and best practices in education. I say this as a father and as a public-safety veteran—guys, we can do better.

I’m a retired cop who spent thirty years working to make my city safer. Much of that time was as a detective in a violent crimes unit, and two of those years I also worked as a school resource officer. Toward the end of my career I completed a master’s degree in criminal justice so that I could teach beyond the streets, and I wrote my master’s thesis on the subject of preventing school shootings. I learned a great deal while researching the topic, despite my years of experience. The result was a collection of strategies all designed and proven to make schools safer and to make kids FEEL safer.

I was also a single parent who became involved with a volunteer organization called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) around the time my kids hit first and second grade. Watch D.O.G.S. was the brainchild of some fathers living and working in a school district just north of where we lived at that time, but their program has grown by leaps in the years since its inception. It now includes nearly 5400 schools in forty-seven states, and they seem primed to grow even more.

The Watch D.O.G.S. program is a volunteer opportunity which focuses on education and safety in schools by using the services of fathers, grandfathers, uncles and adult brothers. In short, men are asked to volunteer for a minimum of one day per year in their child’s (or young relative’s) elementary or middle school. The volunteers are issued a “uniform” (generally a simple t-shirt with a Watch D.O.G.S logo), a two-way radio with which to communicate with the administrative and office staff, and a schedule of the day’s events each day they show up for service.

The effect is that the male relatives of school students sign up in droves, often to the point that each school has at least one or two volunteers each school day. The Watch D.O.G.S. volunteers patrol the halls, monitor playground activities, engage people entering the school in a friendly albeit firm manner, and tend to any number of other tasks such as escorting classes to the cafeteria, helping with car and bus lanes, opening milk cartons, mending skinned knees, etc.

The results in schools utilizing the program have been significant increases in volunteerism, increased positive male involvement, increased male membership in parent-teacher organizations and their programming, consistent reports from students that they feel safer when volunteers are present, and a long and growing list of praise.

I was volunteering as a Watch D.O.G.S. Dad at my two sons’ elementary school on September 11, 2001. What began as a fun day with my kids turned terrifying as this country endured the infamous attacks. Soon parents began arriving at the school, some in tears, and many to take their children home so they could all be together in what appeared like end times. Cars began lining up to fill their tanks with gasoline at a station within view of the school, and at one point a large truck with no logo or decal pulled up next to the school entrance while the driver stared at the front doors.

My first instinct as a police officer was to get to New York City and help my brother officers under attack. I had a fleeting moment when I envisioned packing my jump kit, grabbing a toothbrush, and heading northeast. But then a wonderful thing happened. I looked down at my sons, then seven and eight, and I knew I was exactly where the universe—and those boys—needed me to be. For the rest of that day, and even now, I felt intense pride in having been in the right place at the right time.

The Watch D.O.G. Dad program was never designed for such an event as this country’s 9-11, yet it was because of their model program that I was where I needed to be. I can only wish for every other father, grandfather and uncle to feel something close to what I felt each day I volunteered under that program. Being part of keeping your children and their friends safe, being an example for them to see, and playing an active part in their education is as valuable and memorable an experience as I can imagine. So, gentlemen, go sign up or contact WATCH D.O.G.S. to learn about starting a program in your school. It may be the best time you ever spent away from the office. 

Click to buy: Textbooks, Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community

About Dave:

David L. Williams is a retired thirty-year public safety veteran recognized by the Fraternal Order of Police, Rotary International, the American Legion and others for his work with families and children in crisis.  He is the bestselling author of Textbooks, Not Targets: Preventing School Shootings in Your Community and Fighting for Her Life: What to do When Someone You Know is Being Abused.

Ovarian Cancer: A deadly disease you may not know much about

September 12, 2017 by ldecesare

Thank you to ConsumerSafety.org for this guest post to educate
Mother’s Circle readers on ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness | motherscircle.net
September is here! School is back in session, it’s sweater season again, and #PSL (pumpkin spice latte) is back! What could be better? The answer – teal! While September brings the start of fall, we also honor National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Walks and fundraisers will be happening all across the country to support the research and patients of this life-threatening disease. While getting involved or donating toward these efforts is truly wonderful, another simple way to mark the occasion and make a difference is to learn more about ovarian cancer and spread this important information to the women in your life who could potentially be at risk one day.

Every 23 seconds, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In the United States alone, that’s over 22,000 women diagnosed per year. We can all agree that this statistic is scary. What makes it worse is that ovarian cancer is the 5th deadliest cancer for women, killing 14,000 women per year. It’s certainly not something to be taken lightly; however, by spreading awareness and knowledge, we can change that statistic!

So we’ve learned that ovarian cancer is both common and deadly. Now let’s look at why this cancer is so fatal. 85% of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in more advanced stages of the disease where treatment is more difficult and survival is less likely. The reason for these poor percentages is that ovarian cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose. The average woman sees her gynecologist once a year; at this visit, she will receive a breast exam and a Pap smear, which both check for cancer – breast and cervical respectively. She will not be tested for ovarian cancer. There is no standard test to diagnose this disease. A doctor can only make a final confirmation once a tumor biopsy is complete.

How then, can we protect ourselves, and how is ovarian cancer diagnosed? Ovarian cancer does have symptoms, however, they can be very subtle. Some symptoms include bloating, fatigue, menstrual changes, an upset stomach, frequent urination, and pelvic or abdominal pain. These symptoms are often misinterpreted as the result of a woman’s regular period or menopause. However, if a woman is in tune with her body and recognizes a change in her usual menstrual cycle, she can kick start an early diagnosis if she, in fact, has developed ovarian cancer. Don’t ignore the unexplained changes in your body or brush them off. Your body is sending you signals, and it’s imperative that you listen.

There are several other ways that a woman can lower her risk and protect herself from ovarian cancer. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and oral contraceptives all lower a woman’s risk because they all reduce, prevent or regulate ovulation, preventing unusual activity in a woman’s ovaries. In fact, it’s been found that women taking “the pill” for five years or more can reduce their chances by up to 50%. Women can also reduce ovulation in their ovaries with gynecological surgeries like a hysterectomy or tubal ligation, though neither of these procedures should be done without careful thought and a doctor’s recommendation.

Another lifestyle factor known to correlate with ovarian cancer is weight. Studies have shown that women who are obese with a BMI over 30 have a higher risk for both ovarian cancer and heart disease. Doctors recommend eating a diet that includes vitamins A, D, & E along with sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise can play a key role in helping you avoid dangerous diseases like ovarian cancer.

Environmental factors to avoid include any harmful or unnatural ingredients in or around your vagina. It may seem obvious; keep toxic products out of your woo-ha, but many products branded for feminine hygiene are just that – toxic! Studies and court jurors have recently found that a link between genital use of talc-based beauty products, such as baby powder, and ovarian cancer. Luckily, there are plenty of talc-free products on the market or available in your own DIY kitchen to replace those harmful ones.

This September, let’s dedicate the month to ovarian cancer awareness, the strong women battling this disease, and your own body. Take the time to listen and learn about your body. Before kids, husbands, and the bustle of adulthood, you two were pretty good friends. Let’s reconnect, and hopefully, prevent the dangers of ovarian cancer.

Please share this information with the women in your life,
and continue the positive awareness of the issue all month long.

Mission Statement:
ConsumerSafety.org strives to make information about recalls and safety-related news about drugs, medical devices, food, and consumer products accessible to everyone in a transparent, easily understandable way.

Bio:
As a Health & Safety Investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, Caitlin Hoff uses her background in Industrial Design and her passion for health and wellness to educate consumers. She strives to help people make smart decisions affecting their personal health and that of their families.

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How Are You Spending Your Mother’s Day?

May 9, 2017 by ldecesare

Happy Mother's Day 2017 | leahdecesare.com

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mamas out there!

How will you be spending your day this year?
What are your Mother’s Day traditions?

Our observations of the day for moms seem to have changed and evolved through the years as life circumstances shifted and kids grew up. There were the years when the kids were little when I guiltily wanted to be kid-free for Mother’s Day – oh, what a joy to be quiet, uninterrupted, to read or garden or shop or WHATEVER without a small body draped on mine or calling my name repeatedly. If that’s the state you’re in – go ahead and indulge – this is a no-judgement zone.

There were the years we celebrated with my grandmother, my mother and my mother-in-law all together, and the years when we were a bit too far away for a Sunday event, or my in-laws were still snowbirding in the south. There were the years after my grandmother died, the year we spent in Mother’s Day in the emergency room, or hiking, or lounging with a book. But every year begins with my favorite breakfast of lox, bagels and vine-ripened tomatoes, surrounded by my husband and kids.

Their handmade cards and flower-sprouts-in-Styrofoam-cups gifts are long gone, but I look at them now and see a different gift. They have grown into confident, capable and kind young people and I can say with pride that I’ve done a damn good job mothering them. (Well, who else is going to say it? Take your credit proudly!)

Who knows how we’ll spend this Sunday, but I know it will honor my role in this family and my link to mothers everywhere throughout time. This Sunday, I honor you and I’m wishing you a wonderful day doing whatever it is your heart desires.

Here are a few past Mother’s Day posts including my favorite and one of my most-read posts: A Thank You Note to Mothers.

World’s Okayest Mom

Invisible Mom

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

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You’re Invited – Book Launch Party

March 16, 2017 by ldecesare

As a Mother’s Circle reader, I’m happy to extend an invitation to you to attend the book launch party celebrating my debut novel, FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS.

Of course, you’ll need to get to Rhode Island, but if you’re nearby – click for your free ticket and please introduce yourself at the event!

Hope you can join me!

Book Launch Party | motherscircle.net

Tips For Healthy Kids

March 15, 2017 by ldecesare

Thank you to Wendy Dessler for this guest post on tips for healthy kids.

Tips for Healthy Kids | motherscircle.netWe all want healthy, well-balanced children. We want them to enjoy physical activity and we want to provide them with foods to fuel their bodies and minds.

Unfortunately, we live in an instant world where snacks are loaded with sugars, fats, and just enough nutritional value to earn a government okay to label them healthy.

Children develop their taste from the foods we give them. They are not mature enough to decide what is good and what is not. Even adults have problems in this area.

Further, how we present something to them can build excitement or dread. This is true with their lifestyles, diets, and special treats.

Developing active lifestyles

Long before a child can speak, he or she learns that movement is essential.

Movement allows them to achieve mobility. Movement is a natural ability which we learn to harness and master. It allows us expression and teaches us balance, coordination, and focus.

