Blog Archives

Still Building Hope

May 18, 2015

Kampala Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness still Building Hope | MothersCircle.netOne year ago, there was no medical center there. Today, brick by brick, the walls rise with hope.

Tonight is the big event celebrating that progress with some of the children it will benefit! There is no way to meet these kids and not fall completely in love like our family has. We’ve been enjoying two weeks with four kids and the choir director living with us. We’re all concocting ways for them to stay here longer, none of us are ready to say good-bye.

If you’re in Rhode Island, please join us tonight to celebrate this project with a special performance by The Destiny Africa Children’s Choir. See the progress on the center, meet these amazing children and be

[caption id="attachment_4931" align="alignright" width="225"]Hannah being teacher for the day with Mrs. Ratigan. Hannah being teacher for the day with Mrs. Ratigan.[/caption]

inspired by their performance. I cannot wait to hear those drums echoing off the water in the Newport harbor. If you life afar – you can still help by making a donation.

Click here to join us tonight because we’re still building hope. It’s worth the trip over two bridges and staying out on a school night!
6:30 pm | Newport Yachting Center | 4 Commercial Wharf, Newport, RI

Last year, we rallied and raised $82,000 to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness, a medical clinic with lab, dentistry, preventive care, education, immunizations, and pharmacy. The center will serve the children and staff at The Kampala Children’s Centre in Uganda and the surrounding community. The Hope Centre website has more details.

Donations are still needed to add water and solar power. Help us get to the $17,000 goal by donating – your gifts are life-giving and more meaningful than we can even imagine! Thank you!

Think Spring!

March 30, 2015

Think Spring! Activities and tips | MothersCircle.netAs much as I love snow days, I’m happy to see the mountains melting. I’m ready to think spring and am enjoying the hints of buds and other harbingers of spring.

Here’s a wrap of of some spring season posts to help you think spring!

How to force forsythia – Bring some spring inside with these yellow blooming branches!

Creative ways to dye Easter eggs – This is our Good Friday tradition. What fun Easter egg traditions does your family do?

Planning Your North Conway Vacation

March 10, 2015

Planning Your North Conway, NH Vacation | MothersCircle.netAre you planning a North Conway vacation? We’ve been to North Conway, NH for long weekends both with and without kids.

While you can surely find extensive lists of restaurants and attractions nearby, here are recommendations from our personal experiences. No one has sponsored or asked me to review them, these are all just for you based on our times in NH.

I have to admit, while my husband and I had a wonderful North Conway vacation alone last summer to celebrate our 20th anniversary, it seemed that everyone around us had their kids and I felt like I’d have preferred to have them along with us. Sleeping in was thwarted as we heard kids jumping and thumping in the room above us and screaming up and down the corridors at the Attitash Mountain Grand Summit Hotel and Resort.

There were kids splashing and kicking as we dipped in the pool, kids coloring and munching fries at every meal out. So while we were without our own kids, it didn’t feel like such a kid-free weekend. Maybe leaf-peeping season brings out more solo couples, but with Storyland and Santa’s Village right nearby, and skiing in the winter months, I doubt there’s much time when this isn’t a very kid and family-oriented getaway location.

Here are a few tips and ideas as you plan your North Conway vacation.

Places to eat in North Conway, NH:

What I Love About Snow Days

January 27, 2015

What I love about snow days | MothersCircle.netI love snow days!

I love the disruption in our normal schedule and the community feeling of hunkering down. I even love the preparation and the anticipation of a storm coming.

I love that regular responsibilities and expectations fall away – drifting with the snow. Obligations forgiven.

I love how the snow absorbs the sound and how neighbors come out waving and shoveling walkways after the storm. I love the sounds of the kids laughing and sledding and playing.

I love hot cocoa and marshmallows and remembering my mom having it ready for us when we came in from a snowy day. I love kissing the kids’ rosy, chilled cheeks and noses when they finally drag themselves in from the snow.snowy branch, Juno, blizzard, kids in snow, snow days fun,

I love how snow days slow us down. It’s what I crave and snow days grant us – or force us – time to stay still, to be home with family with nowhere to go or be. Snow days make us live in the moment and be present.

How to Make Clementine Granita

December 23, 2014

How to Make Clementine Granitas | MothersCircle.netMaking clementine granita has become a Christmas tradition in our house. I first made it a few years ago for a fresh, festive, and light Christmas Eve dessert. Served with platters of rich Christmas cookies, clementine granita is the perfect balance.

Everyone loves it and now Anna requests and expects it as part of our Christmas preparations. She’s really the one who has made this a holiday staple, and she does much of the work to make these delicious and pretty desserts.

Here’s how to make clementine granita with pictures to guide you. We use Martha Stewart’s Clementine Granita Recipe.

12 clementines, plus 12 more for juicing
1/2 cup sugar
1 slice (1/2 inch) peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cut the tops off of twelve clementines, you’ll need to juice the insides of these as well as another twelve. You can use orange juice for the extra if you prefer.

cut oranges tangerines mandarins

#GivingTuesday 2014

December 1, 2014

#GivingTuesday Roundup |MothersCircle.netTo me, #GivingTuesday is one of the best commercialized ways to spot light giving and service over self. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving and the Christmas and holiday season are all about?

In our family, kindness is most important. It makes me far prouder to hear that my child invited a left out child to sit with him at lunch than to have him get a perfect spelling test grade. Seriously, what’s really important?

After a big turkey dinner and time with family, after dabbling in Black Friday weekend sales, I love the idea of kicking off the season with #GivingTuesday.

How do you make giving and service a tradition in your family? What ways do you help your kids prioritize serving? What will you give during this season of giving – time, money, blood, food?

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle

November 26, 2014

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle | MotherCircle.net Do you live in the Gratitude Circle?

It can be tough sometimes but it’s so worth it when I get there. I find that the more I give thanks, the more I have to be thankful for. The Gratitude Circle builds gratefulness from gratefulness. The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you have to count.

