Blog Archives

5 Tips for Hiking With Kids

October 2, 2015

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

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!

Is Your Child Safe From These 3 Dangers?

April 13, 2015

Keep your child safe from these 3 dangers | MothersCircle.netI am not an alarmist, or a worrier, or overprotective, but I’m aware. I feel like being aware of dangers can help us take precautions and be mindful as we parent.

Being conscious of these three dangers can help us keep our children, and other children, safe. The stories of those effected by these dangers make me so sad for the families who have suffered losses.

Even when my kids were little, I tried to give them space to learn and test their limits at different ages of development, but it’s always important to be smart and alert to possible dangers. Being mindful without being petrified is a healthy approach. (Here are three playground rules for parents that delve into this idea.)

I’m linking to the stories shared by parents who have experienced these dangers and who want to spread the word to help other families avoid their pain.

7 Fun Yogurt Ideas for Kids

March 20, 2015

Fun Yogurt Ideas for Kids | MothersCircle.netI’m not a nutritionist, I’m a mom who has always had an interest in reading and learning about nutrition. I feel good about providing my kids with an example of healthy eating, moderation, balance, and variety as I help guide them to make their own healthful choices about what they put into their bodies. Here are some creative yogurt ideas beyond smoothies and breakfast as a great way to start in offering kids healthy options.

*I received no compensation of any kind for this post.

The Health Benefits of Yogurt

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says that yogurt is an ideal first food for toddlers and is a great source of protein and calcium.
  • Yogurt contains live and active cultures which are beneficial bacterias for a healthy digestive tract and immune system. My GI doctor said that we should be having these kinds of probiotics in our diets daily.
  • Greek yogurt is high in protein and calcium keeping kids, and you, satisfied longer while also contributing to bone health.
  • Like other dairy foods, yogurt is a good source of not only calcium, but B-2, B-12, potassium, and magnesium.
  • In our family, we are partial to Chobani’s products. They contain 25% less sugar than competitors and more protein per serving – there is no high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring, modified cornstarch, or preservatives and I love that Chobani donates 10% of their profits to charity. Click here to read about Chobani’s beliefs.
  • Click here for more health benefits of yogurt on WebMD.

7 Fun Yogurt Ideas for Kids and Families

1. Yogurt Pops

Freeze your kids’ favorite yogurt flavors mixed with a little bit of unsweetened fruit juice in ice cube trays and put Popsicle sticks in each cube. Allow to freeze, pop them out and into a plastic freezer bag or container. They’re the perfect summer treat or great for a teething child. It’s a dessert or snack you can feel happy about giving them!

2. Healthy Party Fun – Yogurt Bar

50 Things No One Ever Told You About Babies

February 17, 2015

50 Things No One Ever Told You About Babies | MothersCircle.netWhen you’re a new parent, there are plenty of things you can’t prepare for and may not expect. You’ll hear stories from friends, parents, in-laws, it’s hard to sort out what you should believe, what advice you should follow and even with all of those tales and tips, there will still be things no one ever told you about babies.

I’ve surveyed past doula clients and other new moms and tapped into my experience with families adding a new baby to the family to bring you this list of 50 things no one ever told you about babies in five areas of postpartum adjustment.

Feeding Your Preemie in the NICU

January 19, 2015

Feeding your preemie in the NICU | MothersCircle.netThank you to Prolacta for this guest post on feeding your preemie in the NICU. It’s stressful, emotional, and challenging to have a baby who’s born early, and as parents, you want to learn about and do what’s best for feeding your preemie. Here is some science behind NICU infant nutrition.

In honor of the nearly 500,000 babies born prematurely each year (according to the Centers for Disease Control, that’s 1 in every 8 infants born in the United States), we’re sharing good news about the latest in medical advancements that are helping more preemies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) survive and thrive.

Critically ill, premature infants have special dietary needs requiring higher levels of fat, protein and calories than full-term babies need. Mounting scientific research supports the use of an exclusive human milk diet for preemies and this has led to a rise in use among NICUs across the country. Based on this research, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a recommendation that all preterm infants receive breast milk, be it a mother’s own or donor milk.1

While feeding preterm infants a diet of 100% breast milk may seem like an obvious solution to those who breastfeed, the reality is that for generations, preemies in NICUs were fed cow-milk-based formula. Even if a mother’s own breast milk was available, it was typically “fortified” (to add extra nutrients) with a fortifier containing cow-milk protein.

Pain to Power Online Childbirth Program

January 7, 2015

pain to power, online childbirth, debra pascali bonaro | MothersCircle.netI’m excited to introduce and support Pain to Power online childbirth program created by birth-powerhouse, Debra Pascali-Bonaro. Debra is a long time friend, mentor, and colleague, we worked together to revise and update Nurturing Beginnings, and I’m happy to share her latest project with you.

Debra is the Founder & President of Orgasmic Birth and creator of Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret Documentary that explores the intimate nature of birth. She’s been a birth worker for over 30 years, helping new families all over the world unlock pleasure in birth and life.

Debra has trained thousands of doulas and birth professionals around the world in the practices of gentle birth support. And now, she’s bringing all of this knowledge to you through her latest creation.

Pain to Power, a 9-week online childbirth experience.Pain to Power with Debra Pascali Bonaro |

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle

November 26, 2014

How to Live in the Gratitude Circle | 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.

Why the Coexist Bumper Stickers Bug Me

October 21, 2014

Click here to read my latest post on Huffington Post, Healthy Living.

coexist bumper sticker, expecting more than to coexist, loving our neighbors, red car with coexist bumper sticker, coexist foundation, @coexistcampaign

You know the “Coexist” bumper sticker? It bugs me. I think it’s simply setting the bar way too low.

We already live together with people of all different backgrounds, philosophies, theologies, colors of skin, shouldn’t we want more than to simply be able to be in the same space together? In teaching our children about life, the tippy top lesson is really all about LOVE. Love yourself, love your neighbors.

Manners, household chores, siblings, homework, athletics, kindness in the lunchroom or boardroom, driving, waiting in lines, everything in life boils down to love. Simply love. Coexisting isn’t loving, it’s eeking by. It’s occupying space side by side.

To be clear, I have nothing against the Coexist Foundation or their mission and work. There are so many organizations of good in this world, the generosity is breathtaking, I simply argue with the word “coexist” as being weak and diluted.

Words like tolerance come to mind when I see the coexist symbols. Does anyone want to be just tolerated? No. People want to be embraced, cared for, loved. We can do that through words, actions, service, beliefs, gestures, donations, smiles, letters, and more whether across the street or across the globe.