Dance is very beneficial to developing children. Not only does it challenge them physically, but it matures their social graces, teamwork, problem-solving skills, social awareness, and emotional maturity. Allowing a child to take dance class is a wise parental choice which is good for your child on many levels, but to the child, it is just fun.

Food is fuel

Just as introducing your child to dance is a calculated decision to improve their physical and emotional health, we must make conscious choices in the foods we give our child. Just like the concept that dance to a child is just something fun, healthy food can be introduced in a way that is fun and acceptable to a child.

You can explain to your 4-year-old that whole grain bread is healthy and provides fiber to their bodies. You will probably get a blank stare in response. Or you can offer your child a sandwich made with whole grain bread with a smile and the assurance that you have something really cool for them.

You can add excitement by cutting the bread into shapes with cookie cutters, or make faces with bits of fruit.  The mood is set by you, the mature adult. The child feels they are being given something fun so they will have an open mind.

Your child doesn’t need to know that fruit is nature’s energy. To understand that some juice before dance will give them some super-power.

The special treats

Sooner or later you will be in a position where you are hosting the event for your child’s birthday, class party, dance graduation, or another event that usually requires a table filled with pounds of sugar!

Instead of traditional cupcakes and ice cream, consider a candy buffet made with sugar-free candy. A candy buffet is beautiful and fun to create and your online candy supplier has lines of candy that are sugar-free, gluten-free, fat-free, allergy friendly and kosher.

The children only know they are getting bags filled with sweet goodness.

You have the power

With these tips, you see that you have the power to give your children a great and healthy lifestyle. Make the right choices and present them with excitement and everybody wins.

 

Author Bio

Wendy Dessler is a super-connector with OutreachMama and Towering SEO who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

Top Mommy Blogs Blogger | Motherscircle.net

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Book Review: Wally Lamb – I’ll Take You There

December 14, 2016 by ldecesare

ill-take-you-there-coverAbout I’ll Take You There
by Wally Lamb

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Harper; First Printing edition (November 22, 2016)

In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer’s life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit and in some cases relive scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

My review

I have loved Wally Lamb’s work for years and had the joy of meeting him this past October at Reading With Robin’s Evening With Authors. He is a gracious, fun, and kind man; it was wonderful to meet the man behind the words.

I’ll Take You There visits many locals that I know from “real life” and that drew my attention right away, it’s always fun to read about the places we know. My parents attend plays at the Garde Theatre in New London, Connecticut, my home state. Incidentally, today marks the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings, I grew up in Newtown and so much of who I am and what I love is wrapped up and tied into Newtown. My prayers and love are with the families who lost children and loved ones that horrible December 14th, and my prayers and love are with all those who have their hearts still in Newtown in any way.

So that side-track isn’t actually unlike Felix, Lamb’s protagonist who has a voice that is friendly and conversational, who is at times distracted into other thoughts and stories – or by ghosts. I’m not a big fan of the supernatural so this was harder for me to comfortably accept as a reader, though eventually it didn’t jar me so much. It was a creative tool to give us backstory and depth into his family relationships, to interact with the past in a meaningful way and allow us to live historical scenes with the characters.

This book was a divergence from Lamb’s earlier works I felt, it was shorter, for one, and throughout, I felt his research very heavily. There was a lot of history and interesting stories, but from the start I felt there was a bit more than necessary.

I appreciated the theme of feminism (though put forward pretty heavy-handedly from the beginning) from a man’s point of view. Lamb’s writing is compelling and approachable and I always admire his ability to capture the female point of view and voice, he doesn’t disappoint. He also easily portrays multi-generational textures and nuances, going all the way back to the silent film era. I loved how he looped things through the lens of film, linking past and present and even projecting a better future. I love this quote about story and life, about moments in time and perceptions of the past.

That’s what movies are, right? Thousands of still pictures taken months or years or decades before – streams of images burned onto celluloid that are reeled in front of a lamp and projected onto a screen, allowing us the illusion that they’re alive. Flickers of light and dark. Brightness and shadow that won’t stand still – like life itself.

While it’s unlike Wally Lamb’s previous bestsellers, this too has hit the New York Times list. Congratulations! I enjoyed I’ll take You There, however it hasn’t beaten out his others as my favorite.

TLC Book Tours Tour Host | MothersCircle.net

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for the advance copy of I’ll Take You There for review and for including me on this blog tour.

 

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Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo credit Chris Hetzer

Photo credit Chris Hetzer

About Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is the author of four previous novels, including the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed and Wishin’ and Hopin’, a bestselling novella. His first two works of fiction, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both number-one New York Times bestsellers and Oprah’s Book Club selections. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine. The Lambs are the parents of three sons.

Find out more about Wally at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

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3 Ways to Change Behaviors in Your Kids

December 11, 2016 by ldecesare

I’m happy to introduce today’s guest post from Keri Steckler, potty trainer extraordinaire!
I know you’ll appreciate the mommy tips she shares here –
and the 20% discount for Mother’s Circle readers.

*I have received no compensation for this post.

3 Ways to Change Behaviors in Your Kids | MothersCircle.net
I’m a business owner with two young girls at home, and I’ve had my struggles with getting kids on board with change, behavior modification, or a new routine. I find I’ll nag (and then we’ll argue) I’ll be inconsistent (allowance/chores one week, out the window the next) but when I think about what HAS worked for us, I’ve realized my girls make the biggest strides when they take ownership of their behavior.

Here are three ways to change behaviors that work for us:

Praise

Reinforcing positive behavior is the best way to get more of that behavior— it’s just not always top-of-mind as parents because that behavior is already the expectation. At my house when we are working on a modification (example: being nice to your sister or getting dressed before coming downstairs) I have set reminders on my phone to remind myself to keep up the compliments and give praise for good behavior.

To be most effective, keep your praise specific and sincere. Work to notice when they do (or try to do) Toothbrushing chart |MothersCircle.netwhat you’re expecting.

Independence

I recently read “Duct Tape Parenting” (the duct tape is representative of tape over the parents mouth- reminding them not to nag the child) and the overall concept is to teach and then bite your tongue and let your child help themselves. Set an expectation and then let it be your child’s responsibility: getting dressed, packing homework, breakfast, etc.

Kids feel proud about their ability to solve their own problems, feel more confident and get an overall sense of independence and less struggle in the process. Leah talks about this a lot, too, in her Naked Parenting books.

Reminding children of their past accomplishments

Getting my daughter to work on her math homework was a particular struggle. She uses a timed app that stressed her out. But with daily practice she got better and better which she now has the confidence to work willingly at it rather than arguing. I find that using that example as a reminder that challenges are overcome with practice it often helps remind her that she can overcome obstacles.

To summarize, remember if you’re looking to change behaviors, let your kids take the lead!

Tick Tock logo |MothersCircle.netAbout the author:
Keri Steckler is a mother of two and a product designer with a focus on kids/baby products, and owner of Tick Tock, LLC Reward Charts that help kids establish healthy habits and routines.

Keri has created a line of reward charts for kids ages 2 – 9 that help establish healthy habits:
The Tooth Brushing Stickers & Chart helps kids track their brushing both morning and night for 8 weeks.
Toddlers getting ready to potty train? The Potty Time Stickers & Chart is proven to help kids potty train successfully.

Looking for stocking stuffers that are fun, helpful, and inexpensive? I’m offering Mother’s Circle readers a 20% discount

CLAIM CODE: MAMRL9KE
12/12/16 – 01/06/17

Save 20% each on Qualifying items offered by Tick Tock, LLC when you purchase 1 or more. Enter code MAMRL9KE at checkout.

These charts resonate with kids because they hook onto the bathroom door knob, so the product is eye-level for kids to do the tracking themselves. This engages, motivates and esteems kids, and they create their own healthy habits in the process.

toothbrushingstickersPotty time training stickers | MothersCircle.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Log Out and Live #LOAL

November 23, 2016 by ldecesare

LOAL Log Out and Live | MothersCircle.netIntroducing Log Out and Live!
Nick and I have teamed up with my brother and two friends with this movement to work toward finding more balance in our lives between “real life” and “virtual life.”

All around, we’ve been sensing an underlying frustration and angst among parents and families that somehow our lives are too dominated by technology. We find ourselves craving active play, no-screen family time, and person-to-person contact. Don’t get us wrong – we love our gadgets and devices like everyone else, but we feel compelled to build greater connections face-to-face instead of through cyberspace. That’s why we’re launching Log Out and Live.®

Why Log Out and Live?

Our culture has shifted to being plugged-in, wired-up, and logged-on. News and information are not only available constantly, but the amount of content that bombards us by the minute is monumental.

Log Out and Live® is all about breaking that binding tie to our devices and living more in line with what we value: family, human connections, physical activity and time outdoors. Whatever you love to do to stay fit, have fun, and feel happy, do more of it by logging out.

Attachment to social media and our phones has become pervasive, habitual and it can remove us from the things that matter most. Are we living our lives or simply posting about it? Are we making real memories or just sharing almost-memories?

At Log Out and Live, we’re not saying you shouldn’t enjoy social media or watching some online videos. We’re not suggesting you give up your devices. We’re focused on regaining a life where we look up and interact with the world in front of us and around us in real time, instead of streaming other lives on a screen.

Here at Log Out and Live, we live what we value – time with family and friends and getting out there and living. Join us in promoting and practicing mindful unplugging.

Instead of living in the glow of blue light and social media feeds, live in the sunshine and see life without looking through the lens of a phone or a filter. Live life unfiltered, live it truly, honestly and fully. Let’s connect in person, send a note or a letter, make a phone call to a long-ago friend.

Unplug for a bit. Do it, take the challenge – Log Out and Live!

Log Out and Live website header | MothersCircle.net

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Forks, Knives, and Spoons Cover

September 14, 2016 by ldecesare

In case you missed last night’s live cover reveal for Forks, Knives, and Spoons, here it is.

You can watch the reveal below the Forks, Knives, and Spoons cover below or on Reading With Robin on Facebook. Thank you to my dear friend, Robin, for hosting me on her page, we had fun together as we always do!

I’m so excited about this next step on my journey to publishing my first novel – a lifetime dream. Thanks for coming along with me.  And it’s even available for pre-order now  – it’s feeling very real!