Looking actively for things to be thankful for multiplies those very things. By seeing them, we automatically increase them. I have a 5-year gratitude journal that I love, it’s a quick way to remind myself every day of all I have in my life and it helps to make gratitude a habit. Create a structure for yourself that builds thankfulness into your day.

A Child Who Knows She is Loved

November 20, 2014

a child who knows she is loved, Naked Parenting quotes, bleeding heart flowers

Parents Set the Tone for the Family

November 5, 2014

parents set the tone, parents set example, culture in family,

You are the Single Greatest Influence

October 16, 2014

know it all, teen years, parents influence in kids lives, parenting teens

5 Ways to Create Happy Memories With Your Kids

October 8, 2014

Thank you to Deborah Shelby for this guest post on ways to create happy memories with our kids. I love her ideas and nodded reading this as they reinforce so many of the principles I write about in Naked Parenting. Enjoy the read, and your kiddos!

Guest post by Deborah Shelby of Prayerful Mom.

owl, create happy memories, no regrets parenting, have fun with your kids, messy projects, Motherhood is tough. Trying to take care of your family, your home, your work, balancing it all, and making your family’s lives run smoothly are exhausting.

I know you’re busy and tired and at times overwhelmed. But imagine five years from now, or ten years from now, what do you want to remember about this time in your life and your children’s lives? In twenty years, how do you want your children to remember their childhoods? What kinds of memories will they have of their mom and their family life?

As a mother of teenagers, here are a few lessons I’ve learned to create happy memories and bond with my kids:

The best memories and most fun are the messiest activities!

I can’t tell you how many of my kids’ friends loved playing at our house for Play-doh alone. Most of them were not allowed to play with it at home because it’s so messy. There’s real work involved in the cleanup, and it’s time-consuming. It gets ground into the carpet. I get it. Yes, it’s a pain. But 10 years from now, your kids will treasure those fond memories of creativity and squishy, moldable fun! Put an old shower curtain under the table that you can roll up and take outside to clean.

I also gave my children plastic aprons, and I allowed them to paint and have stamp pads and make mess pretty much any time, as long as they followed the rules. They learned quite young how to be respectful of our home and help clean up and how to be responsible with their supplies. They took care of rinsing paint brushes and cleaning their rubber stamps.

Another messy activity you shouldn’t deny your kids is letting them jump in mud puddles! We always kept rubber boots for the kids, and stomping in mud puddles was incredible fun. Yes, you’ll have more laundry. But again, you’re giving your kids wonderful, happy childhood memories.

Nurture your relationship with your kids by giving them your undivided attention.

Make sure your children understand how important they are. If you want them to talk to you about their lives when they are teenagers and young adults, you’ll have to listen to those excited, shrill, little-kid voices first. Listen when they want to tell you something. Whenever possible, stop what you’re doing when they want to show you something. Make time for what is important to your children.

We Shouldn’t Engineer Childhood

September 26, 2014

engineer childhood, let kids fail, failures and mistakes as parents, let kids be kids

Delight in the Journey

September 15, 2014

Delight in the journey of parenting, raising responsible adults, job of parents

Giving Kids Our Undivided Attention

August 28, 2014

parenting quotes, Naked Parenting quotes, raising kids with confidence, parenting tips

10 Tips to Teach Kids About Volunteerism

August 19, 2014

10 tips to teach kids, volunteerism, teaching kids to serve, serving and giving, teaching kids to appreciate what they haveThank you to Prayerful Mom for allowing me to guest post. I love this post and have been wanting to write about service and volunteerism for awhile now. It’s so important to teach our kids perspective, giving, and gratitude in our world of plenty.

Check out my 10 Tips to Teach Kids About Volunteerism.

Do you struggle to teach your children about the value of “stuff” and the importance of helping others? Do you search for ways to teach your kids to appreciate what they have and to offer some perspective?

Set the example and volunteer together, locally and globally. Explain to your kids why you give money to whom you do. Use a variety of ways to teach the lessons of serving and gratitude. Multiple experiences and regular volunteerism, or involvement in a cause, will have a greater impact on children than the once-in-a-blue-moon approach.

Here are 10 tips to teach kids about volunteerism

Thank you, Mother’s Circle readers, for your support, your sharing, your votes on Top Mommy Blogs, and your kind emails and comments!

Enjoy volunteering with your kids!

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

Naked Parenting Book Trailer

July 10, 2014

Yesterday I posted about my new book – Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids with Confidence. It’s now available on Amazon.

Here is the Naked Parenting book trailer, come on – Get Naked!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SnD4FkV3go

 

naked parenting book trailer, naked belly, belly button,

Naked Parenting – New Parenting Book from Mother’s Circle

July 9, 2014

Naked Parenting book, image Naked Parenting, raising kids with confidence, honest parenting, tips for being confident parent, parent book for teens, parent book for tweens, parenting book for all ages, I’m proud and excited to announce the publication of Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids with Confidence.

Over the thirteen years working with new parents and helping families transition to parenthood, I’ve received many calls and emails from clients, from the immediate postpartum period to years later, asking parenting questions. Many clients and blog readers have asked or suggested I write a book – so here it is!

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. Nudity not required.

Naked Parenting describes my parenting principles and philosophies and allows readers to apply these ideas to their own style of parenting using their own household rules and values. I share specific tips, examples and suggestions that families can begin using right away.

It’s a quick read that will leave you ready to try new techniques in your family. One early reader was heading on vacation after finishing Naked Parenting and told me she was going start the next day by focusing on one aspect she’d learned in the book that really resonated with her. Another early reader felt like she was sitting talking with me over a cup of tea as she read it – what a compliment – and I hope you feel that way, too. Pour yourself some iced tea and join me!

I’d love to hear how Naked Parenting impacts your family – use the contact form or share your thoughts in the comments below. As a Mother’s Circle reader, you already know a lot about my writing style and parenting ideologies, and I hope you will enjoy Naked Parenting. Click here to see Naked Parenting on Amazon.