I see it as an issue of open hearts and open minds, welcoming and accepting and cherishing each individual. We’re not going to bond, hit it off, or even like everyone we meet but I live my life and teach our kids to live with kindness, to act with love and respect toward everyone they meet. And everyone they don’t meet. Listen actively to another person’s point of view, experiences, and opinions. Disagree, sure, but do it with respect and compassion.

There is an absolute need to be culturally open and inquisitive. That’s one of the million reasons I love to travel, I get a glimpse into different histories, different ways of life, different values. It intrigues me, empowers me, and makes me more curious and more understanding. We grow when we can stretch beyond our own ways and ideas.

I feel the same way about someone who comes from my hometown, who lives down the street, who goes to my church, who seems to be similar to me. They’re still different. They have their own histories and life stories, their own experiences and pains, struggles, triumphs. Those stories and points of view are valuable and I love to explore and share in them, too.

We’re all different even if we belong to a group with an identified symbol. Yet, who can be defined just by one affiliation or one belief system? Who fits tidily under one label? We all have more facets than the best cut diamond, there’s no knowing without exploring and looking deeper. You can’t do that by just coexisting.

READ MORE on Huffington Post

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2013

September is Menopause Awareness Month

September 22, 2014

fall leaf, changing leaves, The Change, menopause awareness, perimenopause symptoms, pregnant late in lifeToday is the last day of summer. Perhaps figuratively, too. This week, a piece I wrote appeared on the Huffington Post, 44 and Pregnant?, and it stirred a flurry of comments, emotions, private emails, and lot’s of questions and speculations on my Facebook pages. The punchline, it turns out, is menopause. Fitting that September is Menopause Awareness Month!

So as summer creeps into fall outside, it seems it’s also happening within me. Many women reached out to me saying that they have experienced the same moments of wondering and worrying, dreaming and freaking out, that I talk about in 44 and Pregnant. Did you know that women between 40-44 years old account for the second highest unintended pregnancy rate? It’s shocking to think I’m even in the age category to be talking about the “M” word let alone be experiencing the precursors to “The Change.”

Menopause is medically defined as cessation of menstruation for one full year, but every woman’s different and our bodies may start seeing a range of symptoms in the decade or so leading up to menopause, called perimenopause. The Menopause Awareness Month site says: “There are 34 different symptoms of menopause. Some physical. Some physiological. Some psychological. All frustrating and debilitating.”

On the list of exciting possible symptoms include: mood changes and mood swings (that’s always a joy), joint pains, irregular and erratic periods, insomnia, memory loss, itchy skin, headaches, weight gain, and the ever-so-famous hot flashes …. And have you ever experience night sweats? There’s nothing like waking up slippery and soaking. (If it happened to you after your babies were born, you’ve gotten a peek into the future fun.) Oh, and as an added bonus, with menopause, women’s chances of osteoporosis and heart attack increase.

As a northeasterner my whole life, I’ve always said that I love the four seasons, the changing air, temperatures, colors, and ways of life as the year circles round. So on this, the last day of summer, my optimistic nature also makes me look at perimenopause with a positive lens. What comes next? While the symptoms might be difficult, annoying, and worse, what will life bring as I age? I enjoyed life with three of my four grandparents all of whom lived into their mid-late 90’s. I want to live long and see my grandchildren have children, I want to be a great grandmother, too. I feel so blessed that my own kids knew my grandparents so well.

I watch my mother and women her age, and older, who are so vibrant, active, and who are living life fully and giving much to others and the world around them. The autumn of life brings an easing of the daily tasks that life with children at home and active schedules brings, it affords more leisure, more time to slow down and do things you care about most. That’s a lifestyle I aspire to, and I try to implement those lessons now, instead of waiting for later.

Top Ten Ways to Help a Friend Whose Child is Facing a Medical Crisis

June 23, 2014

helping a friend with sick child, how to help a friend, friend with baby in NICU, what to say to friend with sick baby

Do you know the best ways to help a friend whose child is facing a medical crisis?

My thanks to Kerry Sheeran, Author of The Marathon, a powerful memoir about their daughter’s journey and struggle for life, for this guest post.

It’s not always to know what to do or what to say or how to be genuinely helpful to help a friend whose child is facing a medical crisis, but Kerry’s post guides us through her top ten pieces of advice, from someone who’s been there.




Top Ten Ways to Help a Friend Whose Child is Facing a Medical Crisis

Watching a family member or friend suffer through the illness or hospitalization of their child can leave a person feeling utterly helpless. It can be hard to determine when and how to offer your support. Where is the line between being too pushy and not the least bit supportive? How can you be the person your friend needs during a difficult time in their lives? I have some experience in this department, having been on the receiving end of a tremendous amount of help during the course of five years, eight major surgeries and countless hospitalizations of my six-year-old.

What I learned during those difficult times has served me well when my own friends have found themselves in similar situations, and so I want to share them with Mother’s Circle readers. Without further adieu, I’m pleased to present you with the top ten most important ways to help a friend whose child is facing a medical crisis:


Don’t ask your friend: “How can I help you?” Sounds ridiculous, right? I mean, your heart is in the right place – but you need to use your head on this one. This is your friend, after all. You should be able to anticipate his or her needs to a certain extent. Think about it before you ask, then propose a way you might be able to step in. Is it garbage night? Is one of their other kids on a travel soccer team? Is their business suffering as a result of their absence?

Figure out what might be the most efficient way to lighten their load, and propose it to them in a matter-of-fact way. “I’ll take Danny to and from his soccer game on Sunday, okay?” “Can I make those deposits for you so that payroll stays on track?” “I’d like to take your garbage out and bring your mail in while you’re at the hospital”. “I’d like to clean and disinfect your house so that it’s all ready for Katie when she gets home.”

Your friend will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind your good deed, given the state of mind he or she is probably in. The last thing a parent of a sick child has time to do is brainstorm ways for you to help them. Not to mention, many people have a difficult time asking for help in the first place. So eliminate that part of the equation by tweaking your offer from “What can I do?” to “Here’s what I plan to do – is it okay with you?” Guaranteed they will be eager to accept a well thought out offer to help.


Resist the urge to talk and constantly advise when your friend is unloading to you. Unless they specifically The Marathon, Boston Marathon book, book cover pink sneakers, The Marathon book cover,call seeking advice, be the friend and confidant your were called to be. Processing the magnitude of a child’s poor health is extremely hard for a parent. Talking through it can be helpful in many ways. Sometimes just saying something out loud is a way for a parent to accept a recent diagnosis, a bad turn or an all around crappy day for their child. Listen to your friend when they are sharing their story with you.