Pre-order links:
Indie Bound – Order from and support your local booksellers
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Forks, Knives, and Spoons Cover | MotherCircle.net

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Cover Reveal Tonight – Forks, Knives, and Spoons

September 13, 2016 by ldecesare

Join me tonight on Reading With Robin’s Facebook page for a Facebook Live cover reveal of my new novel coming out in April – Forks, Knives, and Spoons. If you’re not on Facebook (there are a few of you out there I hear!) You can subscribe to my newsletter on leahdecesare.com or check back on MotherCircle.net where I’ll share it.

Robin and I will chat a bit and you’ll be among the first to see the cover – which I LOVE and hope you will too.

Thanks for being a Mother’s Circle reader and hope to see you on FB Live TONIGHT.
7:00 pm EST

Forks, Knives, and Spoons Cover Reveal | MothersCircle.net

 

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Help Your Kids Prevent Cyberbullying

August 30, 2016 by ldecesare

This is a post and accompanying infographic are contributed to Mother’s Circle by several anti-cyberbullying nonprofits to guide parents in helping our children to prevent cyberbullying.

There’s no way to deny that technology is an important part of modern life. Teens check their social media profiles over one hundred times a day. This is a pretty insanely high number, so, as a parent, you may be worried about what exactly they’re doing while they’re busy tweeting, texting, and snapchatting. A very common concern for parents right now is cyberbullying. How can you protect your kids online? Keep reading for a few tips.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is similar to the kind of bullying you grew up with, except that it takes place entirely using electronic technology. Sometimes, this bullying comes as a response to something your teenager posted online or did in person, but other times, it’s entirely random. It’s definitely a sad situation to face, but a little bit of education and preparation can help you prevent it from happening again.

Anonymity

Websites like Ask.fm and YikYak allow teens to share their thoughts openly and anonymously. For some, this can be a bit of a freeing activity, but it can quickly lead to disastrous effects. Having an honest conversation about these apps will help your teen make responsible choices about the internet and better understand your point of view.

Be Supportive

If your teen is have trouble with cyberbullying, don’t lay the blame on them. At this point, it doesn’t do any good to remind them of how they could have prevented the bullying from taking place. Instead, be supportive and accepting of their struggles. When they’re feeling a bit better, you can have a discussion about internet safety going forward.

Set An Example

While you’re worrying about your kids having issues with cyberbullying, so are plenty of other parents. Talk to your children about how to not become cyberbullies themselves. Remind them that everything they put on the internet is permanent, and that they could seriously hurt someone with their words.

Honesty

Honesty is the best policy. Tell your kids that cyberbullying didn’t exist when you were their age, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them with it. In order to work with your kids on this issue, they have to trust you. If you pretend to know lots about technology, they’ll quickly lose this trust. Be honest- admit when you don’t know the answer to something, then go and figure it out together. [Honesty is one of the keys to parenting with confidence in the Naked Parenting series.]

Infographic

For younger teens, the infographic below is a great resource to educate them on the risks and benefits of social media use, especially as it relates to cyberbullying.

Prevent Cyberbullying Infographic | MothersCircle.net

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Carry On Book Review

August 22, 2016 by ldecesare

Carry On Book Review | MothersCircle.netDear Mother’s Circle Readers,

Here’s a book you’ve got to read: Carry On by Lisa Fenn. I am trying hard not to be a book review site, but I’ve been reading like crazy (I’m kicking butt in my Goodreads Challenge) and the deeper I get into this being-an-author thing, the more I’m connecting with other writers and find myself committing – and volunteering – to do reviews.

As a parent, you’ll be grateful for this book review. I devoured Carry On and found myself underlining and marking passages with hearts, stars, smiley faces and even some tear drops. I loved this book and its powerful story; I’d recommend it as a family read or an independent read for older kids and teens. There are so many things to discuss, so many life lessons and conversation starters.

Carry On tells the story of how an ESPN journalist featured two wrestlers, each with their own disability, one blind and one without legs, and found herself becoming entwined in their lives. Eventually Fenn became their mentor, their family, and their Guardian Angel as Dartanyon wrote on his emergency contact form describing her “Relationship to Student.”

I’m almost not sure how to begin, what to share with you about this inspiring, heart-wrenching, hopeful story. It made me reflect on so much in life, in our society, and on our current journey within the foster care system. I was moved by the challenges these boys faced, by their growth and insights, like this quote from Leroy.

History is like gravity. It can pull you down. We wanted to succeed, but we needed someone to show us how – someone who believed our potential was more important than our past.
– Leroy

Carry On is the evidence that mentoring works, that caring about another person – really investing in someone – makes a difference. I love this video from Josh Shipp and this story made me think of his video: Every kid is one caring adult away from success. For Leroy and Dartanyon, Lisa Fenn became that one caring adult.

Questions bubbled and and I pondered the effects of poverty, how long a person carries trauma, the power of forgiveness and open-mindedness and many other issues. A good book is certainly one that prods thought and pushes us to see the world in new ways.

Your money, your family, your security, your will, your future. Poverty takes a percentage of everything, indefinitely, until the cycle is broken. – Dartanyon

Wow! As someone on the outside of that position in life, how profound and how important to hear and begin to understand, to try to understand.

The messages of Carry On will move you and I hope will motivate readers to action, to mentor, to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, to step up to be that one caring adult in someone’s life. It takes a leap of faith and stretching outside our comfort zones, it takes heart, but Lisa Fenn convinces us that the effort and trials matter. If not love, then what is life about?

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Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by ESPN

Photo by ESPN

About Lisa Fenn

A three-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award and a six-time Emmy Awardówinning feature producer with ESPN for thirteen years, LISA FENN interviewed every big name in sports. Today she is a sought-after public presenter, speaking on leadership, poverty, and transracial adoption, in addition to her Christian faith and its relevance in both her media career and her daily life. Lisa received her BA in communications from Cornell University. Her work has been featured on ESPN,Good Morning America, and World News Tonight. She continues to produce sports stories and write about the redemptive power of love. Lisa resides in Boston with her husband and two young children.

Connect with Lisa on Facebook.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Online Honesty

August 8, 2016 by ldecesare

Online Honesty | MothersCircle.net

Enjoy this and other parenting quotes from the Naked Parenting series of books. Follow me on Pinterest.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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LTYM Listen to Your Mother – I’m Ready

July 18, 2016 by ldecesare

LTYM cast member Providence 2016 #LTYM Listen to Your Mother Show | MothersCircle.netI am thrilled to share my reading, I’m Ready, in this year’s Providence Listen to Your Mother show. Let me know your thoughts, as always, I would love to hear from you.

It was a privilege to be a part of the LTYM community across the country and across the years of cast members. Thank you to Ann Imig and the Providence producers: Chelley, Brianne, Lauren, and Kirsten.

 

I’m Ready

I may soon become the mother to a little boy I’ve never met. I’ve never seen him, not even a picture.

He came crashing into my heart on December 13, just this past December. I was shopping for Christmas gifts for children in need along with my two teenagers and our church’s youth group.

It was a Sunday night and we were back at church wrapping the presents when I read through each of the summarized stories about the kids we had bought for; one heart wrenching tale followed another. I felt a sadness and a deep ache for them all.

One in the pile was short, but it reached out and grabbed hold of me. It’s impossible to say what it was or why it leapt out, because I’ve reread the description and it’s not especially moving or pivotal. What drew me to it the way it did?

It said “8 year old boy” at the top, it was short, with few details, and the final line stated simply: “He wants his forever family.” I was overcome with needing to love this child. Why him out of the group? I can’t explain. It was a feeling more than a thought.

With him on my heart and mind, I returned my attention to gift wrapping. I happened to be working next to a fellow church member, our agency connection to these kiddos, and I blurted out, “I want to adopt that little 8 year old boy.”

What? Where did that come from?
Every moment of this has felt like something beyond me was in control. And those words, spoken aloud, were the first step on a journey we never expected to be on.

My husband, Nick, and I have been married for almost 22 years and we have three awesome kids who are kind and witty, loving and funny. Two are in high school and our youngest is in sixth grade.

We have a blessed life, I have the family I always dreamed of having and we’re savoring the dwindling years with them under our roof. Well, both savoring them and looking ahead to moving to warmer climates once they’re all off and on their own. We certainly weren’t looking to extend the years before we can travel the world and have an orderly house with the scissors always where they’re supposed to be and an entryway free of scattered shoes.

But suddenly, on a regular ol’ Sunday evening, what can only be described as a divine force changed that.

I came home to my ever-supportive husband and said, “You know how I always volunteer us for things?”
He laughingly rolled his eyes and asked, “What now?”
“Well,” I said, “This is different … I want to adopt an eight year old boy.”

Even knowing me as he does, I don’t think he thought I was serious. He started throwing out reasons why this was impulsive, impractical, and frankly, a little bit crazy.

In my head, I heard him, I could understand – and even agree – with his protests and his reasoning, but in every single part of me, I felt full of peace. I felt completely assured and calm. I felt a calling. Not to be just any little boy’s mother, but THIS little boy’s mother. I couldn’t be dissuaded.

Since I tend to be a woman of action, I sat beside my skeptical husband watching football and Googled things like “How to adopt a child from foster care in Rhode Island.” I read and read, I filled out online forms requesting information, printed articles and started a file. I was suddenly on a path of motherhood not everyone takes.

I laid awake that night, and the next, envisioning the emotional aspects of meeting him, building trust, and learning to parent a child I hadn’t known from birth. A child whose young eyes have seen things that I haven’t, a child whose story I haven’t been a part of.

And during all those nighttime thinking sessions, I also thought of every practical angle too, like figuring out where he would sleep, settling him into our schools, paying for another child’s activities and college. I thought of him in all my waking hours.

Nick and I talked more. A lot more. And we talked to the kids – this would have to be a family decision. Making us so proud, each of our children was not just open and welcoming but eager and filled with love at the idea of having a new brother. Incidentally, all three kids individually asked me, “Where would he sleep?” Thanks to my late night thinking, I already had that answer.

Within one week of that ethereal December moment, we were on the way with trainings and forms, background checks and interviews, fingerprints and more forms.

Finally, I got his name. Only his first name, and I hold that name in my prayers, in my smile, in my being. I think of him – all the time. I think about him and yearn to know more.

What is he doing today, right now? Does he like science and math or does he prefer reading? As I’m grocery shopping, I wonder, does he like eggplant, or pineapple, or cucumbers? As I’m driving, I wonder what kind of music he likes.

I am eager to know him: When is his birthday? What makes him laugh? And what makes him cry?