Thank you for your readership and your support!

I’m grateful for the advance praise for Naked Parenting

Song Lyrics for the 4th of July

July 4, 2014

4th of July songs, country song lyrics about America, American songs, Independence Day songs, Happy Independence Day!

Last year I posted the meaning of Independence Day including the entirety of the Declaration of Independence. This year, I’m celebrating this great day with song lyrics for the 4th of July.

After years of resisting, and fighting my dear friend, Dana’s, attempts to make me listen, in the last eight years, I have become a country music fan. I get teary-eyed listening to the stories or laugh along with the songs with a sense of humor.

I love Zac Brown Band (I took my daughter for a one-on-one mother daughter weekend to see them perform and have written about his Camp Southern Ground) and get a little choked up still at the patriotic part in Chicken Fried. At our local elementary school, the kids sing Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American and I swear I cannot keep it together hearing those sweet little voices sing those incredible lyrics.

8 Parenting Lessons from Frozen

June 17, 2014

parenting tips, parenting lessons from Frozen, lessons from the movie Frozen, kids watching Frozen, drawing of Olaf, Olaf the snowmanI know, I know, we’re all “Frozened-Out,” but I had to finally share the parenting lessons from Frozen that I’ve been thinking about. I’m a little delayed in putting these Frozen thoughts to paper – um, to blog post – since I’ve been busy writing a parenting book, Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Your Kids With Confidence. Details coming soon!

So back to the parenting lessons from Frozen …

How many times have you seen Frozen in your family? Three? Five? Eight? Have you hit a dozen times? How many times have you sung/heard/hummed “Let it Go”? That’s got to be nearing the hundred mark at least! Hasn’t “Let it go” become the new theme song and theme phrase for everything? Don’t stress – let it go – then your head goes right into the lyrics.

Frozen is one of my favorite movies, not just my favorite Disney movie, but I think I have to add it to my list of all favorite movies. And, having seen it more times than I’d like to admit, I can’t help but see some great parenting lessons from Frozen.

1. Accept your children for who they are – and nurture it.

This one hits you right in the face at the start of Frozen. Poor Elsa wasn’t accepted unconditionally, sure, her parents, the rulers of Arendelle, thought they were doing the right thing, but they squelched her essence, even made her ashamed and embarrassed by who she was. Her parents didn’t let her be herself, instead she had to hide her true self.

I cringe to admit it, but there are times we do this as parents, sometimes in small ways that are almost hidden. The key is to recognize it and take a different action course. Do you want your book bug to be more athletic? Do you want your daughter to play field hockey like you did? Do you encourage your art-loving son to join the soccer team? Do you expect A’s from your B student?

Encouraging them to fulfill their potential and offering opportunities for diverse experiences are wonderful but there can be a fine line, can’t there?

In Naked Parenting, Naked Love is the first key – 100% full, generous, crazy-love for our kids and making sure they know it to their core, without a question. Wholly accepting them for who they are, helping them shine in their strengths and learn from and grow from their weaknesses, that’s our job as parents. I think the Frozen trolls are a wonderful example of unconditional love and acceptance.

2. Family first and love conquers all.

Tagging onto the first lesson, sisterly love and bonds are a main Frozen theme. Didn’t you think for awhile that the “only an act of true love can save her” was a kiss from Kristoff? I let the screenwriters take me right along that thinking for most of the film – but then the ultimate lesson was that it was a sister’s love that saved her, not a romantic love.

Building The Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness

April 8, 2014

The Hope Center, Kampala Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, Uganda healthcare, building medical center in Africa, Destiny Africa choir, Kampala Children's CentreI want to share something with you that is very dear to our hearts. This fall, our whole family fell in love.

It was late on a Sunday night this past October when the van pulled into our driveway. We greeted three tired girls and their chaperone who would be our house guests for a week. They are part of a choir called Destiny Africa and were orphans, taken in by the Kampala Children’s Centre in Uganda.

Arms squeezed us in hugs in the dark before we even lifted a bag to help them inside. Within moments, Claire, Shivan and Mary Phiona were laughing and playing a game with Ali, Michael and Anna, while Dorothy settled into her room. In those very first hours before climbing into bed, we already knew that we would be forever touched by these children.

They moved into our home for a week and into our hearts for a lifetime.

[caption id="attachment_3617" align="alignright" width="300"]Destiny Africa choir, Kampala Uganda, Wasiko, Mary Phiona, Dorothy, me and Claire[/caption]

While the girls lived with us, we learned about their home at the Kampala Children’s Centre and the love, education and family it has given them in fulfilling the Centre’s mission of giving the best to the least. They cooked for us, taught us some Lugandan words and traditions and I loved that they called me “Auntie.” I kissed them good-bye each morning and we welcomed them home each night, even when they returned after midnight, just as we would for our own children. We laughed and ate together, joked and prayed together.

As we ate breakfast just the two of us one morning, Dorothy, the first house mother at KCC, shared her story with me and a glimpse into the horrors of the war, poverty and HIV issues that have terrorized Uganda. It is unimaginable to our developed-nation-minds. Only a couple of years younger than me (more years younger than Nick), it was a startling to contrast our lives.

Child Development Birth to Age 5

March 26, 2014

Developmental Milestones
Source: Early-Childhood-Education-Degrees.com

Motherhood: Juggling Eggs

March 17, 2014

motherhood tips, juggling eggs, long to do lists, mothers job list, gratitude for moms, managing lots of tasks, mom managersIt’s not just that I have too many balls in the air, it’s that it feels more like I’m juggling eggs. Juggling eggs that at any point I may miss catching.

One, or two or three, could fall from the air at any moment and leave me with another mess to deal with on top of the piles of laundry, the never-ending dishes, crumbs and dust, and the towers of papers on any given day.