Child Development Birth to Age 5

March 26, 2014

Developmental Milestones

Hearts that Help Cambodia

February 11, 2014

hearts that help cambodia, sewn hearts, felt hearts, heart of buttons, angkor hospital, helping kids in Cambodia, southeast asia charity, RI CambodiaTwo years ago, on February 12, 2012, my mom and I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia after just spending over two weeks in Vietnam, so when, this month, I learned about an organization right here in Rhode Island, Hearts that Help, which benefits education and health care agencies in Cambodia, I was eager to learn more.

Founded in 2003, Hearts that Help began when a family in Rhode Island, who had adopted their daughters from Cambodia just before the country closed itself to international adoptions, asked the girls if they had any ideas for helping children and families in their native country. The girls suggested sewing hearts for Valentine’s Day launching Hearts that Help.

Today, the organization hosts, and encourages others to host, sewing events which build community while creating for a cause. The hand-sewn hearts are then sold at local fairs and farmers markets and the donations are given to Angkor Hospital for Children, providing free healthcare to children in Siem Reap and the surrounding area, The Lake Clinic, which delivers medical aid to floating villages in Cambodia, Hearts that Help RI, Hearts that Help logo, red hands, gestures of true love,and The Cambodian Arts & Scholarship Foundation, a leader in educating young girls, the population most at risk for being pulled from school and sold into the horrifically rampant sex industry in Cambodia.

During our tour of Cambodia two years ago, we explored its history from the centuries old temples in Angkor to museum that was a prison under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Our guide, Khet, generously shared his culture and country with us and the fact that 60% of Cambodia’s population is under 16 years old; Pol Pot’s regime killed a quarter of Cambodia’s population. Unfathomable horrors.

cambodia CollageTraveling from Vietnam, which was definitely third world but had an enterprising spirit, Cambodia had an ever greater sense of poverty and underdevelopment. Being there and reading books like First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (one of my recommended great book club books) draws me to Hearts that Help and the desire to help the Cambodian people grow and be able to provide quality medical care and education to their children and families. To learn more, visit Heart that Help.

How Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Pregnancy and Birth

January 21, 2014

penny simkin, phyllis klaus, DONA founders, book by penny simkin, sexual assault survivors, birth and child abuse, pregnancy and child abuse, sexual abuseThe important and powerful work of Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus on how childhood sexual abuse affects pregnancy and childbirth has shined a light on this dark topic. These incredible women (both founders of DONA International) have raised their voices as well as awareness and understanding around this issue.

The book When Survivors Give Birth is directed at survivors, their families, doctors, midwives, nurses, medical staff and other birth professionals like childbirth educators and doulas, to educate on how childhood sexual abuse affects pregnancy and birth.

Survivors can benefit from the information throughout, but particularly with Chapter 9, called “Self-Help Methods to Prevent and Manage Distress During Childbirth.” The chapter opens with this: “Anxiety, fright, panic, uncertainty, helplessness, inability to act, and distrust can catch the survivor unaware and throw her into distress and despair. Other people perceive her reactions as inappropriate and exaggerated. This chapter offers a variety of self-help techniques to recognize and allay these automatic reactions, or to prevent them in the first place.”

Whether or not a mom discloses any prior abuse to providers, doulas, midwives or anyone in her birthing circle, birth professionals must be prepared and sensitive to the challenges survivors face in pregnancy and birth. Click here for a video of Penny talking about When Survivors Give Birth.

Estimates are that between one in four and one in three women have a history of childhood sexual abuse. This number is likely higher as childhood sexual assault is under reported.

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:
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!

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

Tips For Safe Christmas Decorating

December 5, 2013

tips for safe holiday decorating, tips for safe Christmas lights, safe Christmas decorating, tips for electrical safety, ESFI, electrical safety foundation international,It’s magical when the house is decorated for Christmas, but I have often wondered how safe some of our lighting hook-ups have been. I love the white candles in all of the windows, the wreaths on the doors and my favorites are the trees and our basket of Christmas tree trunks marking our past celebrations. But I do care that we’re being safe as we deck the halls.

Here are some important tips for safe Christmas decorating from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

“ESFI is a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to providing unbiased information regarding electrical safety.” According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year an estimated average of 160 reported home fires are caused by decorative lights, and Christmas trees account for another 230 fires each year. Combined, these resulted in an average of 13 deaths and $26.3 million in property damage per year.

50% of home fires caused by Christmas trees happened during the 15 days between December 22 and January 5. – National Fire Protection Association

Water Your Christmas Tree

I like to have two trees, one that sits in the front window and looks so pretty from both outside and in. A few years ago, I finally gave in to a fake tree for this one and it’s so much more practical, but I love the smell and tradition (damn the allergies) of the live one we put up in the family room in the back of the house. We decorate (well, I decorate and the kids load) the live one with garland, baubles and ornaments the kids have made and collected. As part of our tree decorating tradition, I buy them each a new ornament every year. My box of favorite ornaments is full of dated frames with photos of the kids through the years.

To keep your tree safe, water it daily to keep it well hydrated. It’s a joke in our family that Nick regularly, annually, always puts the tree up and forgets to water it. One year he was so proud that he remembered and as he was bragging to me, the tree tumbled forward spilling the water all over the wood floor. We had a good laugh as we sopped up the water, erected the tree, tied it to the wall with fishing line and refilled the water! Good thing he remembered the water!

christmas tree safety, christmas tree light safety, Christmas tree cautions, electrical foundation tips, tips for decorating, tips for Christmas lights

Use Light Strings and Extensions Cords With Care

The ESFI says to use one extension cord that is long enough to do the job, do not connect an extension cord to an extension cord. Don’t nail or staple light strings or extension cords or use anything that could damage the wire insulation and never run an extension cord under a rug or where it could be pinched under furniture.

I think of this all the time with cords and wires throughout the year, not just for safe Christmas decorating. Years ago when we lived in New Jersey, a family we knew in town had a house fire. It was devastating and scary and was caused by a wire (that wasn’t even plugged in) that had been under the foot of a dining room hutch. I think of them often and am constantly aware of not letting anything rest on top of any cords or wires.

Happify Is …

October 22, 2013

Have you heard the buzz around Happify? Have you wondered, What is Happify? Here’s my answer:

Happify Is …

happify, what is happify, happiness is, introducing happify, is happify a gameAs a beta tester – a Happify Pioneer – I shared my experience with Mother’s Circle readers in February in my Introducing Happify post. (Read that post for more details on what Happify is all about!) Since then, Happify has added many new features and today is the official public launch. Now, without needing an invitation, anyone can jump in and start their Happify experience and answer the question “What is Happify?” for themselves.

From their blog: “At Happify, we’re passionate about helping people find happiness, contentment and fulfillment through fun activities, games and exercises based on proven scientific research from the top minds in the country.”