I crave details about this child who may one day be my own. I hungrily absorb and write down the tidbits I glean from his counselor and from the other agencies we’re now involved with. I treasure every nugget of information. We are told he is sweet and appreciative, an old soul.

Since the day this little guy burst into my heart, it has pushed me to ponder, in a whole new way, what it means to be a mother and what it means to be a family.
I impatiently wait for the privilege of meeting him and getting to know him. And while I wait, I wonder what’s ahead.

Will this even happen? Will we have the gift of him being a part of our family? How will I jump into becoming a mother to a kid who doesn’t know me?

In some ways, I think mothering him will be like being a first time mom all over again. I may have over seventeen years of parenting experience but I am inexperienced at being his mom. I won’t have the baby photos or the birth story to retell on his birthday. I won’t have the details of his first steps, his first words or his first day of school. But we’ll have different special dates to celebrate. There will be new traditions we create.

I think about our family videos and the stacks of photo albums without him, and I think about the family movies and photobooks he’ll become a part of as we make new memories together.

We may not have a shared history and I may not know him yet, but I do know that being a good mom isn’t related to how we enter motherhood. I cannot wait to tuck him in and read him bedtime stories, to hold his hand and kiss him goodnight. And good morning, and welcome home from school, and well, I can’t wait to just give him kisses.

As his mom, I want to teach him new things and tell him my stories – all those silly memories and lessons that my other kids have heard over and over. I want to show him where I grew up and the first house we bought.

I want to do the things that he wants to do or try out. Will it be soccer? The saxophone? Karate? Painting?

I may sound idealistic and naive, and you may be thinking, “She has no idea what she’s getting into.” And you may be right. … You may be wrong too.

With any decision in life, we never know how it will turn out. With our own pregnancies, our births, our biological children – our choices for schools, marriage partners, or careers. We do the best with what we know at the time. We have faith. We calculate the risks or we dive in feet first, we wing it or we plan it, but the outcomes are never guaranteed.

Early on, I told Nick, “I hope we get the privilege of loving him.”
 He said, “You already do love him.”
And he’s right. I do. I already love him.

I want to smoosh him into a hug – but I know I’ll have to restrain myself and go at his pace. I’ll need to allow him space, and time to lead me … but, oh, how I want to hug him.

As we move along this path, only a few months since I read that tiny snip-it of his story, I feel only total peace, complete calm and utter love.

I feel a rightness – the sense that if this is our road, we are on it and ready to be his family.

We’ve never met him, but I am ready to be his mother.

© Leah DeCesare 2016

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In Twenty Years Book Review

July 1, 2016 by ldecesare

In Twenty Years book review | MothersCircle.netI had the privilege of reading Allison Winn Scotch’s new book, In Twenty Years, before today’s publication date. I have loved Allison’s other books including, The Theory of Opposites, so I dove into In Twenty Years eagerly and it didn’t disappoint.

The story is about six close friends who live together in college (shout out to Penn, my brother’s alma mater). Their “connector” (don’t we all have friends who keep us linked and in touch?) has them all write a letter to their older selves, twenty years from senior year. Now, as those of us in our 40s know, when you’re in your twenties, the forties seem far off and kinda old, but boy it comes upon us quickly.

The book begins with their letters, which we don’t get to read until the characters reread them in about twenty years.

We were twenty-one. We were allowed to believe impossible things.

In Twenty Years explores the idea of what happens during the years in which we become adults: What happens to friendships, our ideals, our confidence, our goals and aspirations? Can we change and if so, do we change or are we the same really? What secrets do we keep from one another and from ourselves?

I loved the current day challenges that the author dives into, for example, Annie is constantly posting on social media; she consciously posts images with captions that present a happy life to the outside world, one she’s not living or feeling. Through this character, Scotch exposes our cultural obsession with accumulating “likes” and posting “memories” that may not be reality. What is illusion and what is real? I appreciated this theme because I tend to consider this idea often. I also did a lot of research while writing Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World on how these technologies, which can be a fun way to keep in touch, affect our mental health and relationships with our families and real-life, in-person people.

She … refocuses on the task at hand: a suitable filter on Instagram to perhaps whitewash the pinched look on [her son’s] face and thus capture their euphoria (and her very lean biceps and really cute bikini) from their weekend spent in the Hamptons. She settles on one that makes the ocean much bluer than it actually was that day, but the bluer the ocean, the better the picture! And the better the picture, the happier they seem.

Another concept presented is our fame-focused society. Through the characters in  In Twenty Years, the reader can examine fame vs. acknowledgement and fame vs. anonymity. I worry a bit about our younger generation’s tendency to prioritize and overvalue fame and In Twenty Years spotlights this for readers to ponder along with the characters.

I found myself highlighting passages that made me think – I love that! Words woven about the passage of time, the unequal nature of love, the stuff of friendships and relationships new and mature.

In Twenty Years is available today. Go download it or pick up your paperback and bring it to the beach this weekend.

About Allison Winn Scotch:

Allison Winn Scotch - In Twenty Years | motherscircle.net

 

 

Allison Winn Scotch is the bestselling author of five novels, including THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, TIME OF MY LIFE, and THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND. Her sixth novel, IN TWENTY YEARS, will be released on July 1st, 2016. In addition to fiction, she pens celebrity profiles for a variety of magazines, which justifies her pop culture obsession and occasionally lends to awesome Facebook status updates. She lives in Los Angeles with her family. For more about her and her books, go to allisonwinn.com or follow her on Twitter at @aswinn.

 

 

*Disclosure: I received an advanced reader copy for review purposes and no compensation for this post.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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How Dave Wadapadatuckachuck Got His Name

June 13, 2016 by ldecesare

How Dave Wadapadatuckachuck Got His Name | MothersCircle.netHere’s the story of Dave Wadapadatuckachuck. He joined our family about four years ago.

One night at the dinner table, Anna, I think she was about eight, asked about changing names when you get married. We told her she doesn’t have to but can change her name if she wants, and in one joking invention, I blurted out, “Like if you marry Dave Wadapadatuckachuck, you’d probably want to keep DeCesare.” We all burst out laughing and since then, Dave has been hanging around.

Once, the kids joined a building contest at a science workshop and they were “Team Wadapadatuckachuck,” that poor leader struggled when he had to announce their name. Then there was the time when, in some other dinner table discussion years later, I mistakenly threw out Dave’s name but associated him with Ali instead of Anna. With perfect comedic timing, Anna turned to Ali and with feigned indignation said, “You stole my man!” Talk about a fall out of your chair moment!

So, Mr. Wadapadatuckachuck has become part of our family lore and he’s here to stay. I bring him up now because it seems the recent trend is to merge family names when couples marry so that Melissa Bridge marries George Miller and they become the Bridgemillers. Recently, we were talking about this at yet another family dinner, and it became clear that this practice would, within another generation create names as unweildy as Wadapadatuckachuck.

What happens when Sally Bridgemiller marries Harry Goldenberghumphreys? Those kiddos will be the Bridgemillergoldenberghumphreys. I’m actually laughing as I type this.

I truly think it’s such an individual choice and our names are precious parts of who we are. I honor every woman, and every family’s decisions, they are personal and important. As this subject presented itself, it has simply made me consider and ponder what this combined naming looks like in a short time. And it made me think of our friend Dave Wadapadatuckachuck.

Personally, I chose to change my name out of a combination of tradition and the practicality of having one family name, but I want our daughters, and our son, to do what feels right to them and their future spouses. It won’t be easy having a four-syllable last name to work with. We have friends, each with a one family tree paintingsyllable last name, and their merged last name is pretty and two syllables shorter than my non-merged last name.

That brings me to wonder, how do we honor both parents’ birth names and backgrounds in a way that doesn’t make it overwhelming or awkwardly cumbersome for future children? What will the resolution be for merging family names in a generation or two? The trend isn’t just in merging names but in meshing them or inventing totally new names, maybe that’s how it stays manageable.

I love digging into my ancestry generations back. My mother even painted our family tree based on tons of research, what happens to those threads, are they harder to follow decades from now?

What do you think? Did you combine your family names?

As for the DeCesares, we’re still waiting for the day when the real Dave Wadapadatuckachuck appears in our lives and sits down to dinner with us.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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We All Need a Break

June 7, 2016 by ldecesare

we all need a breakYup – we all need a break, and I’ve taken one. A long one. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus as I’ve been working on signing with SparkPress for my debut novel which will be out Spring 2017. I’ve been working with my publisher, editor, lawyer, and publicists to get everything moving forward.

It’s a dream come true for me and you’ll certainly be hearing more about my novel in the coming months. I can’t wait for my cover reveal! You’ll be the first to see it here.

What else has been going on during my blogging break?

 

I was offline on our amazing trip to Italy to celebrate my parents’ upcoming DuoLingo app, learning italian,50th Anniversary! WOO HOO, Mom and Dad! Our villa in Arezzo was a piece of heaven and spending nine days with my family was a true blessing.

I had been very serious about trying to learn some Italian before going and had a 134 day streak going on DuoLingo. Do any of you use that app? Now I think I’ll switch to Spanish as that will likely be more useful going forward.

Thanks to our supportive village here in Rhode Island, while we were traipsing around Tuscany and Rome, our children had as much fun as we did (almost) while living with their friends for a week. Grazie Mille – you know who you are.

 

 

arezzo italy

montepulciano italy pizza in italy

roman coliseum

There’s another big thing going on which is occupying a lot of our time and I’ll be happy to share more asLTYM cast member Providence 2016 #LTYM Listen to Your Mother Show | MothersCircle.net things progress. You’ll also hear more about it when I’m able to post my video (and transcript) of my Listen to Your Mother piece. Those should be ready to post in July for all 41 participating cities across the country.

During my time away from blogging, I attended The Muse and The grubstreet-logoMarketplace, a terrific writer’s conference in Boston. I’ve also been learning Instagram with a lot of tips from the younger folks in my life. I’ve been loving my garden, reading tons (follow me on Goodreads) and desperately trying to get to the bottom of the never-ending piles that stream across my desk and kitchen counters.

Since we all need a break, what can you take a break from to give yourself some time in another area?

Thank you for being loyal readers of Mother’s Circle.
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Each vote from one IP address per day counts.

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Enter to Win – Naked Parenting Audio Book

April 11, 2016 by ldecesare

Free audio book giveaway Naked Parenting | MothersCircle.net

 

The original Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence is now available on Audible and Amazon. Soon to also be available on iTunes.

I love audio books and am often simultaneously reading a book at home and a book on tape in my car. Love it!