The eggs are all labeled, there must be at least a dozen up there: carpool, doctors appointments, manage a fundraiser, check homework, write a book, supervise play rehearsal, doula work, grocery shop, teach childbirth classes, read for book clubs, read for work, read for pleasure, read emails, endless emails, more emails, sort mail, sort school papers, sort junk papers, donate clothes the kids have outgrown, purge the kids’ toys, paint the chips in the trim, buy birthday gift, go to the gym (how long has it been?), make eye doctor appointment, and the to-do eggs go on and on and on …

Yet, even when I’m feeling rushed and busy, even overwhelmed and invisible at times, I’m grateful for the things my eggs don’t say. I’m not juggling eggs that say sick child, ill parent, unemployment, bad marriage, poor health or any number of other things people all around are managing right along with their dirty clothes and dirty dishes.

The Science of Raising Happy Kids – by Happify

March 12, 2014

parenting infographic, happify, introducing happify, what is happify?, parenting basics, raising happy kids, the science of raising happy kids, happy kids, happy parenting,

7 Ways to Make your Own Luck

March 11, 2014

4 leaf clover, make luck, lucky 7, lucky clover, I'm unlucky, happy st. paddy's day, st. patty's day luck, be generous, attitude, what's luck got to do with it, law of attractionI wish people, “Good Luck!” as a vote of confidence, a hope for success, but I only have a limited belief in luck. Instead, I believe we make our own luck.

Two people could be handed the same situation, the same resources (or lack thereof) and can create completely different outcomes. Some might dismiss it as “lucky” or use it as and excuse, “I’m just unlucky,” or “She’s luckier than me.” I don’t believe that’s luck, it’s attitude, how you choose to look at the world and interact within it.

These are lessons Nick and I work to instill in our kids at every opportunity. We believe in these principles in our own lives, as parents and contributors to society. Let’s call it “The Luck O’ the Italians,” since we don’t have a lick of Irish between us! It’s a recipe to make your own luck!

Here are LUCKY NUMBER 7 Ways to Make your Own Luck!

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

1. It all begins with attitude.

Attitude is everything in life. How you view the world and your corner of it, is up to you. No one says it better than Charles Swindoll in his Attitude poem. Every moment of every day provides you with a choice. How will you approach it? Will you embrace it, run from it, complain about it, greet it with joy? You can bemoan your lot in life or you can do something about it. That takes me to tip number 2.

2. Do the work.

Even when it seems like things come easy to some people, they’re working for it. Sure we all have our talents and skills that make certain things more pleasurable or easier for us. Even when using our gifts and strengths, making our own luck takes forethought, planning, effort, and a go-for-it spirit. Dreaming alone doesn’t do it, it’s the action that gets you to your goal.

It takes work – hard work – to be the parent we want to be. Thinking about it, reading about it, hoping for it won’t do it – they’re tools and can help – but we need the action. It can take a lot of work to reevaluate what we’re doing that’s not working or to reflect on why we keep getting the same unwanted behaviors from our kids.

Floating Wishes – Fun Activity for Kids and Adults

February 20, 2014

floating wishes, flying dreams, fun family activities, fun youth group activities, activity for churches, sunday school activities, blessingways, activities for families, family rituals, traditionsFloating wishes has become a tradition for Valentine’s Day in our family but could be used for birthdays, New Year’s goals, Blessingways, or to mark any special celebration or ordinary day.

How to Make Floating Wishes:

1. Cut squares out of any color tissue paper you like.

Match the color to the theme of your event or celebration. Cut the squares about 3″ x 3″ with very even edges to help them stand up later.

2. Pass out the tissue paper squares and pencils and write on the squares.

Distribute the papers to your guests or family and ask them to write their wish, dream, prayer, gently with the pencil on the tissue paper.

You may provide different directions to your participants depending on the occasion. For example, this Valentine’s Day, Anna handed out three pieces of hot pink tissue paper to each family member and told us that one was for a wish, one was for a dream and one was a thought for the world.

If you used this for a church retreat or youth activity, perhaps you’d have everyone write a prayer in general or for a specific person or cause. As a part of a Blessingway for moms-to-be, you might have everyone write a special thought for the new mother, the new baby and her family.

http://youtu.be/bkZUEIkosNI

3. Roll the paper up around a pencil.

Use the pencil and roll the tissue paper into a tight tube around the pencil. When you take it off it will loosen, that’s okay, but you want it to be able to stand up on one side like a toilet paper tube.

What’s in Your Happiness Toolbox?

February 5, 2014

happify, vintage buttons, buttons in spiral, happiness toolbox, how to get happy, ways to be happier, science of happinessI’ve been honored to be one of the first Happify Pioneers and recently wrote a guest post for the Happify blog: What’s in Your Happiness Toolbox?. (If you’re wondering: What is Happify? Click here to learn more.)

In birth, parenting and in happiness, it turns out, I like the idea of having options, a variety of tools and ways to handle a situation, confront a setback or solve a problem. Visually, I picture a toolbox of choices.

In teaching childbirth education classes, I expose families to a wide range of options for their birth experience including choices for relaxation, movement, labor and birth positions and the very first decisions as parents.

I love the quote by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer, authors of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, who said: “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.” As in birth, so it is in life. You have lot’s of options to increase your contentment and happiness –

Goal Setting for Kids

January 9, 2014

goal setting for kids, setting goals, new years goals, notebook paper on bulletin board, how to have kids set goalsGoal setting: it’s way better than “making resolutions!” Goal setting is a life skill and a gift to teach our kids young.

I love the Napoleon Hill quote, “A goal is a dream with a deadline,” we can dream, but we need to quantify it to help us achieve it.

Teaching and modeling goal setting to kids is setting them up to strive in life, it’s putting action behind the words: “You can do anything you set your mind to” or “you can be anything you want to be.” Teaching kids how to set goals and map out mini-goals along the path is giving them the tools to really be anything they want to be.