Happify is … Fun

Sign up and try out the games and exercises, the Happify app, and the many new tracks, several created and “hosted” by celebrities or professionals. Within our busy, stressed days, one way people find relaxation is in social media, Happify is an escape from the daily hub-bub with a purpose! It’s a mix of video game, self exploration, Pinterest boards, social interaction (on posts and through threads) and online gratitude journal. It’s fun with a benefit – the activities are all based in the science of happiness (the science of happiness is also explained on the Happify website.)

Happify is … Spending time together

There is a new game called “Uplift” since I last posted in which you spot and click on positive words. Whenever I

[caption id="attachment_3490" align="alignright" width="300"]Happify tracks, Happify activities, what is happify, should I get on happify, how do I get happier Some Happify Tracks[/caption]

get to the games in a track, I save them to do with my kids. They love the search and find scenes that encourage us to slow down and savor the visuals and I love that we slow down and savor the time together.

This summer, I did a track called “Raise Happy and Resilient Teens” and there were activities that Ali and I did together and some that I turned over to her to do on her own (she’s been dying to join Happify.) It was a small thing but it spurred some nice conversations between us.

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.

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.

6 Tennis Tips for Kids

September 9, 2013

6 tennis tips for kids, tips for tennis, teaching kids tennis, tips to teach kids tennis, tips for family sports, team sports for kidsTennis is a terrific sport for all ages and it’s a sport that grows with you. Here are 6 tennis tips for kids.

I played a little tennis as a kid, wait, I take that back, I took LESSONS as a kid but never really played. I remember one instructor telling me my moves looked more like I was dancing than playing tennis. Oh well. I moved onto other physical endeavors. I did a lot of individual sports like gymnastics, skiing and yoga, but I do feel like I missed out on something by not having participated on a team sport growing up.

Seven years ago, I decided I really wanted to play tennis. I began playing in the summer, quite intensely, I loved it and would play any hour of the day, sweltering under the burning sun, with anyone who would play with me. I was so obsessed that I felt disappointment, no matter how many hours we’d been playing, whenever my tennis buddies would wind down and end our session. For years, I only played in the summers and by the time July rolled serena williams, serena image, serena serving, serena williams in pink and yellow, serena williams 2012, serena us open, around, I was practically back to square one. Finally, I joined our local indoor club and began playing year round about four years ago, that made the difference. I could at last begin to improve and up my game.

As a watched amazing tennis at the US Open yesterday (what a match between Serena and Azarenka) and during the past weeks, I thought about how much I love tennis and how happy I am that all three of our kids are enjoying the sport as young children. I’m so happy that Ali is playing on the high school team and getting that experience I never had – being a part of team, supporting one another, training, practicing, traveling together and cheering one another on. Tennis is giving her that.

[Tune in tonight for what’s sure to be more stellar tennis with the Djokovic/Nadal match-up (5:00 pm on CBS).]

6 Tennis Tips for Kids

1. Make it Fun

Tennis should be fun first! When playing isn’t fun or kids feel pressured, they’re likely to lose interest. It’s important to keep it low key as kids learn. Allow them to just enjoy hitting, trying new things and socializing without any focus on results or winning. Skill building and improving will come.

One of the major reasons that 70 percent of kids quit playing sports by the time they’re 13 is because they’re not having fun. A Michigan State University study asked girls and boys aged 10 to 12 why they played sports. The top five reasons given:

1. To have fun.
2. To do something I’m good at.
3. To improve my skills.
4. To stay in shape.
5. To get exercise.

The answer “winning” didn’t make it into the top ten reasons. And repeated studies found the same number one response of “fun” as kid’s reason to play sports.

Improving Birth – Rally for Change

September 2, 2013

improving birth rally labor dayCan you imagine going to a cancer doctor or a heart surgeon if only one third of their professional organization’s recommendations were based in scientific evidence? Yet that’s what’s going on in obstetrics in America.

A study showed that only one third (33%) of the recommendations put out by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) are based on “good and consistent evidence.” [See below for link to full article text] In looking at only obstetrics, that number falls to only one quarter (25%). Take action and join Improving Birth’s “National Rally for Change on Labor Day” as Empowered Birth Awareness Week kicks off.

Improving Birth held their first rally event in December, 2011 in San Diego and received local media coverage and affected real, evidence-based changes in the local hospital.

First Signs of Pregnancy

August 8, 2013

signs of pregnancy, first signs of pregnancy, early pregnancy signs, am I pregnany?, morning sickness, nausea and pregnancy, what helps morning sickness, cures for morning sicknessThank you to Erin McCormick for this guest post on the first signs of pregnancy.

It came on like rolling up a tube of toothpaste. I was standing in my shower when a wave of energy started in my feet and came all the way up my body. Swirling around in my stomach, I felt the nausea come on suddenly, as it moved through the rest of my body. I could feel it from my toes to my fingers with such intensity that I had a migraine in minutes. I had never had a migraine before and wasn’t sure if it was the cause of the nausea or the other way around.

This was the first sign that let me know I was pregnant.

One friend of mine described waking up thinking, “Oh crap, I’m sick.” She said she was extremely lethargic with no energy. Her breasts started swelling almost immediately. For her, early pregnancy tests were still coming up negative. Another friend said that she started noticing a sensitivity to food and smells, but didn’t have many of the other symptoms.

Boob Milk is Best

August 2, 2013

boob milk is best, national breastfeeding week, august breastfeeding week, world breastfeeding weekIn support of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m re-posting a favorite breastfeeding story.

Sitting at the dinner table, our youngest, Anna, asked me why she’s the only one without allergies, and the first answer (as a doula and lactation counselor) was, “Because I nursed you for two years.” “Huh?” she asked.

So I dove right in, “That’s what boobs are for,” she giggled, “for feeding babies. Cow milk is for calves, goat milk is for baby goats and human milk is for …” I paused to let her answer, “Human babies!” Her eyes twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word nipples was also met with a chuckle.

We’ve talked about breastfeeding before many times, as a toddler she used to put her dolls to her breast routinely and if she ever used a play bottle, she’d tell me it had breastmilk in it. This discussion reminded me that in parenting, things need to be repeated and not just the pick-up-your-towel repeated, but relearned in new, age-adjusted ways. She was revisiting this topic with some more life experience under her teeny belt.
sleeping baby, baby sleeping on mom's chest, mom and baby sleeping, flavors of breastmilk, tasting breastmilk, milk supply, fenugreek and nursingShe was fascinated as I explained that breastmilk changes it’s flavor and content from day to day, feeding to feeding, during the same meal, and year to year. Your body even knows if the baby is a boy or a girl (Moms nursing boys produce milk that is higher in fat content). Breastmilk is the perfect food for human babies and as we chatted, it just popped out: “Boob Milk is Best!” She completely cracked up. I joined in and we were laughing as Anna repeated, “Boob Milk!”