Enter to win your Naked Parenting audio book by sharing this blog post then providing the link to your share in the comments here.

All shares done by Wednesday, April 13, 10:00 pm will be entered to win one of the five Audible downloads. I will contact winners through their email linked privately to your comment post.

I had the privilege of meeting Gail Hedrick, the reader for the Naked Parenting audio book, in person this February. Through a strange serendipity, we discovered that I was vacationing near her home and we had a terrific breakfast together, chatting and getting to know one another.

In her audition, I loved how Gail’s voice beamed warmth and motherly caring. The Naked Parenting books are all about guilt-free, judgement-free parenting and I felt comfortable and encouraged listening to her friendly voice, just how I want my readers to feel. I knew she was the one to read my book. It’s been a wonderful collaboration.

To enter to win your own download of the Naked Parenting audio book now! Just share and post the link to your share in the comments on this post.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Listen to Your Mother #LTYM Providence

April 4, 2016 by ldecesare

LTYM cast member Providence 2016 #LTYM Listen to Your Mother Show | MothersCircle.netI am honored to be a part of the 2016 Listen to Your Mother Providence cast, one of this year’s 41 cities to host live shows.

“The mission of each LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER production is to take the audience on a well-crafted journey that celebrates and validates mothering through giving voice to motherhood–in all of its complexity, diversity, and humor–in the form of original readings performed live on-stage by their authors.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER aims to support motherhood creatively through artistic expression, and also financially–through contributions to non-profit organizations supporting families in need. Each LTYM show donates a minimum of 10% of ticket proceeds to a local cause, as well as providing the cause awareness/fund-raising opportunities.”

LTYM-2016-show-dates

In Providence, this year’s beneficiary is Foster Forward, an organization through which Nick and I are all trained and ready to begin mentoring a child. The piece I am reading is directly related to foster care and I cannot wait to share it. Their mission is to “to empower lives impacted by foster care. We have an unwavering commitment to support children and youth, families, and the child welfare system as a whole, to grow, connect, improve, and move forward.”Foster Forward Logo

I would love you to join me! The Providence show is April 28, 2016, 7:00 pm, click here to buy tickets. I will share the video of my performance when it is available sometime in July.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you been to a LTYM show? Have you read in one?

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Giving Kids Our Full Attention

April 1, 2016 by ldecesare

Giving Kids Our Full Attention | MothersCircle.net

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Happy Easter

March 27, 2016 by ldecesare

Happy Easter from Mother's Circle | MothersCircle.net

The Sign of Good Character

March 21, 2016 by ldecesare

Sign of Good Character | MothersCircle.net

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

The sign of good character and other quotes from Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World.

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Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo – Book Review

March 17, 2016 by ldecesare

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo Reveiw | MothersCircle.netA story of immigrants and adoption, a mother’s journey and self-exploration, Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo by Boris Fishman, was a book filled with gorgeous, rich sentences, and the requirement of some close reading.

The conflict between superstitions and traditions and the immersion into another culture, even decades later, is powerful, as are the discoveries of what lies within relationships. Familial bonds, marital and in-law relationships and the dissection of what it really means to be a mother, a parent, a family.

Fear and loneliness, blame and self doubt, lies and truths all tangle together throughout Maya’s tortured journey.

Fishman crafts sentences that forced me to underline and reread them to savor the just-right combinations of words. Some of my favorites:

“Alex rose, the sofa giving him up with a sigh,”

“‘For my father, there’s no gift without a con wrapped around it. You divide what he says by half and subtract, and you start getting closer. He speaks in Fahrenheit, but the truth is closer to Celsius.'”

“…the value of pragmatic deceit…”

“The night shift regularly put him in acquaintance with the glitches and flaws of human design.”

“…every obsession withers if you just hold down the obsessive…”

“…when he agreed to unshell himself, the world loved him.”

“…property of the international imagination.”

“For life’s emergencies, some men carried condoms, Band-Aids, umbrellas. Eugene Rubin carried a jar of roasted peppers.” I add this sentence because I love that image and I completely know who this man is, kind of reminds me of my own father in law.

“…and partly because all their lives had low ceilings courtesy of the state in which they had the misfortune to live. … The Low Ceiling made ambition impossible…”

“It was easier to fear than to regret.”

“…the grass exhaling after being released by the sun.”

“…the subfusc prologue of the morning was pushing up the black sky with impatience.”

“How little it took to unravel things, compared to what it had taken to make them cohere.”

While I loved this story and admire the craft, I did find this book required very close reading. There were multiple times that I wasn’t quite sure that I was following exactly what had happened and re-read immediately or had to go back chapters later to figure out what I’d missed. I wondered: Was there ever really a snake in the tent? And I completely missed that Maya’s fantasy in the shower was a fantasy – I’d read it as though the description had happened. This may simply be “reader-error” but there were enough incidents where as as reader I felt tripped up or a little unsure so I feel it’s worth mentioning.

Listen here to a terrific interview with Boris Fishman on Reading With Robin. I listened in the airport and got sideways looks as I laughed out loud at parts. I regret having to travel and miss his visit to Rhode Island. Boris, one day we’ll meet! Thanks for the good read!

About Boris Fishman

Boris Fishman bio | MothersCircle.netBoris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and immigrated to the United States in 1988 at the age of nine. His journalism, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. His first novel, A Replacement Life won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, was one of The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books, and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Boris at his website, and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

tlc logo

 

* I received an advanced reader copy of this book but no compensation for this review. This review is a part of TLC Book Tours.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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You Need This to Organize Your Photos

March 8, 2016 by ldecesare

Organize your photos | MothersCircle.netBe honest. How many pictures do you have stashed on your phone, your iPad, your computer?

Do you do anything with them? Can you easily find the one(s) you want? Can you enjoy the gazillion pictures you take? Does thinking about this make you sweat?

Mother’s Circle readers know that I love keeping record and documenting our family events, big and small, but it is a time consuming and overwhelming task to keep up with the unruly mess of pictures. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about the perfect solution to help you organize your photos.

Here’s what you need to organize your photos

Ruly is the only service that solves the problem of digital photo overload through an innovative digital photo concierge service using a combination of human touch and technology. I love this!

As a social enterprise, Ruly is a unique tech startup because it’s designed to achieve a specific social good objective. Ruly’s photo operations center is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the company recruits and invests in local women. Having visited Organize your pictures and help women | MothersCircle.netCambodia on a trip with my mom in 2012, this model immediately spoke to me. Ruly offers women who are too often marginalized and living in poverty a way to build industry-relevant skills, earn exponentially higher wages and emerge as leaders in their communities.

“Ruly was founded on the belief that great businesses can be built with a fundamental ‘win-win’ design,” Chad Mulder, Ruly’s founder and CEO, shared. “Customers desperately need help with their overwhelming photo mess. At the same time, we’re making social advancements that are truly important.”

How Ruly works

So how does Ruly work?

  • First Ruly connects to your Dropbox mobile app.
  • Then Ruly’s photo team assess every shot and find your “Keepers,” which are all the good shots that you’ll want over time.
  • Photos that don’t pass Ruly’s technical and photographic criteria, such as unnecessary duplicates, out of focus images and mistake shots are considered “Clutter” (typically 65-70% of all photos). Clutter is separated out, but not deleted so they can always be accessed.
  • Next, photo specialists find your “Highlight” shots. These are the shots that summarize events, periods of time, holidays, etc. Highlights are fully edited using Photoshop.
  • Photos are returned to the Dropbox, organized in easy-to-navigate folders.

Ta Da! Photo organization and you’ve given a woman life skills and income – something to truly feel good about.

Get Organized and Help Impoverished Women

As a social enterprise, Ruly is pioneering the use of a consumer technology service to drive positive social change. Ruly is focused on creating technology jobs for women in developing countries as a way to fight global poverty and include more women in the digital economy.

Ruly recruits women in Cambodia who fall below the international poverty line, trains them with technical and photographic skills, then provides four-year scholarships to earn a college degree in business or technology.

That’s Ruly’s key combination – human eyes and skills plus technology – to give you exactly what you need to get your pictures organized. From there, you can easily create a vacation photo book or find that perfect image for your Christmas card or to frame for Grandma’s birthday. As they say at Ruly: “Your unruly photos can change the world.”

“Apps rely on algorithms to make decisions for you. They reduce the value of your photos to a digital commodity. But with Ruly, you get much more,” continued Mulder. “Ironically, we take so many photos – an estimated 1 trillion this year globally – that they essentially get trapped under their own weight. One minute we take a photo because we’re really inspired, happy or moved in some way. But the next minute, that photo is essentially lost to us. It’s thrown onto massive pile of all our backlogged files. We need a way to rescue all the best photos from among all this unruliness.”

To learn more about Ruly, its social impact, and how you can take the never-ending task of photo management off of your to-do list, visit getruly.com. You are invited to be a part of Ruly’s free beta program. Visit their website to sign up.

* This is a sponsored post.

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Children Must Know They Are Loved

February 19, 2016 by ldecesare

Know They Are Loved | MothersCircle.net

Naked Parenting Guiding Kids in a Digital World Now in Ebook

February 5, 2016 by ldecesare

Naked Parenting Guiding Kids in a Digital World in eBook | MothersCircle.net
Thank you for the great feedback and comments I’ve received on the second in the Naked Parenting series, Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World. I am happy to announce that it is now available in eBook format on Amazon.

I love to hear from readers and every single review on Amazon or GoodReads or elsewhere online is genuinely appreciated. With everyone’s busy lives, it means a lot that someone takes the time to review a book which helps authors.

Click here for the book trailer (I love this trailer – I makes me smile every time! Thanks, my sweet Ali.)

Click here for the original 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence.

 

Thank you, Mother’s Circle and Naked Parenting readers
for your loyalty and support.

No Time to Read? Why I Love Audio Books

January 27, 2016 by ldecesare

No Time to Read? Why I Love Audio Books | MothersCircle.netI’ve always loved reading. I remember trips to the library and the excitement of my arms stacked with books. I still love that feeling of deciding what book I’m going to read next. But as moms, professionals, volunteers and as life gets busier and busier, it can be hard to find time to read.

Belonging to two books clubs (shout out to my Panera book club friends and Reading Between the Wines pals) gives me the external deadlines that let me “give myself permission” to sit and read. I also love book clubs because I’ve always valued the variety of selections when I’m not the only one choosing what I read. (That’s also why I’ve loved our Mother Daughter Book Clubs.)