Effective goal setting includes writing it down. Good, old-fashioned pen and paper! You can have your kids illustrate the goal or cut out magazine pictures and make a collage around their written goal. Hang itset goals, alphabet blocks, goal setting tips, activities for goal setting, I want to be a better reader, get straight A's, mini-goals, quotes on goals somewhere prominent, above their bed, beside the bathroom mirror, somewhere they can see it during daily tasks (like teeth brushing, hopefully!)

2014 Reasons to be Grateful

January 1, 2014

2014, 2014 reasons to be grateful, list of blessings, get happy, feel grateful, thankfulness list,One thing I know for sure is that GRATITUDE is the key to happiness. Being able to see the good around us, taking note of the blessings in our lives, even when things are in chaos, is not always easy, but within it lies happiness and contentment.

I had the idea to list 2014 reasons to be grateful, so here goes, I’m challenging myself to find that many.

1 Amazing husband
3 Incredible children
2 Supportive parents
2 Caring in-laws
2 Kind-hearted sisters
1 Fun brother
3 Precious nephews
10 Fingers to work, type, touch, cook, live, DO
1 Healthy heart
1 Mouth for kissing, smiling and talking
2 Arms to hug my family, to play tennis, do yoga, and do a million other things
7500 Body Parts: Okay, so before I list every body part, the American Association of Anatomists has 7,500 listed parts and that’s 7500 reasons to be grateful – even if I can’t pronounce them all. But let’s keep going, I allow for 25 parts that I can easily be thankful for: my eyes, arms, hands, lungs, ears, legs, heart, mouth, fingers, and brain.
100 = 25 Healthy body parts on my three kids and husband
250 = 25 Healthy body parts on my parents, in-laws, sister, brother and nephews

So we are up to 378 reasons to be grateful – let’s keep going! This will be harder than I thought but it’s making me happy just counting my blessings.

I’m thankful for:
Friends
The 500 kids of the Destiny Africa Choir and at the Kampala Children’s Centre
Our church and the people thereDestiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in uganda
Newtown, my hometown
Books – I’m sure I have over 2014 books to be thankful for!

My Christmas Binder

December 20, 2013

Thank you to my friend, Danielle, an inspiring Mom and a believer in the importance of family traditions and rituals. I aspire to be as organized as she is, read here about her brilliant Christmas binder idea.
Danielle is the voice behind Festival Fete’s blog, Festival Fete and her own blog, Rock-Paper-Snips.

Guest Post by Danielle Salisbury, Find Danielle on Facebook

christmas crafts, Christmas baking ideas, Christmas activities for kids, organizing for Christmas, Christmas organization,  Christmas traditionsI admit it. I am one of those super-organized people who I think drive other people crazy. When confronted with a mess, after the initial rush of panic, I actually get joy from creating order out of chaos. I also love a celebration, and with the holidays, I tend to go a little over board and end up feeling overwhelmed. So, finally a few years ago I discovered my own little holiday tradition that keeps me in check (so I don’t go too overboard) and helps me keep a bit of order in the chaos of holiday planning. It’s my Christmas Binder.

In the binder, I have photos, recipes, menus, Christmas “To Do” list, Christmas card list, gift ideas, crafts, table settings, decorating ideas and a gift and tip list. I love being able to reference back to see what we gave the babysitter last year and how much we gave in tips!

organized Christmas, red binder, Martha Stewart Christmas, going overboard for Christmas, limoncello, homemade Christmas gifts, cooking for Christmas, menus for holiday dinner, Probably the the most useful part of the book is my personal notes on menus and what we cooked. For example, the year that I made seafood risotto on Christmas Eve (thinking I would satisfy the Italian tradition of seven fishes in one big dish) we didn’t sit down to eat until 10:00 pm and unfortunately we hardly remember the dish because of all the wine that we were sharing with the risotto during the three hours of cooking! Now I can refer to my notes to see that I shouldn’t start shucking lobster and shellfish an hour before you expect to eat it.

One of my favorite things about this binder is that it is a place where I can put a great idea and say to myself, “someday…I WILL do/make/cook that.” And eventually, some of those inspirations become a reality.

I usually try to come up with one handmade gift item each year, (usually something for eating or drinking) such as a jam, Limoncello liquor, truffles, etc. This year, paging through my binder I found a recipe for cranberry vinegar and decided that would be my foodie gift. The recipe was from Coastal Living Magazine in 2000. So even though it took me 12 years to finally make this – it did happen eventually!

Ten Warning Signs of Teen Marijuana Addiction: What Parents Need to Know

December 19, 2013

signs of teen pot use, signs of marijuana addiction, marijuana addiction, signs of weed use, teen grass use, teen weed useMy thanks to Scott Brand for this guest post on recognizing teen marijuana addiction. Taken one by one, some of these signs may appear to be typical teenage behaviors, but use these signs with an open mind and to be aware of patterns.

For a lot of these signs, the key can be if you’ve noticed a CHANGE in these behaviors. It can be hard for parents to face and accept tough issues in our kids but they need us to advocate for them if they get on a troubled path.

Guest Post by Scott Brand

Do you know the signs of teen marijuana addiction? Do you know what to do if you suspect your teen is addicted?

Marijuana is also referred to as cannabis, or weed, grass, pot, dope, ganja, Mary Jane and countless other slang terms. Whatever the term, marijuana has been hypothesized by some researchers to be a gateway drug that leads to more serious teen drug abuse. Marijuana is the most often used illegal drug in the United States.

Ten Early Warning Signs of Teen Marijuana Addiction

Christmas Elves

December 9, 2013

tips tricks ideas for elves, Christmas elf ideas, elf on shelf ideas, ideas for Elf on Shelf, naughty elves, Santa's elves, Elf Magic, Crispin, Jilly and Zibby are our own personal Christmas elves. These mischievous Santa’s helpers are called from the North Pole with crackers (to remind them of the crunching snow) and water (melted snow); they visit for the weeks before Christmas, hiding, making messes and bringing joy until they return to Santa’s village on Christmas Eve with Santa.