Tabata Songs

July 19, 2013

tabata songs, tabata workout music, tabata training, tabata timing, tabata intervals, interval training music, timed music, barefoot truth music, Tabata songs are the perfect way to time your Tabata interval training workouts. Easier and more inspiring than a timer, these original, timed songs can kick up your routine. My friend Jay Driscoll along with Barefoot Truth band-mate John “Wayno” Waynelovich wrote, performed and recorded these songs specifically for Tabata training.

Jay explains how Tabata Songs originated: “While on tour, we have found Tabata Training to be the quickest, most effective form of exercise. For us, it is perfect for a quick hotel room workout. We hated staring at a clock to time the intervals, so we decided to just make music that tells the listener when to GO and when to STOP. Its basically like having a personal trainer on your iPod!”

What’s Tabata?

Ideal for busy Moms, the Tabata Protocol for interval training, though not new, is quickly gaining in popularity. Developed in 1996 by Japanese fitness researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata, its studied benefits include fat-loss, building cardio fitness and muscle retention, increased metabolism and muscular endurance.

Whether you’ve just been given the thumbs up to exercise after a baby, whether you’re chasing a toddler or working out with your teen – a huge benefit for Moms is that it can be done in 4 minutes. It’s high intensity training with intervals of 20 seconds and a 10 second rest in between.

Here are some tools and videos to help you design Tabata intervals that work for you.

Benefits of Tabata Songs

Tabata Songs allow you the freedom to focus on your training without fussing with a timer, stop watch or juggling a smart phone app.

6 Reasons to Take Childbirth Classes

July 2, 2013

why should I take childbirth classes, reasons to take childbirth classes, hospital or private childbirth classes, refresher childbirth class, do I need childbirth classes, dads and childbirth classes, childbirth education reasons, Childbirth education began over forty years ago in an effort to shift the mentality of birth as an illness to birth as normal and an arena where moms and dads have choices. Popularity of classes peaked in the 1980‘s and 90‘s and has been declining since.

In the 2006 Listening to Mothers Survey, Childbirth Connection found that childbirth class attendance among first-time mothers fell from 70 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2005. Only 10% of the 1600 new moms in the survey named childbirth classes as their most important source of information. Sources that rated higher were: television (68%), books (33%), friends and relatives (19%) and the Internet (16%).

Some reasons for the drop may include time and scheduling to get to classes and higher epidural and cesarean rates. Families planning medication or a cesarean may feel, “Why bother to learn about positions and movements in labor if I’m getting an epidural/C-section?” A good childbirth class will cover both of these topics among other interventions and can ease worries and boost confidence for both parents.

Despite the image of childbirth educators as being crunchy-hippy types pushing natural birth, that’s not the reality. Sure you can come across that teacher or you can seek out classes geared at natural, no/low intervention birth, but many classes will give you a solid overall understanding of birth, comfort measures before you get to the hospital for medication if that’s what you’re choosing. A good childbirth class will help you see the broad spectrum of your options in birth. It’s also important to understand that independent classes may be able to give you a different exposure to birth than a hospital-based class where sometimes curriculums are structured and instructors have more limitations. (In full disclosure, I teach at a hospital and have been able to teach fully and freely how I like to present material and topics.)

Here are 6 Reasons to Take Childbirth Classes:

Camping Activities for Kids

June 25, 2013

sun through trees, woods, woodlands, camping activities for kids, things to do with kids, outdoor activities, camping ideas, fun with kids, camping recipesCamping activities for kids can spring up naturally from your surroundings and basic camping preparations. We’ve been camping with our kids since Michael was a baby (that was a sleepless weekend with a pack and play in a tent and rising with the birds … but that’s a story for another post!)

Both Nick and I grew up camping with our families, his family more than mine. We both have warm and happy memories of evenings around a campfire, searching for the perfect marshmallow roasting stick and spending time with our parents. Before our kids were born, Nick and I did some camping together and with groups of friends. We camped in Saratoga, NY, and spent our days at the races and along the water in Virgina. It was the perfect activity for our fresh out of school salaries.

Years later, when our children were still little, we ventured out on a few single-night camping outings. We pitching tents, putting up a tent, how to put up a tent, tent camping, tents and kids, kids putting up a tent, kids helping with camping, would load everything up and leave early on a Saturday morning to a campground nearby. Sometimes we were only 20 minutes from home but once you’re inside a wooded campground with streams, ponds, pools and fire pits, no one could tell where we were!

The kids, older now, love camping and we are building memories of unplugged family time. Our number one camping rule: Electronics are not allowed.

Remember when camping, hiking, climbing and exploring in the woods to check for ticks. Click here for 7 tips to protect your kids, and yourself, from Lyme disease.

Kids find their own fun with what’s around and here is a list of more camping activities for kids.

Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog – Part 2

May 31, 2013

This is the second part of Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog.
Click here to read Part 1.

[caption id="attachment_2693" align="alignleft" width="230"]Gardening with kids and a groundhog, groundhog home, gopher home, how to get rid of a groundhog, groundhog eating garden, Caddy shack gopher scene, bill murray caddy shack, Our groundhog’s home.[/caption]

New growth came from the healthy young plants trying their best, and then they were snipped to the ground again. I blamed bunnies, tried to match footprints and searched online for answers. We finally saw him: a lumbering, well-fed, brownish-reddish groundhog. We didn’t know where his home was so we needed another solution (since them, we’ve discovered his abode seen in the image to the left).

I got a Havahart trap and filled it with all the greens and lettuce a groundhog loves. Soon after, we spotted the trap door closed. “We got him!” I thought, but no, we got a possum. We let him free and filled the trap again. A day later, we caught a possum, we let him free again. In the pecking order of smarts, it appears groundhogs are smarter than possum. On and on it went, we had no success through the fall and then it was hibernation time.

The groundhog had won round one.

I mourned the loss of my garden, I truly felt sad each time I wandered to my fruitless garden beds. [On a side note, groundhogs (or maybe it’s just our groundhog) don’t like peppers and despite the disappointing season, I was grateful to at least have gotten something out of our garden.] new plants for garden, plants from seeds, turgor pressure, cucumber seedlings, squash seedlings, image of cucumber plant, gardening with kids

Growing new shoots from tiny seeds and watching them sprout then flourish into real plants makes me happy. Gardening with kids makes it even better. We chat while we work, about school or friends, and things spill out as we work the dirt. They also ask questions about each plant and begin to learn to identify them by their leaves, picking between a weed and a “real” plant. They learn basic biology, and about Turgor pressure and plant divisions, about bulbs, tubers and roots.

One of our favorite family lore stories is “The Cucumber Story.”