Since I’m passionate about reading, I make time for it but I also love audio books so I can read even more. I still visit the library and I still call them affectionately, “books on tape.” Old or old-fashioned? You decide. I load up my car’s CD player and dive in.

I’ve always read a few books at a time so having a book by my bedside, another in my office and a third in the car seems quite normal. Don’t be surprised if you see me on GoodReads and I have several books marked “currently reading.”

I love audio books because:

  • With all the driving I do, I feel like I’m getting something read. It’s surprising how much I get through in my trips around town in a week and it makes a longer drive way more fun.
  • I drive more calmly since I’m not rushing but enjoying a story. I might even argue that books on tape could slow us all down – would it be a stretch to say they could solve road rage?
  • I don’t mind going out to pick up a kid (for the gazillionth time) because at least on half of the drive, I’m alone and get to listen to my book.
  • I’ve caught up on classics – this summer I reread Animal Farm, Madame Bovary and Of Mice and Men.
  • I’m learning Italian. In anticipation of a trip to Italy, I’m learning Italian on DuoLingo (a great app for helping kids with languages too) and supplementing that app with my Italian for the car.
  • I’m an achiever and I love feeling like I’m checking something off, like I’m DOING something during my time behind the wheel.

Maybe it’s time for me to subscribe to an audio book service! #timetoread

How do you make time to read?
What do you love best about audio books?
What are you currently reading?

Forks, Knives, and Spoons on Audible.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Save

I Hated Math

January 18, 2016 by ldecesare

I Hated Math (And what would've helped) | MothersCircle.netGrowing up I was always a good student, I prided myself on working hard, being prepared and getting top grades. But math was a misery to me – right through college.

I love writing – obviously – and the subjects that didn’t entail numbers were where I excelled. In math I struggled! I mean, I hated math, really hated it.

My dad, an engineer, sees numbers easily, and he couldn’t understand how I just didn’t GET this stuff. We had our share of spats when I went to him for math help. If I were forced to guess a number, I’d say that 90% of the time our tutoring sessions ended in tears and frustrations. That’s 9 out of 10 times – am I right on that?

My poor mother would leave the room and stick her head in a book whenever I asked my dad for math help – she knew the tension that was coming.

There was no Internet or online learning when we were growing up. I needed to learn math in a slow, deliberate, logical way and my dad’s fast-paced brain breezed along wondering how his daughter couldn’t grasp the four different ways he’d come to the same answer. I remember saying, “But that’s not how the teacher showed us,” I needed a straightforward path, step one, step two, step three.

I needed an option that was available whenever I was stuck whether right after school or when I was studying at 11:00 pm. I needed math help that adjusted to my pace, targeted my needs and gave me feedback.

Thankfully, I got through my statistics and upper level accounting classes in college (with a lot of calls home for long distance tutoring and tears). Then I dove into my first job which was glorified accounting – a.k.a. MATH. Working in NYC in the buying offices at Lord & Taylor required lots of math skills and in the real world, I finally got it! I finally felt competent and able to understand why math mattered. I could finally see several avenues to an answer but at what cost?

Growing up I felt tackled by math. I always feeling like something was just beyond my grasp. It was disempowering and maddening. I could’ve used a tool like www.futureschool.com that guides students at their pace and has 24 hour support, and not just in math but in English too. It would’ve save a lot of battles between my dad and me.

I’m grateful for being done with formal math education and now find myself relearning a lot, and in new ways, as we help our kids through school. As a parent I’m thankful for the option of online learning to meet our kids where they are and propel them in the way they need to the next steps of learning.

I work hard not to talk about how much I hated math (and truthfully I don’t really love it now) and while I’ll always prefer words over numbers, I can feel proud that I found success despite my weakness.

My dad sure tried his best and that is what parenting is all about – building on our kids’ strengths and bolstering them where they need it. In today’s era of the Internet, I’m so glad that parents have a lot more tools at our disposal.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

* This is a sponsored post.

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Share Your Birth Story on Mother’s Circle

January 10, 2016 by ldecesare

Share Your Birth Story | MothersCircle.netMoms need to share their birth story, or stories, sometimes many times, as a part of the emotional work of integrating her birth(s).

There are so many valuable reasons to tell our stories, to share our births, and to find our strengths through the retelling.

Whatever path your birth led you on, we each make the best decisions for ourselves and our families with the information we have at any point in a labor or birth. We need to be kind in our judgments of ourselves as birthing women. Honor the moments that make us mothers.

Whether a first baby or fourth bundle, women remember the birth story for each of their babies throughout their lives. We carry those feelings of awe or disappointment, of bliss or worry, of empowerment or loss.

Readers, Twitter followers, and birth story junkies have reached out to me over the years which prompted me to post the stories of each of my very different births. A  hospital birth with epidural, episiotomy and even an unnecessary vacuum extraction, a Cesarean section and a natural, unmedicated water birth.

You can read about Ali’s birth, Michael’s birth and Anna’s birth on Mother’s Circle and I invite you to share your birth story with Mother’s Circle readers. Have you already written it? Do you feel the need to write it? Was it last week that you birthed or thirty years ago? I’m offering you a forum and a place to share your own birth story if you want it.

Please submit your story to me on my contact form and include a note giving me permission to publish your birth story on Mother’s Circle.

I look forward to hearing your sacred stories and holding a place for you here.

Note: Not all submissions will be published
and Mother’s Circle retains the right to copy edit any submissions.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2016

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Posts of Christmases Past – A Roundup

December 15, 2015 by ldecesare

Posts of Christmas Past | MothersCircle.netI love Christmastime and am rounding up some posts of Christmases past. Happy Preparations and Merry Christmas!

Take some time to Pause Smile and Breathe and enjoy the preparations and festivities.

Wondering what to do with your Christmas Tree Trunks? Here’s one of our family’s favorite traditions.

Need some new elfin inspirations: Elf ideas and More Elf Ideas.

Besides Christmas cookies, we love this refreshing, healthy and festive dessert. We serve these pretty Clementine Granitas on Christmas Eve.

Anyone in your family celebrate a December Birthday? Thoughts on birthdays close to Christmas.

Here’s a great Christmas organization guest post about using a Christmas Binder to file craft and activity ideas to select from each year.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2015

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Naked Parenting Book Trailer

December 3, 2015 by ldecesare

Thank you to my daughter, Ali, and her tech savvy for creating this Naked Parenting book trailer for the new Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World, available now.

To read more about what the second in the series is all about, click here.

Thank you for making the original Naked Parenting #1 on Amazon all day on CyberMonday! Rankings change hourly and I was thrilled to see the book downloads skyrocket.

Click here for the original Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence.

Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World Book Trailer | MothersCircle.net

Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World

December 1, 2015 by ldecesare

Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World | MothersCircle.netIntroducing the newest in the Naked Parenting series – Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World.

From social media, apps, video games, texting, cyberbullying, privacy, and identity theft, guiding kids in a digital world can be overwhelming. Parents need concrete strategies to manage technology in our homes in ways that fit our family values and culture.

Naked Parenting is parenting stripped down to the bare basics focusing on seven keys to raising kids who are self-sufficient, confident, respectful, and resilient. The seven keys – love, honesty, communication, responsibility, discipline, mistakes, and gratitude – guide the discussion in this book on technology.

Naked Parenting approaches parenting in an honest, direct, and realistic way. Guiding children with love, nurturing their strengths and self image, and instilling personal responsibility are at the heart of Naked Parenting.

It’s hard, if not impossible, for parents to keep up with the pace of technology – forget juggling work, kids, commitments, volunteer jobs, and laundry. The good news is you don’t need to be literate in every new thing that crops up. However, you do need an awareness and a parenting framework that adapts to whatever comes next.

We need ways to manage technology in our homes in a big picture, broad way that will teach our children good digital citizenship, online responsibility, self-regulation, and how to benefit from technologies while staying safe.

It’s a huge and important job. So how do we tackle all of that?

Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World gives usable tips applicable broadly to the digital world from a parenting perspective instead of from a techie viewpoint. While some specifics are used in examples and stories throughout the book, this is not meant to teach you any details about any currently popular Internet or mobile innovation. With the rapid changes in technologies, I want to give you tools that transcend specific platforms, devices, video games, or the app of the moment.

The principles of Naked Parenting overlap, interrelate, and reinforce one another. Understanding these seven keys will help you apply them across the countless scenarios of parenting through all stages and ages.

Thank you to my Mother’s Circle readers for your kind comments and emails. I love hearing your feedback in comments, on social media, or in my inbox.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare

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Get Naked (FREE) for Cyber Monday

November 29, 2015 by ldecesare

Naked Parenting Free #CyberMonday | MothersCircle.net
Enjoy Naked Parenting for free on Cyber Monday. Kindle downloads of the original Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence are free starting today at midnight until midnight on Monday, November 30, 2015 as we kick off launch week for Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World.

Do you struggle to manage technology and electronics in your family? Does screen time and social media stress you out? Do you feel outpaced by video games, apps and the endless Internet and mobile innovations popping up?

The second book in the Naked Parenting series is for you. Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World, available today in paperback, is an easy-to-read guide for parents and caregivers seeking more balance in their homes surrounding technology.

Using the seven keys to raising kids with confidence – love, honesty, communication, responsibility, discipline, mistakes and gratitude – the second Naked Parenting book walks parents through using their family values and working together to create a media plan that meets your family’s needs and culture.NOW AVAILABLE! Naked Parenting; Guiding Kids in a Digital World | MothersCircle.net

The Tech Talk, like other important parenting dialogues, is never a one time chat but rather an ongoing discussion and conversation as we help our kids to self-regluate and understand how to conduct themselves in the digital realm.

Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World supports parents as they guide their children, from toddlers to teens, in cyberspace. It’s not an easy task but it’s necessary and unavoidable.

Get Naked and download your free copy of Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence for Cyber Monday and be one of the first to read the new Naked Parenting book.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2015

Technology and Parenting – 5 Ways to Be Intentional

November 19, 2015 by ldecesare

As I prepare to launch my second Naked Parenting book, Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World, I share with you this guest post on technology and parenting.

Guest Post by Hilary Smith

Modern Parenting: The True Impact Of Our Technology

Technology and Parenting | MothersCircle.net

When it comes to technology and parenting, snapping a lot of selfies or spending a lot of time scrolling social media can inadvertently harm our children. We are sending messages to our sons and daughters that they are less important than our devices. Whether it’s intentional or not, our actions often leave children feeling neglected.