I’ve always loved everything about Christmas and I am still overcome with the love, generosity and magic of the season. I see the deeper meaning of Christmas even within seemingly commercial, non-spiritual activities. I love the sheer excitement and amazement in my children’s eyes elves in popcorn, elves making a mess, hiding elves, Christmas elf tradition, ideas for elves, Jilly, Zibby, Crispin, elfmagic.com, when the elves are discovered in the morning in a pile of homemade snowflakes and all the scraps that go with it or creating music at the piano among music strewn about.

When we moved to Rhode Island nearly eight years ago, some friends introduced me to elf-magic.com, instead of getting an elf per child as some families did, I chose to introduce just one elf. Crispin was our first little boy elf. Over the years the kids attributed magic to the elf beyond the intention.

elf ideas, visiting elves, how to do elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf, ideas for Christmas elves, traditions for Christmas, girl in Indian hat, One morning, they could not find Crispin anywhere, it was hilarious to me because they passed by him over and over. He was in the downstairs bathroom where the silly elf had unrolled several rolls of toilet paper and hidden in the tube of one in the middle of the huge mess of paper. The kids walked back and forth searching and never saw the paper. Finally, my son said, “Wait, maybe we need to get ready for school and do what we’re supposed to do first, then we’ll be able to find him!” So they scurried off to get dressed. Right after that, they somehow did see the toilet paper explosion, with faces filled with wonder, and as a bonus, it reinforced doing the right thing!

Chanukah, However You Spell It

November 26, 2013

Hanukkah (that’s my preferred spelling!) starts at sundown this Thursday. My thanks to Melissa for writing about The Festival of Lights and her family traditions.

Guest Post by Melissa Chernick

chanukah traditions, how do you spell hanukah, spelling hanukah, latkes, Allie's donuts RI, festival of lights traditions, family holiday traditionsChanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukah, Hannukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Cahnukka, Hanukka, Hannuka, Hannukkah, Channuka, Xanuka, Hannukka, Channukkah, Chanuqa. One holiday with 18 ways to spell it! Which ever way you choose it has the same meaning and significance. It is a celebration of the victory of the Jews and the miracle that occurred when the menorah was lit with enough oil to last only 1 day but it lasted eight!

Growing up in New York I was exposed to all races and religions. In my experience, every family went to church or temple, had their own holiday traditions and all the kids met up and played in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood was a mix of Italians, Irish Catholics and Jews. It was always fun to compare Christmas/Chanukah presents with the neighborhood kids.family in window, grandparents celebrate hanukkah, celebrating Hanukkah, festival of lights, kids in blue window, blue window panes,

In our house, Chanukah was a fun holiday typically celebrated with just my immediate family. We had so much family nearby who we saw on a regular basis that this little holiday was our own! My brothers and I anxiously awaited our father’s return home from work each night, lit the candles and ripped open presents, hoping for something special. To me, Chanukah means spending time with family, lighting candles and reflecting about what it means to be Jewish. It’s our time to be together, just enjoy ourselves and create memories.

Great Books For Kids

November 20, 2013

great books for kids, dual language books, plays for kids, teaching kindness to kids, golden rule for kids, christmas gift books for kids, kids books, new kids books, new childrens booksAs a blogger, I’m often asked to review products, websites, articles and books. I am particular about what I say yes to and only post things I can honestly recommend.

Here are some great books for kids that I want to share with you just in time for holiday giving. Full disclosure: I received complimentary review copies of these books.

 

Fife’s Lessons: The Tao of Cool

By Rob DegnanIllustrated by Jason Robert LeClair
FifesLessons.com

tao of cool, rob degnan, fife, book about kindness, book about acceptance, third grader book, teaching kids kindness, lessons for kidsThird grader, Fife is cool, her parents are cool, but what happens when a new kid moves to town and is left out and made to feel, well, uncool.

Fife struggles with issues of fitting in, acceptance and ultimately learns the greatest lesson in kindness. The story guides readers to learn these lessons along with Fife, and some unspoken ones, too. More subtle lessons presented are how we never know what’s really going on in another person’s heart and head and how we all have strengths and weaknesses.

Fife learns that working together with someone who excels in different ways than she does can bring success and that a friendship can grow when one opens their mind and heart to another person. Fife’s Lessons are just as important for adults as they are for kiddos! Welcome Fife and her friends into your home.

The Grace Box

November 13, 2013

saying grace, teaching kids to pray, faith and family, faith and kids, prayers, dinnertime prayers, ideas for grace, box of prayersThe Grace Box sits on our kitchen table and represents more than the slips of paper it holds. I believe that the key to happiness in life is gratitude and daily grace before meals builds in both being thankful and teaching thankfulness to our kids.

The Grace Box used to be a small envelope that Ali decorated in Sunday school, over the years, we’ve collected short prayers and dinnertime graces and upgraded to a larger container. The prayers came from Sunday school classes, magazine clippings and the weekly prayers our old church in New Jersey used to distribute in the Sunday bulletin. We have a small children’s book of prayers that fits in neatly and an embroidered prayer on the wall that Anna favors reading when we sit at the table that’s closest to the framed words.

Should You Let Your Kids Watch Scary Movies?

October 30, 2013

Many thanks to Kate Oliver of www.help4yourfamily.com for this guest post on scary movies and gauging your child’s developmental readiness for viewing them.

By Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

scary tv shows, kids and scary movies, kid with bowl of popcorn, what age is it ok for kids to watch scary movies, when can kids see scary moviesIn my house, Halloween is second only to Christmas. My children are still at an age where they want to dress up and trick or treat. They are eight and ten and they love to get a little bit scared sometimes as well. It is all part of the Halloween fun. Many holidays have special movies attached to them as well. Unlike Christmas, with, tales of Santa Claus and reindeer, and Easter, where we learn about a sweet bunny that brings treats, Halloween has movies of a different sort.