Gardening With Kids and a Groundhog Part 1

May 30, 2013

gardening with kids, gardening with kids and a groundhog, groundhog in garden, chicken wire fence, building a chicken wire fence, will chicken wire keep out groundhog, Gardening with kids is an opportunity ripe with lessons. I love gardening and through the years have had lush flower gardens and plentiful vegetables and I’ve struggled against beetles, deer and other critters. When we lived in New Jersey we had literally a dozen deer in our yard at a time (and lots of incidences of Lyme disease). We had sweet spotted fawn following their mamas and we witnessed full out buck fights, horn-to-horn only yards from our back door.

This overpopulation of deer chewed on everything except for the 5 foot tall weeds in our woods. They ate every “deer-resistant” shrub we planted. The garden center guy would say, “Well, they’re not supposed to eat holly [or this or that],” and I’d say, “Well, our deer do.” There wasn’t a purchased plant that was safe (unwanted weeds were untouched, of course).

I’d read at the time that dirty diapers outside keep the deer away from flowers and bushes; I had two young kiddos still in diapers so I rolled them up and put them around the garden beds. Yes, I know, in writing this it sounds as ridiculous as it was.

7 Tips to Protect Your Kids From Lyme Disease – And Yourself, Too

May 24, 2013

tips to protect kids from lyme, walking in the woods, deer ticks in woods, take a hike, prevention of lyme disease, help for lyme disease, resources for lyme diseaseThe most important way to protect your kids from Lyme disease is knowledge. I shared my story of Lyme Disease and also the controversy and misunderstanding surrounding Lyme. Within this swirl of confusion, there are studies, facts and recommendations that rise to the surface and are the first line of defense against this insidious and potentially debilitating disease.

Even with the best protective measures, it’s possible – even likely – you or someone in your family will get a deer tick bite and Lyme. Click here for one grandmother’s story of how despite her efforts, she has Lyme.

What I hope you gain from the post is a deeper awareness and understanding about Lyme so that you’re more likely to recognize signs (and trust yourself) earlier.

The earlier the treatment, the better the outcomes. Part of how to protect your kids from Lyme disease is guarding against chronic Lyme should your family be affected and undiagnosed, untreated Lyme can lead to a chronic condition.

1. Learn about Lyme

Here are some key things to know about Lyme disease:

  • Lyme is a risk in all 50 states, it is no longer a disease of the northeastern US region.
  • If you receive a positive blood test for Lyme, it’s absolute, you’ve got it. However, if you receive a negative test, you may still have it. You can’t trust a negative. Of people with acute culture-proven Lyme, 20-30% will continue to test negative on the Western Blot. There is no test for the actual spirochetes, only a test for the antibodies produced against it. There are also other tick borne illnesses not tested in commercial tests.
  • Because of unreliable testing issues, the diagnosis of Lyme is a clinical one.
  • It’s not know how long it takes to transfer the bacteria, it can be only seconds in children. Clearly we are not likely to see the exact moment a tick hops on our kids and we might not even see the tick itself. If you suspect Lyme, get treatment promptly. Lyme can spread widely through the body within hours to days.
  • Some hallmarks of Lyme are that it moves around, it’s a migratory, transient pain. A child may complain of leg pain then a headache, then hip pain over the course of time. It’s also cyclical with symptoms presenting in one way in about four weeks cycles, and they may change. Are you starting to see how this is a tough diagnosis? Does your child complain of a headache monthly? Or sore knees?
  • Another clue that it’s Lyme disease is the worsening effect at the time of the first treatment (this is called the Herxheimer reaction or Herxing). As the bacteria die off they release toxins into the body faster than the body can handle them creating a sudden and dramatic inflammatory response. If you or your child experience this Herxing effect, it’s another likely clue that it’s in fact Lyme.
  • There is documented transmission from mother to fetus and the baby may be born with congenital Lyme. We do not know, but the Lyme spirochetes may survive in breastmilk, it’s recommended that nursing mothers are treated aggressively.
  • Peak season is considered April – September.

My Story of Lyme Disease

May 22, 2013

my story of lyme disease, deer tick, image of deer tick, tick on leaf, headaches and lyme disease, acupuncture for lyme disease, acupuncture, symptoms of lyme diseaseThis is my story of Lyme Disease. It was June 2007, I was on my way to New York City for a doula training. Arrangements and “spreadsheets” for the kids’ schedules were taken care of and I had three days to immerse myself in something I love. I had dinner plans to visit friends in NYC and was happy to be staying with my brother and sister-in-law.

The first morning I woke up stiff and creaky and moved myself through some yoga poses and stretches to relieve the pulling. I just felt “off” and tight with underlying soreness through the day, as if I may have been about to get sick.

The second night, I woke up in the middle of the with painful aching all over. What I’d put off as stiffness from an unfamiliar bed didn’t fit with this growing pain. Yet, I stretched in the predawn hours and again after halting dozes. I got through another day, still enjoying the training but increasingly distracted from my achiness. I met a friend for dinner, excited to see her I didn’t want to cancel, but I was struggling.

By the third night, barely sleeping, tossing in pain and sweat and chills, I really knew something was wrong. That day a woman in the training did reiki on me, another massaged my back, the trainer (my dear friend Debra Pascali Bonaro) suggested I lay down on the bed in the room adjacent to the training where I could listen from a horizontal position.

I vividly remember the emotions I had sitting in Penn Station alone, waiting for my train. I felt grateful that at the last minute, I’d decided to take the train instead of driving. I couldn’t believe how dramatically different I felt with each passing day. I hunched on a bench rocking myself and trying anything to distract myself from the pain. The train ride to New London where my Dad met me was excruciating; I curled up and tried to be still, tried to rest. I don’t know how I drove the last leg of the trip to get myself home.

Get your PeaceLove On

May 13, 2013

PeaceLove, mental health, Peacelove studios, pawtucket paintings, jeff sparr, get your peacelove on,

Get Your PeaceLove On!

Based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, PeaceLove Studios provides free art classes to communities effected by mental illness. Their mission is to help people create peace of mind and find comfort through artistic expression. They aim to chip away and remove the stigma attached to mental illness beginning with sharing personal stories.

[caption id="attachment_2445" align="alignright" width="180"]jeff sparr, matt kaplan, peacelove founders, peacelove foundation, peacelove pawtucket, ocd stories, PeaceLove Co-Founders, Matt Kaplan and Jeff Sparr[/caption]

Co-founder of PeaceLove, Jeff Sparr, openly shares his story and struggle with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). For years he searched for ways to ease his symptoms and, along with other tools, he found that painting brings him peace of mind.

He says, “My ‘something more’ would be to create a positive symbol of hope and acceptance for mental health. Every cause has their ‘ribbon,’ but tens of millions of people like me and their friends and families had nothing to rally and celebrate behind.”