This side of technology is important to consider, because our devices have become ingrained in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Technology has the power to enhance our lives in so many ways that if left unbalanced, it can surprisingly have negative influences on our families. There is no doubt technology has a time and place, but parents need to step back and take an in-depth look at how our beloved devices and social media can affect our children.

Technology And Parenting

Our devices can result in a child feeling anxiety or depression. When we focus on work emails or updating posts we involuntarily reinforce the concept that our sons and daughters are not important enough to merit our full attention. There is a direct correlation between parents who overuse their devices and feelings of neglect in children.

Leading psychologist, Catherine Steiner-Adair, noted, “We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.”

Constantly checking our cell phones or devices can deprive children of valuable interaction with adults. Talking and playing with our kids might leave you feeling as if you are wasting your time, but parents need to realize that face-to-face interaction is how children learn and develop communication skills. Research and studies have proven how daily dialogue and conversations are crucial elements of child development. Not surprisingly, researchers have linked the amount of words a child hears with their ultimate chances for success.

There are correlations between social media usage and the promotion of narcissism in children. Every photo snapped or milestone updated is sending the message they are important- so important that they their images are being flooded across countless feeds. As children age, they may value their self worth based on their digital presence. While indirectly, we are breeding mini entitled narcissists and may be fueling a lack of empathy.

Overusing the Internet and Smartphones can form very real addictions. The natural development process of a child’s brain naturally predisposes adolescents to addictions. Our children are exposed to digital stimulants through our Smartphones and other technologies at a very young age and we need to be cautious that we are modeling a healthy relationship with our devices.

Our technology can interfere with our ability to bond with young children. In the Attachment Bonding Theory, children need to develop close and trusting relationships with parents to support brain development and life skills needed to succeed in life. Our dependence on technology has the potential to hinder the bonding process.

5 Ways To Be More Intentional With Our Technology

Technology is here to stay, but if we are aware of how our personal relationship with technology is affecting our parenting, we can correct the problem. The solution to this problem is all about balance and intentional choices:

1. Set aside a predetermined amount of time everyday for technology.

By selecting a certain amount of time, say a half hour during nap times or after the kidlets retire for the night, you are allowing yourself to peruse likes and comments without any guilt. The key is to make sure you log off after the amount of time has elapsed and focus on the family.

2. Develop zones in the home where there is no technology.

These “no phone zones” allow family time during meals and reserves the bedroom for sleeping.

3. Take advantage of time spent with children.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your to-do list, but those precious moments spent in carpools or while setting the dinner table are perfect opportunities to fit in a quality conversation.

4. Create ongoing dialogue in your family about technology.

It is estimated that most three year olds already log onto the Internet! Teach social media etiquette early and build on that foundation with more sensitive topics like sexting and cyberbullying when the child is the right age.

5. Lead by example.

Our children are experts at watching us and learning from our actions. Make sure you are portraying the values that matter.

We are raising digital natives and need to ensure our children have the right skill set to navigate this evolving landscape. It’s vital that we challenge ourselves to put down our devices on occasion to be present in our children’s lives. After all, it won’t matter how many grumpy cat videos you watched thirty years from now. What will matter is your family and the memories created along the journey.

About the Author:

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Affirmations *

November 7, 2015 by ldecesare

Everything You Wanted to Know About Affirmations | MothersCircle.net*But Were Afraid to Ask

Thank you to author and artist, Susan Singer, for this guest post on the power and use of affirmations.
Try them for birth, for your health, your mental state and well-being, and even for goal-setting and reaching your dreams.
Here, Susan walks us through the whys and how-tos of using affirmations.  

What is an affirmation?

An affirmation is a positive statement of belief. Ex:  I am happy and prosperous.

When did affirmations start?

Affirmations have been around for as long as people could speak – we all know people with sunny dispositions who tend to look on the bright side of life – but in 1952, affirmations became mainstream when Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking.  It stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks and has since sold around five million copies.  This small book introduced affirmations and the power of thinking positively to millions of avid readers who were ready for a shift in their thinking.

In 1978, Louise Hay wrote Heal Your Body which began as a small pamphlet containing a list of different bodily ailments and their probable metaphysical causes. Her premise is that the way we think actually helps cause our physical ailments, and that if we examine those beliefs and work with affirmations to change them, we can heal ourselves.  Her pamphlet was later enlarged and extended into her book You Can Heal Your Life, published in 1984 and has since sold over 35 million copies.

One of my favorites of her affirmations is about urinary tract infections about which, she says:
Probable cause: Anxiety. Holding on to old ideas. Fear of letting go. Being pissed off.
New thought pattern: I comfortably and easily release the old and welcome the new in my life. I am safe.

What can affirmations do for me?

Affirmations change how you speak, which can change what you think, which can change how you perceive what happens in your world, which can change what continues to happen in your life.

For example: A young woman in her 30’s, let’s call her Mona, thought she had it all – a husband, three young children, a house, two cars, a cat, a good part time job.  She thought her life’s path was clearly delineated and good.

Then her husband came home from a business trip and informed her that their marriage had reached an end time.  It was over. Done.using affirmations in labor and birth, affirmations for moms,

Her husband moved out.  Her new reality began.   She was full of anger, resentment, hurt, and grief and often felt furious with her ex for betraying her. When her children weren’t around, she stomped around the house cursing her ex, crying, and raging against the world.

Then one day at work, she got into a conversation with an older colleague. The woman began complaining about her ex-husband, saying what a jerk he was.  Mona noticed how dry and brittle the woman seemed, how drawn and bitter. She asked how long she’d been separated and learned to her surprise that the woman had divorced her husband more than twenty years before and was actually happily remarried. Mona realized she did not want to be like that woman. In that moment, she chose to create a reality she wanted to live into, one which would empower her and give her life-affirming choice from there on out.  She decided to affirm:

This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am experiencing unbridled joy.

You may be thinking: Yeah, right! That sounds ridiculous, she was just lying to herself. Which leads us to how affirmations work.

How do affirmations work?

Our brains are hardwired through genetics, upbringing, and past experiences to think in a certain way and to expect life to have certain outcomes.  For example, if you are raised wealthy, you tend to expect to have enough of what you need in life.  If you think you always have bad luck, you might tend to notice the bad luck you have more than the good.

Mona was hardwired through societal values and family experience to perceive her ex as a jerk and to blame him and to be full of rage and resentful.  Her parents had gotten divorced, and her mother was still angry ten years later even though she had initiated the divorce.  Mona got a lot of compassion and pity from her friends when she complained about her ex.  Certainly her feelings were justified. Mona could have continued to perceive herself as a victim and to be pissed off at her ex.

But how would it have served her?  Her ex was with another woman and wasn’t coming back.  He didn’t seem to feel guilty.  Her misery didn’t do anything but make her miserable and affect her children negatively.

Instead, by using an affirmation, she created an equally plausible but far more positive possibility:

This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am experiencing unbridled joy.

Yes, it sounds absurd, given her situation, but it helped her create a vision of how life could be if she let go of the resentment and bitterness and recognized that perhaps, in fact, it just might be the best thing that ever happened to her.  Maybe, just maybe, there were wonderful surprises awaiting her which she never could have experienced if she had remained in her marriage.

That sounds great! How do I begin?

To use affirmations in your life:

  1. Become aware of your negative beliefs.  What underlying beliefs are potentially causing problems for you?  For example, perhaps you believe you are terrible in math because your second grade teacher told you that you couldn’t add 2 + 2.
  2. Write the negative belief down very clearly and simply.  In this example, it would be “I am terrible at math.”
  3. Turn the negative statement into a powerful positive one.It is important to use only positive words here because our brains are like a 2-year-old. If you tell a toddler, “Don’t touch the stove!” he will touch the stove.  He doesn’t hear “don’t!”  It’s better to tell him what he should do, for example:  “Come to Mommy and let me give you a great big hug!”  Stove forgotten.Our adult brains function that same way, so it wouldn’t be helpful to write, “I’m not terrible at math.”  More helpful, but still not perfect, would be, “Maybe I can add 2+2.  My second grade teacher was stupid and a jerk.”  Placing blame elsewhere robs us of our power to change things.More powerful would be: I am excellent at math!  I love math!  I can’t wait to learn more!These may sound a bit absurd compared to the entrenched beliefs, but just imagine living with these voices in your head rather than the others.  Feels much better, doesn’t it?

Other examples of creating positive affirmations from negative thoughts:

Change: “I’m too fat.  I have to lose 50 pounds before I can be happy.”
To: “I love my body exactly how it is.  I choose joy now.”

Change: “I’ll never have enough money.”
To: “Money is flowing in ceaselessly from all directions, expected and unexpected.”

OK, I have my affirmation written.  Now what?

breastfeeding illustration, breastfeeding affirmations, using affirmations for nursing, If your negative beliefs have been running the show for quite some time, they will take some prodding to loosen them and let them disappear.

Our brains have many neural pathways, many of which are firmly entrenched, keeping our negative thoughts in the forefront.  The job of affirmations is to help offer our brains a new path so we don’t go automatically down the same tired old pathway.

If you’re used to believing you’re awful at math, it’s going to take some work to break that pattern and to build a new one.

I recommend the following:

  1. Speak your affirmation out loud at least 100 times/day.  When stopped at a traffic light is a great time to practice this.
  2. Write your affirmation at least 100 times/day.  When you first get up or before you go to bed are great times for this since your brain is most open at those times.
  3. Each time your negative thought intrudes, replace it with your new positive thought and imagine positive scenarios which fulfill that belief.  For example, getting a 100% on a math test, enjoying your math homework, teaching someone else how to do a math problem with enthusiasm.
  4. Notice when things are different than your old belief would have had you expect so you see that the affirmations are working.

What is the expected outcome of using affirmations?

I can’t foretell your future, but I can tell you what happened for our friend Mona.

Once she replaced her resentment toward her ex with the excitement of possibility, she began to feel anticipation, wondering what sort of new joy would crop up each day.  She paid attention each time she felt joy and recognized her affirmations were coming true.  Susan Singer, how affirmations work

Ultimately, she began to explore her creativity and has become a well-known artist whose works are recognized for their life-affirming joyful tone. She also used positive thinking to create a vision of the man she wanted to bring to her as a life partner.  She was blessed to meet and marry him about ten years after her ex left her to greater possibilities.

So, will this happen for you?  I certainly can’t promise it, but what do you have to lose by trying?