Sure there is Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, but then there are the other movies…the scary movies.
In my work as a child therapist one issue I help kids overcome is sleep problems including nightmares. It is interesting to me that many times when children have nightmares, they are linked to watching scary movies, or even just the news. During this season of scary movies, let’s be especially mindful of the impact of what we decide to let our children watch.

teens and movies, teen nightmares, TV and teens, teens eating popcorn, boy in striped shirtI am certain my husband and I are not the only ones who have thought back to a movie we watched as kids, looked it up on Netflix and excitedly introduced it to our children only to be surprised at just how many four letter words were in say, ET and The Karate Kid. I certainly do not remember, as a kid, taking note of the language that was flying through those movies. I think many times when parents watch a scary movie with their children; they do so because they remember that excited and scared feeling they had watching the same movie.

5 Ways to Enjoy Parenting More

October 25, 2013

Are you enjoying parenting? Or are you just plodding through the days, bogged down in the tedium of caring for and redirecting little ones (or bigger ones) day in and day out?

5 Ways to Enjoy Parenting More

enjoy parenting more, are you enjoying parenting, sunflower parenting, how to be a better parent, love parenting, how to enjoy being a mom, 1. Slow Down

Yeah, I know, SO much easier said than done! I too often feel like we’re always in a hurry, rushing to pick one kid up only to race to the other side of town to get another kid to a doctor or activity. With three kids all wanting to participate in sports, music, robotics and other enrichment activities, even the best laid schedules end up with some overlap. As parents, we want to provide these opportunities to our kids and allow them to explore something they’re interested in, but it’s worthwhile to strive for balance.

On the days that we have less going on, or a rainy day that cancels a sports practice (thankfully!), I savor the calm pace, the chance to leisurely cut vegetables for dinner, to chat with a child over a cup of afternoon tea. I build in at least one week day in which we have no after school activities and no set place to be. The kids can run around and play with the neighbors after their homework is done and can take a long, prune-making bath instead of a speedy shower.

I find I enjoy parenting more when we slow down. Our weekends, since no one plays soccer, are usually an oasis of slow motion, extended time in PJs, big breakfasts together and working together in the yard. We value the time to play a family game, watch a family movie or do a project together.

2. Focused Time

Every day, I check in, touch base and give focused attention to each child. Even taking a 15 minute chunk to hear about their day, to ask about friends, to ask their opinion on something, makes a big difference in connecting to your child. Connecting, in turn, helps us to enjoy parenting more. Isn’t that the whole reason we had kids in the first place – for the prospect of a special relationship.

Mammograms and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 14, 2013

This post was originally published May 31, 2012, I am reposting it in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take care of yourself!

mammograms, spot mammograms, breast cancer awareness month stories, my mammogram story, story of mammograms, story of mammogram call backThere was a message left at 1:27 pm yesterday, the day after my mammogram, “Please call us back.” Call them back? What about just waiting for that nice letter that arrives next week to tell me everything is okay?

Hours had passed and kids swarmed the kitchen as I listened to the message. I waited until I dropped them off at afternoon activities, I was alone in the parking lot and I clutched the note paper with the number of the Anne Pappas Center scribbled on it. The woman who answers is so busy she needs to call me back. “Breathe,” I tell myself and I wait. At 4:55 pm, I worried that I hadn’t heard and that they’d close for the night, I couldn’t wonder overnight, so I called back apologizing for my repeat call. She was very sweet, just very busy and promised to call me before she left.

True to her word, she called me reporting that they want to do an ultrasound, we were able to schedule it for the next day, today, two days after my original mammogram.

I have had mammograms for several years now starting with a diagnostic check of a lump in my right breast, everything has been fine with that year after year. I wondered if something had changed. I prayed. I thought of my friends who had fought and are fighting breast cancer at a young age, at my age. I thought about how the kids have giggled at me crying to the Martina McBride song, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.”

I’m not in a high risk category; I have no family history, I had my first full term pregnancy and birth before age pink ribbon tree, pink ribbons, breast cancer awareness ribbons, tree of pink ribbons, 30, I breastfed three kids. Breastfeeding has a cumulative protective factor and I’d nursed two babies for over a year each and my third for two years (a long time from our culture’s viewpoint, but in my doula-ing-breastfeeding-birthie world, not long enough. I digress). I’m not high risk, but, really, I know that doesn’t mean I’m not AT risk as a woman with boobs.

Nervous all morning, I distracted myself by watering my vegetable garden, vacuuming, organizing my desk and making hard boiled eggs. My calendar alert nudged me to my car, I was suddenly very jittery and the drive to Providence seemed longer than normal.

In the waiting room, I overheard a very young woman checking in and she mentioned that last year she had to come back in for an ultrasound, when her body moved slightly toward me, I croaked out, “That’s why I’m here.” I don’t know why I told her or what made be blurt it out to a stranger.

Trading in the Mini-Van

October 9, 2013

trading in the mini van, not wanting mini van, why get a mini van, upgrading from mini van, good bye to mini van, gold mini van, tire treads, I swore I’d never drive a mini-van.

Then, almost thirteen years ago, with a growing family, we shopped around and, without wanting to, I loved the Honda Odyssey. It was the first mini-van to have the third seat that folded INTO the car so it laid flat. We’ve used that feature for furniture, bulky shrubs and lugging stuff from Home Depot more times that we can count. The entire contents of my trunk have spewed all over a parking lot on numerous occasions as I reconfigured the car to fit a new patio set or the tag sale treasure I couldn’t pass by!

But now it is time and I’m trading in the mini-van.

Our gold Odyssey has driven us the equivalent of around the world – FOUR TIMES! Yup, 204,089 miles to visit grandparents, take vacations and camping trips, attend far away weddings and to make 1,492,648,112,951 trips to the grocery store. She’s welcomed two babies, endured coffee spills, melted crayons, throw up and seasons upon seasons of winter salts and summer sands. Her cup holders and Michael’s “secret compartment” have collected countless treasures like acorns, seashells, rocks, candy wrappers, food bits, and handfuls of the green Stop & Shop twistie ties.