What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know About Preeclampsia

May 1, 2013

preeclampsia awareness month, every pregnant woman needs to know about preeclampsia, facts about preeclampsia, baby in blue blanket, sweet baby girl, adaire, May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month, do you know what preeclampsia is? Do you know the signs and symptoms, if you’re at risk, if it can be prevented?

Here are some facts that every pregnant woman needs to know about preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure in pregnancy, affects one in twelve pregnant women (or about 5 – 8% of all pregnancies). You may have heard terms like toxemia, PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension), EPH or PET in the past, these aren’t used anymore but referred to the same condition.

There is no known way to prevent preeclampsia and currently no know cause, however, there are risk factors that are known to increase a Mom’s chances of developing preeclampsia. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Preeclampsia in another pregnancy
  • A first pregnancy
  • A medical history of high blood pressure
  • Being pregnant with twins (or more)
  • Maternal age under 18 or over 40 years old
  • Obesity
  • Long intervals between pregnancies
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Various preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes, lupus, autoimmune disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or sickle cell disease
  • A family history of preeclampsia, high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes

If you’ve had it in a previous pregnancy, the possibility of getting it again ranges from 5 – 80% depending upon factors like severity, overall health, and at what time in your gestation you had preeclampsia in your previous pregnancy. If you’ve developed preeclampsia before, seek preconception or early pregnancy guidance by a specialist.

Why does preeclampsia matter? How can a pregnant Mom spot it early?

7 Tips For Cesarean Birth

April 11, 2013

operating room, OR in c-section, sterile OR, what to expect in cesarean, tips for cesarean, tips for c sectionSo you need a cesarean or you come to that decision during labor. How can you make it the safest and most satisfying experience for you?

If you are pregnant and planning a vaginal birth, it’s still important to remember these tips for cesarean birth. I believe it’s vital to understand the procedure and your options. With a cesarean birth rate of over 30% in the U.S., even if you’re not expecting to, you could end up in the OR. Read, learn, and discuss it with your provider; then let it go and envision the birth you want.

If you are already scheduled or know you will be having a cesarean, use these tips for cesarean birth to create the birth you want.

7 Tips for Cesarean Birth

1. Be Involved in the Decisions

As with a vaginal birth or labor, Moms having a cesarean need to do their homework to be educated and to make truly informed choices. Even though this is surgery, you DO have options to consider and things you can request or discuss with your doctor. This is your birth and the more involved you are in making decisions that affect your experience, the more likely you are to have a satisfying birth, even if it’s not what you’d hoped for or planned.

I had a client who was planning a home birth but it turned course leading to a transfer to the hospital and a cesarean birth, two opposite ends of the birthing spectrum. While disappointed, she knew she made the best possible decisions for her family at each stage; she felt empowered and at peace with her birth because she was not a passive participant and made the choices at each crossroads.

Own your birth. Select a provider you trust, feel comfortable with your doctor and place of birth. Understand the surgery procedure, the anesthesia, the recovery expectations. Read, reasearch and ask questions. Read blogs and forums that discuss c-sections so you feel well informed of the aspects that may not be as widely known or discussed. Ask for a consent form ahead of time so you can actually read it and ask any questions that may arise. Too often you only see this form as someone glosses over the content while hovering waiting for you to sign it.

Even if you’re planning a vaginal birth, having an understanding of a c-section is important since nearly one third of Moms in the U.S. have cesareans and most of those are not expected or scheduled ahead. This in itself does not mean they were emergencies, as some are, but more often it means they weren’t planned and something during labor lead to the decision.

Young Women’s Birth Survey

March 18, 2013

If you’re a woman aged 18-26, click here to take the survey. Thank you!

mothers circle logo, birth survey, what do women fear about birth, college women and birth, birth questions, survey for young women, I have always trusted my body and trusted the process of birth even before I knew babies and mamas would be my profession. I’ve been in the birth world as a professional for over a decade, as a Mom for over fourteen years and it still saddens me to witness how much fear is tied up with birth.

As a doula* and childbirth educator, I work with families starting late in the second trimester, or later, more than midway through their pregnancy. I have found that the short time we work together is simply not long enough to reverse decades of fear a woman may carry. She may not even consciously realize her trepidation and angst, or its depth.

My motivation to conduct the Young Women’s Birth Survey sprouted at a conference with collegiate women in 2010. A group of young women asked what I do and after explaining what a doula is, I was shocked to hear the reactions of these young, healthy women who wanted to be mothers one day. They shared how afraid they were of pregnancy and birth. One young woman believed her body couldn’t hold a baby and another announced that she only wanted a C-section.

Childhood Sick Days – Soap Operas + Chicken Soup

March 8, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
See the Mom Before Mom category for more of my posts in this series:

How did you get your name?
How did you celebrate childhood birthdays?
What was your childhood bedroom like?
What was your favorite home cooked meal?

The Family Car

This week’s prompt: Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?

childhood sick days, soap operas, chicken broth, before I was a mom, childhood asthma, kids throwing up, freezing chicken broth, homemade broth, Soap operas and chicken soup. That’s what comes to mind first when I think of my childhood sick days.

In the days before DVR, DVDs, On Demand and a zillion channels to choose from, we had the basic channel numbers up to 13 (PBS), and some were only static. So being home sick meant getting to stay in my parents bed or on the couch and watch daytime television between naps.

Sip some flat ginger ale, watch As the World Turns, choke down dry toast, flip to Price is Right, a slug of fuschia Pepto, now it’s time for Hollywood Squares.

I have memories of both of my parents, and both of my grandparents caring for me at different times, in different ways when I was sick. Daytime, home-from-school sick was solely my Mom’s gig. She took care of me and my Dad would come see how I was feeling when he got home form work.

There was a holiday we hosted one year when I was sick enough to stay in bed. I remember a haze of visitors to check on me, to slather me anew with Vick’s Vap-O-Rub, to take my temperature with a glass thermometer that stabbed under my tongue and always crept out toward my teeth.

6 Sleep Tips for Tweens and Teens

March 7, 2013

tips for teen sleep, teen girl sleeping late, teens can't wake up, teen tired all day, teen not getting enough sleep,In the whiplash of parenthood, we have early rising toddlers who evolve into teens who won’t get up.

Teens and tweens are often not getting the recommended 9.25 hours of sleep they need. Inadequate sleep effects cognitive functioning, academic achievement, family sanity, physical and emotional health and can result in more accidents in teens who drive.

Making sleep a priority for teens is essential to their current health and well-being as well as their ongoing physical and emotional health. Studies show links to poor sleep or difficulty sleeping in younger years to increased anxiety and depression years later.

Learning, practicing and experiencing healthy sleep is a life skill and educating our tweens and teens is a gift.