Try creating a powerful positive statement to counteract an old negative belief and see what happens.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll create a new and better reality!

About the Author:

Susan Singer is the author and illustrator of Birth Affirmations, a small book containing 69 affirmations and 29 delicate graphite illustrations intended to empower the expectant mother and to create a positive mindset for giving birth and being with her baby.KimBrundagePhotography_RichmondVA_SusanSinger

 In addition, Singer is also a prolific full-time artist who has produced dozens of one-person art shows on topics mostly related to the human body:  Pregnant Nudes, 12 Naked Men, Scar Series, and Beyond Barbie, to name a few.  All of her work, including Birth Affirmations, has at its core the intention to empower others and to help them follow their own passion in order to live the most amazing life possible. You can see her artwork at susansinger.com and can purchase Birth Affirmations at BirthAffirmationsBook.com.

Fall Back: How to Get Extra Hours

October 29, 2015 by ldecesare

Fall Back: How to Get Extra Hours | MothersCircle.netIt’s that time of year, pumpkins, costumes, and daylight savings. For fall back, we gain an hour, what busy mom doesn’t love that? But I play a little game that gives me more than one extra hour.

Fall back is my day of extra hours.

Despite the darkness falling earlier and heralding cold days ahead, during  daylight savings time, I like the few hours I gain during this one day of the year.

At bedtime on Saturday night, I change only the clock in my bedroom – this is for the obvious reason of not arriving at church or Sunday morning activities an hour early. (If you don’t need to get up for anything special, you can instead give yourself the hour first thing in the morning). I find it thrilling to get into bed at my typical too-late hour and magically, it’s only midnight again!

On Sunday, I’m up and at ’em and ready to claim my extra hours. First, I putter around with my morning yoga poses, make the bed and brush my teeth and eventually, after finding a dozen more things calling my immediate attention, I finally get to the kitchen. As I start my breakfast, I have my first momentary panic that I’m late or that I’ve wasted my morning, “How could it already be that late?” I lament. But then – wait a minute – I turn back the kitchen clock and I get my second extra hour of fall back. Woo Hoo! Now I have time to sort through the mail as I sip my hot beverage.

Once I’ve tossed catalogs and shredded heaps of blahmail, picked up socks under the table (why are there always two mismatched little girl socks in the kitchen?), and spent time zinging between tasks, I make my way to my office.

I love my pale yellow corner office, and since it’s Sunday, I decide to treat myself and sit with a book to start my day. I snuggle into my tiny couch and luxuriate in the pages (or in the animated page-turning depending). Deep into the story, I’m deaf to the ticking. When I return to real life and notice the clock above me, I throw my head back wondering how it could already be lunchtime. That’s when I change the office clock and get my third extra hour.

To be honest, sometimes I don’t change this one right away because that clock is a pain. The nail it hangs on slips out of the wall and it’s a two-person job, or a one-person hour long frustration, which then defeats the purpose of my day of collecting extra hours.

Since it’s not yet lunchtime, I plunk in front of my computer, who’s clock is automatically already changed, so no fun there. As I pummel through cyber tasks feeling the excitement of checking things off my list, Anna pops in to ask if we can watch family movies. Off we head to the family room where I gasp out loud scaring the child. It can’t possibly be so late that we missed lunchtime altogether. And here it is, Fall Back: How to get extra hours | MothersCircle.netmy fourth hour gained. Racking them up in Fall-Back-O-Rama.

After eating lunch I watch my children as sweet adorable little ones with sweet adorable little voices and cheeks that I could smoosh again. After considering how amazing it would be to be pregnant and have another baby,  and after I laugh at the thought of being my age and pregnant again, I dive into a project. I work on a photo book or writing a book. It’s a good feeling to be productive, to preserve our family memories, to move forward on something that’s been hanging over my head, but I also love a good afternoon nap on a fall day.

Wait – wait – wait! It’s dark outside. What time is it? My office clock taunts me with the late hour, you should be thinking of dinner, your day is winding down, time is passing, it mocks. But then, realizing I never changed it, I triumphantly yank it off the wall, the nail tumbles behind the couch, and I ceremoniously twist that big hand back with the little hand close behind. And I just got my fifth extra hour.

Boo Ya!

If you’re really wise on your day of extra hours, you can even extend it into Monday. You guessed it, don’t change your watch until you’re on your way out the door. Just when  you’re feeling like you won’t possibly have enough time to do what you need, that extra hour comes to the rescue.

What will you do with your extra hours this Sunday?

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2015

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5 Tips for Hiking With Kids

October 2, 2015 by ldecesare

I am so happy to share this guest post with you by friend and fellow-author, Jeanine Silversmith.
Her new book, The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal is now available and is the perfect and one-of-a-kind resource for hiking in Rhode Island with family of all ages and abilities.
Wherever you’re taking a hike, use these 5 tips for hiking with kids.

Guest Post by Jeanine Silversmith

5 Tips for Hiking With Kids | Motherscircle.netHiking is an easy, usually free, way for you and your family to have fun while enhancing your health and well-being. Research shows that unstructured play and interaction with the natural world are important for healthy development in children as well as the physical, mental, and emotional health of both children and adults. Time in nature provides opportunity for physical activity, critical and creative thinking, personal interaction, and so much more.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re hitting the trails with children.

1. Be prepared

Before heading out, take some time to plan and prepare your family for your adventure.

Check the distance, terrain, and other information about your hike to determine if the trail is appropriate for each person in your group. When hiking with kids, involve them in picking the spot and get them excited about it.

Wear appropriate shoes such as hiking boots or sneakers and dress in layers of weather appropriate clothing (e.g. absorbent synthetics, fleece, waterproof jackets). Protect yourself from tick bites by using a repellent that contains Permethrin on your clothes and wearing long, light colored pants tucked into long, white socks.

Eat a satisfying and nutritious meal before heading out to prevent fatigue and irritability. Don’t underestimate how many calories your kids will need on the trail. I’m constantly amazed at how much my own children eat while and after we hike.

Bring a first aid kit, watch, fully charged cell phone, and plenty of water. Pack snacks that your kids really love. You can even come up with your own family GORP (“good old raisins and peanuts”) recipe using chocolate-covered raisins, dried fruit, M&Ms, nuts, butterscotch chips, etc. And make certain everyone has their own whistle, which can be heard farther away than a person’s voice, and takes less energy to use in the event of an emergency.

2. Hike smart

During the hike, keep everyone safe, motivated, and happy along the way.

Kids are usually much more likely to follow rules that they’ve had a hand in setting. So before you start, work together to set behavioral expectations. My golden rule of hiking, which we repeat at the start of each and every outing, is “Stay on the path, stay with the group, and if you’re lost, hug a tree.”

Your group should be able to see each other even if they spread out along the path, and everyone should stop when the trail curves and at trail intersections. If you do get separated or lost, staying in one spot helps searchers find you far more quickly, and you won’t be injured in a fall or in another type of accident. Hugging a tree or another stationary object and even talking to it or singing a song helps keep you calm—and then you get to call yourself a tree hugger!

Confirm your position by regularly checking your map and using the trail markers, and keep an eye on the time and the weather.

3. Take frequent breaks

Young or inexperienced hikers tire quickly. Offer snacks and drink regularly and as motivation to get to that next bench, tree, etc.

Remember the ultimate goal when hiking with kids is to get outside and have fun! (See tip #4) Go at your children’s pace and be willing to turn around sooner rather than later, even if you don’t “finish” the hike.

4. Have fun!

Praise and encourage your child(ren) along the way. If you find your kids are getting bored or tired, sing a song, ask a riddle, or play I Spy or 20 questions. Click here for a list of fun, simple activities.

Relax, laugh, and show your children how much you’re enjoying yourself. It is the best way to help them do the same.

5. Rest and Reflect

Talk with your kids about the hike and thank them for coming with you. Ask them what they liked and didn’t like and what they would want to do next time. And don’t forget to do a tick check immediately upon completing the hike, and again when you return home.

About the Author
Jeanine Silversmith grew up playing outside in the suburbs of New York City and found a love of hiking when she was a college student in Buffalo, New York. An environmental educator and mother, she established  RI Families in Nature in 2009 and works to engage students in outdoor learning experiences in both formal and informal settings. She lives with her family in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

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Back to School and Back to Basics

August 21, 2015 by ldecesare

Back to School and Back to Basics | MothersCircle.netTo me, the start of a new school year is a time for fresh starts, new goals, and getting back to some basics that may have slipped and drifted during the summer months. (Anyone else feel like the World’s Okayest Mom?)

We’ve all enjoyed more ice cream and hot dogs than a person should consume in a year’s time, but boy it’s been fun and yummy along the way. I’ve also been staying up later and sleeping later along with the kids. I’ve joked that I’ve shifted to Pacific time this summer which is only slightly untrue.

I love summertime and will never complain about the heat because I prefer it any day to the frigid, shivery days of winter. (While I love snow days, I am no good at being cold.)

I cherish summer’s freedoms and being unhitched from time and schedules. Reading on the beach and lazing with a book and a fancy drink (or just a water with lime) until the sun sets is my favorite summer day. Picking vegetables from the garden, cutting flowers for my desk and the tables, and watching shooting stars are some of summer’s great pleasures. It’s the season for tons of time to hang out with the kids and family and to connect with friends far and wide.

I love summer and am not ready to say good bye, but as back to school approaches, it’s clear it’s time to get back to basics, or as one friend called it, “Crack Down September.”

Time to go back to bed making and towel hanging, regular bedtimes and routines. Back to school and back to basics also means some time apart to tame the end-of-summer bickering and to have the house stay clean longer than an hour.

I have loved getting to meet new people and hear comments from parents who’ve read Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence. Just last week a woman on an airplane bought my book the second we landed – what a compliment, and what a rush last spring as a woman overheard my name and NOW AVAILABLE! Naked Parenting; Guiding Kids in a Digital World | MothersCircle.netexclaimed, “You’re Leah DeCesare? The one who wrote Naked Parenting? I love that book!” What an incredible moment for a writer.

As we embark on a new school year and work on getting back to basics, allow me to suggest this fast and easy read to give you some fresh ideas and some sparks of encouragement.

Once the kids are back to school, for me, it’s back to writing. I’m hoping to get you the next in the Naked Parenting series this fall: Naked Parenting: Guiding Kids in a Digital World. It’s the next topic Mother’s Circle readers voted on and I’m getting ready to deliver for you.

Cheers to a great back to school and a successful school year for your family!

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2015

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