It’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic as we part ways. I’ve never been much of a car person, sure I like a nice car, but mostly I care if it’s functional and safe and doesn’t cause me problems. But it’s time to let this golden capsule go. She’s car mileage, over 200000 miles on car, odometer reading over 200000, high odometer reading, gold honda odysseyserved us well.

We’ve long ago lost the knob cover for the bass on the radio, I have to fiddle with the temperature knob in just the right way to make the kids get heat or AC in the back, and the thingy on my seat belt that holds up the metal latch is gone. You have no idea how important that silly nodule is until you have to dig between the seat and the door to find the buckle 32 times a day! Yup – I’m trading in the mini-van.

Memories match the marks. There’s the white smudge on the ceiling from the sheet rock when we redid our basement playroom, there’s the stain from my Dad’s spilled coffee mug when we were house hunting in Rhode Island, and there are still a few pine needles from the year we stuck the tree in the car instead of on the roof. There’s the small scratch from Michael’s scooter riding a little too close to the driver’s door, and there’s the gash on the back bumper from that snow-covered, too-low-to-see-in-the-dark rock – oops!

We have a “system” we are used to in this family car. We have the hand sanitizer in a specific pocket that we all can reach, there are hair brushes and pencils, workbooks and song lyric books, How to Learn French read-alongs and enough Lego’s hidden all over to build another car. We know who sits where, even when we fit grandmas and grandpas in with us. Without looking I can reach a napkin, a CD, or toss a kid a snack.

This car has listened to singing, lot’s of singing. From lovely notes and off key sounds, to shout-it-out singing, rock-and-roll singing and singing you may not call singing. (I think we may have the very last car running that still has a cassette player. How will I play those mixed tapes from high schgold honda odyssey, old odyssey, trading in odyssey, good bye to old car, kids saying good bye to car, missing old car, ool now?) This car has heard peals of laughter, endless joking and moments of screaming and ranting. She’s heard soft spoken adult talks, heart-to-heart teen talks, unguarded secrets spilling and endless toddler tales.

4 Habits to Teach Your Children ASAP

October 4, 2013

Guest post by Ken Myers

4 habits to teach your children, what to teach  your kids, teach your kids these habits, When it comes to habits, our little ones learn from our actions as parents. If we want our children to exhibit the mannerisms and attitudes we value, we need to start teaching them early. Children are susceptible to input from a very early age and guiding them is our job to help promote a brighter future.

With all of the habits and manners we wish to teach our little ones, which ones are more important to focus on?

 Here are 4 habits to teach your children starting today.

Autumn Organizing Ideas

September 30, 2013

autumn organizing, autumn organizing tips, ideas for fall cleaning, orange leaves, fall leaves backgroundSpring Cleaning is a time of clearing out and freshening up after winter and Autumn Organizing is a time to declutter and put things in order before snuggling in for winter.

There are so many things to switch over in the fall, summer clothes are exchanged for sweaters and mittens, toys are purged and the entertainment center is rearranged to make room for what Santa brings. I even like to move books down through the kids. Things Ali is too old for move on to Michael and Michael’s shelves are cleared out for Anna. When Anna outgrows books, we safely store the favorites in waterproof bins and others are donated or shared with cousins and younger friends.

This weekend, I tackled our shoe problem, for Autumn Organizing, the flip flops are traded for fuzzy boots. I cannot believe how many pairs of shoes we have for a family of five – and since the start of school, every shoe, sandal and sneaker seemed to be spilling around every entrance. Then, at the first snap of cold, my girls (as girls can do) excitedly pulled out all of their favorite winter boots and added them to the mix. Every shoe bin and basket overflowed, bursting heel to sole.

The Great Shoe Switch-Over Project had to be done! Every kid tried on all of their shoes. Ali’s hand-me-downs got put away for Anna’s petite feet, Anna’s out-growns are in a bag for donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters and anything with rips, holes or excessive wear (i.e. most of Michael’s shoes) got tossed.

How to Support your Child Through Divorce

September 25, 2013

Guest post by Fiona McGlynn

how to support your child through divorce, helping kids through divorce, tips for divorce, divorce books for kidsDivorce can be a very confusing and emotionally fraught time for kids and parents alike. Based on my experience as an adult child of divorce, here are 5 ways to support your child through divorce.

Confident Parenting

September 16, 2013

confident parenting, 4 seasons, discipline techniques for kids, reward systems for kids, learning to parent, how to parent, parenting tips, help for parents, learning to parentThere are times we parents find ourselves rattled, off our game or plain old stumped, but it’s at those times, we need to seek resources and find our mojo to return to confident parenting. Parenthood begins in pregnancy and evolves as our kids grow.

The main goal in parenting boils down to raising future adults with solid character (however each family defines that). We are raising children with the hope of them becoming happy, resilient, confident, healthy grown-ups ready to face the world.

We find our parenting style in many ways, through trial and error, doing and learning, reading books, websites, blogs, expert opinions, observing other parents, reflecting on how our parents did the job. In the end, even with support of family, friends, teachers and community members, the job is ours and we need to trust ourselves. Trust that we know our children best, trust our ability and trust ourselves to seek out help when we need it.

Parenting is a learned behavior – you can improve, you can develop skills and you can grow and change.

Confident parenting encourages us to both examine ourselves and our habits, and to reject advise we don’t agree with, even if it’s from an “expert” or printed in a book. It’s okay to get comfortable trying stuff out, I loveblowing bubbles, child blowing bubbles, games to play with toddlers, crafts for toddlers, pudgy toddler hand, the idea of building up a parenting “tool bag” with tools gleaned from different sources. Tools can be stories to illustrate an idea, motivational tools, demonstration of a skill, reward charts, discipline techniques, family rituals, morning or bedtime systems, distraction tricks, setting clear limits … anything we use in teaching and guiding our children.

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