7 Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers

March 6, 2013

This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family.

baby rubbing eyes, sleep tips for babies, sleep tips for toddlers, Sleep is like the coveted Holy Grail of new parenthood. I’m often asked about sleep tips for and babies and toddlers and how to improve or lengthen sleep times.

Whatever your family chooses for sleeping arrangements is a personal choice, but it tends to be a hot-button issue. I work in many families’ homes and what works for one family, doesn’t work for another, what one family values another family shuns. Sleep is no exception.

If whatever you’re doing is not a problem for you, it’s not a problem. However, if something is disturbing parents or children getting solid, beneficial sleep, if sleep deprivation is creeping in through small, but regular incremental sleep deficits, perhaps it’s become a problem.

Sleep has so many benefits, both obvious and subtle, it’s worth creating and protecting healthy sleep habits for the whole family. Understanding a little bit about sleep can be useful in making sleep decisions for your family. Babies go into deep sleep state in the beginning of nighttime sleep (perhaps 7 – 10:00 pm) and then again before waking in the morning with more frequent periods of lighter sleep (and more chance for awakenings) in between (around 10 pm – 4 am).

By three-four months most healthy full-term babies are able to sleep through the night, perhaps with a single 2:00 am feeding, by six months all healthy babies can do it. Studies have shown that at four months, a baby’s nervous system is mature enough to allow him to be able to sleep at 12 hour stretch. Unlike other milestones, sleep is not fixed, there may be shifts with time change, illness, travel and as babies go through new stages and become toddlers.

The Importance of Sleep

March 4, 2013

boy sleeping with teddy, sleeping wtih stuffed animals, boy sleeping, trouble sleeping, kids sleep problems,This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family. We’re kicking off Sleep Awareness Week with the benefits and importance of sleep.

Sleep can be one of those things, “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Kids resist naps and bedtimes, but busy, fatigued adults crave a chance to lie down.

Introducing Happify :-)

February 6, 2013

happify trademark, happify logo, what is happify?, so do I get happy?, happiness projectIt’s finally time to introduce you to Happify! Two months ago, I was invited to try out Happify and provide honest feedback as I used the site and now Happify is open for new users! Check it out here.

Happify is a cross between a new social media, an interactive game and a shared (or private) gratitude journal. The site is based on scientific studies of happiness that show that what we DO makes a difference in how happy we are in life. Through quizzes, games, prompts and activities, participants on Happify learn ways, and take actions, to be happier and to better appreciate things in their lives.

There is an initial assessment of how happy you already are. I’m pretty happy by nature, so I wasn’t out looking to get happier, but it’s also important to actively do things to nurture my own happiness. I have really enjoyed doing these small activities as a reminder to slow down and appreciate just how much I have in my life.unlock your happiness, happiness skills, happiness test, studies on happiness, how to be happier, blue brain, join happify,

Starting out, users select a track to follow. You can choose from things like: Enjoy Parenting More, The Art in Happiness, Talkers and Listeners and Nurture my Body and Soul. You’ll then have different activities opened to you each day. If you’re gung-ho and ready to do more, there is also a skills section where you can do more activities. I completely cracked up one day when I just kept doing more and more activities and a message came up that congratulated me and addressed me as “You’re an over-achiever!” Hilariously on target!

There are five main skills and all the activities fall under one of these: Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give and Empathize. As you work through different tracks (here’s the video game-like part) you earn gold or silver for completing tracks within certain time frames, and you move up different skill levels as you finish and “Happify” activities.

You’ll do guided activities with prompts like, “Take a walk with a camera,” “Mix things up,” “Give a small gift,” and suggestions for doing and reflecting on what you did. Some things are silly like trying to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand to try to shake things up in your normal routine, while other things might be more sentimental, pensive, or celebratory of you or someone else. Some activities are quick, some you make a plan and pledge to do it then report back after you’ve done it. At any point, you can click and read the science behind the activity, the “Why it Works.”Happify, the science of happiness, studies on happiness, brain with gears, colorful gears, what is happify?, happiness assessment,

You can post pictures with certain activities either from your Facebook photos, Happify stock images or by uploading something from your computer, here the posts look a little like Pinterest with social interaction features for liking and commenting.

I’ve been enjoying my time on Happify. It’s nudged me to really mull things over, to cherish the everyday ho-hum stuff and to share my happiness in different ways. It’s challenged me to recognize and acknowledge my positive impact on others and to consciously live according to my values. Give it a try!


** The opinions stated here are my own and I was not required or asked to write a review, only to use the site. As a pioneer tester of Happify, I received a t-shirt and a copy of the DVD “Happy.” **



Workout from Home with Ana Caban

January 22, 2013

I’m happy to introduce you to this reasonably priced workout from home program with top trainers to the stars.
In full disclosure, I have not received payment or free goods or services in exchange for this guest post.
Ana Caban, Inc. is offering discounts for Mother’s Circle reader, see end of this post for discount codes.

Guest Post from Ana Caban, Inc.

exercising mom, mom on orange ball, orange yoga ball, mom on birth ball, exercise after birth, postpartum exercise, exercising with kids, exercising at home, working out at home, cheap workout plans, online workout plans, It’s still January and resolutions of health and fitness are still swirling, or fizzling. Save time and money with a work out from home with Ana Caban, celebrity fitness trainer.

Sharing resolutions keeps us honest and accountable, to ourselves, and anyone else we have included in our close-knit circles. The intention is there, and we are gung-ho about waking up at six o’clock in the morning to head out for a jog before our bodies realize what tricks we’re up to.

For many busy moms, it’s almost impossible to think about how to formulate a workout schedule beyond that point. Moms of toddlers or teens are often just too busy to even think about the gym. And it’s not just the kids or a nine to five it’s the million other responsibilities, too.

What if there was a way you could workout from home without interfering with your daily routine? It makes working out sound doable doesn’t it?

Hands that Rock – The Gift of Music for Children

December 28, 2012

Please consider Hands that Rock as you make your year end donations.

hands that rock, HTR, I love you in sign language, music charity, music education, saving music education, chair massage at concerts, Hands that Rock is an organization with a mission to bring the magic of music to under served communities throughout the United States. Founded by Darcy Lynch, a Rhode Island resident, and founder of Stage Hands Massage Therapy, the organization will provide chair massages for audiences at major concerts and events with net proceeds supporting music programs in cooperation with local music outreach organizations.

Since its inception in June 2012, the six month young charity has had 390 massage therapists who have worked at 31 music festivals and events nationwide for 118 consecutive days, and raised $12,000.

Hands that Rock’s primary focus is on developing and partnering with programs concerned with music education, performance, related resources and outreach for individuals and groups in need. It will also support community initiatives associated with environmental, social and health-related concerns to help create suitable environments for the creation and performance of music.