Floating Wishes – Fun Activity for Kids and Adults

February 20, 2014 by ldecesare

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. It’s a fun activity for kids and adults alike.

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 general prayer or one 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.

 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 wishing papers, lighting tissue paper on fire, floating dreams, sending prayers to heavenwill loosen, that’s okay, but you want it to be able to stand up on one side like a toilet paper tube.

Place the rolled paper one or two at a time onto a steady, burn-resistant surface. We use a dinner or dessert plate.

4. Light the top edge of the rolled paper.

With a match, light the top edges of the papers and watch ….

5. Enjoy the magic of floating wishes!

We still gasp and marvel at the moment when our wishes and prayers take flight. It’s so unexpected and marvelous! Once they’re in the air, don’t worry, the paper, transformed to a weightless grey poof, will glide back down. Ali, Michael and Anna always try to catch their floating paper as it descends.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Hearts that Help Cambodia

February 11, 2014 by ldecesare

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.

home made hearts, valentines hearts, helping hearts, organization to help cambodia, RI charity helping Cambodia

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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What’s in Your Happiness Toolbox?

February 5, 2014 by ldecesare

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. There are lot’s of options to increase your contentment and happiness – start by checking out Happify and making yourself a happiness toolbox!happify, what is happify, happiness is, introducing happify, is happify a game

The science shows you can do things to affect your happiness. Even a generally happy person can find reminders to stay focused on what’s really important in life helpful. It’s far too easy to get pulled into the tedium and nitty-gritty of daily details and lose sight of our guiding values and our larger purpose.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Michael’s Birth Story

January 31, 2014 by ldecesare

michael's birth story, cesarean birth story, having a c section, c section birth story, birth stories, baby michael, pregnant belly, breech babyA birth story makes a mother. Or grows a mother along her motherhood journey. In honor of Michael’s birthday, here is his birth story.

Three days after my due date (aka “guess date”), I went in for an ultrasound. Nick and I told the technician, “We still don’t want to know the sex of the baby.” To which she replied, “The butt is down.”

My first thought was she was telling us that she couldn’t see the sex of the baby until it dawned on me what she was really saying: the baby was breech. She verified my realization saying, “You need a C-section.”

Somehow I’d had an inner wisdom that never reached my consciousness, because in hindsight, I realized that I had asked each doctor I saw for weeks, “Is the baby’s head down?” and I was reassured over and over that, yes, vertex baby. Poor kiddo, we kept rubbing his head, perching Ali or a bowl of ice cream there, and thinking it was his butt!

I tried not to cry, but the tears poured out. Right there, in the ultrasound room. Then we sat in my doctor’s office for a talk, he said because I was past my due date, because the placenta was anterior, baby smiling, crooked baby smile, baby boy, 3 month old boy, lamaze toybecause my fluid could be lower, they wouldn’t try to flip the baby with external version. I would’ve asked better questions if I knew what I know now, but I did ask about other options to turn him. None.

In those pre-internet-accessible days that are nearly impossible to imagine now, Nick and I went to the library and hunted for ways to turn a breech baby, searched for anything we could learn about breech babies at all. Besides one paragraph in the back on one book: Nothing. Crazy since now I have a list of things to give a mom to try to turn her baby, and Google turns up 69,900 results in .31 seconds.

So we waited out the weekend, my parents came down to be with us and to take care of Ali. We watched the Super Bowl together and when we headed to bed, I cried kissing my sleeping daughter, her last night as an only child. Those emotions of adding another child, of displacing the first while knowing you’re giving her the greatest gift of a sibling, overcame me. It was an odd sensation knowing the exact day, and even about what time, I would have my next baby.

My father was so nervous about the c-section that he woke up and came to the hospital with us, dark and early on that January morning to wait, being told nothing, while I was prepped for surgery. The nurse, who I’d had with Ali and didn’t really like then, pulled the IV fluid from a refrigerator and hooked it up to my veins. I remember feeling cold, trembling and shaking, and her dismissing me, “You’re just nervous.” YES! YES I AM! I felt disregarded and her responses and comments added to my unease. I already didn’t want this kind of birth, she made it worse that morning.

combi bouncy seat, older child with baby in bouncy seat, big sister watching baby brotherIn the OR, the blue sheet in front of my face, still shaking, Nick stood by my head. He peeked over the drape and held my hand, stroked my head, talked to me. At one point I said to him, “I smell something burning,” he shook his head and smiled at me, “Yes, I smell it, something’s burning.” He stroked my head and comforted me, he didn’t want to tell me it was me being cauterized!

When my baby was born, I didn’t get to see him. He was whisked away to the other side of the room, I heard a cry and, though I thought I was speaking loudly, no one heard my question. I repeated myself, “What is it?” I think it was the doctor whose voiced called out, “Would someone tell her what she had?”

“A boy!” They wrapped him up and passed him by my eyes. I longed to hold him, to smell him, to touch him. But he was on the other side of the room again. “What’s his name?” a nurse asked. Nick and I looked at each other, we’d struggled with boys names, changing our top choice regularly. The latest pick had been Mark, we liked the solid, definitively boy’s name. So Nick answered, “Mark.”
After being moved from the OR to recovery, Nick was able to report to my father that we had a boy. My mom, at home with Ali, had been calling the hospital but they would share nothing with her, not big sister kissing brother, baby boy, meeting baby at hospital, siblings meeting, should big sister come to hospitaleven if I was out of surgery yet. We must’ve had a cell phone by then, but it wasn’t how it is now with it attached to us constantly. Somehow, no one called my mother for awhile, leaving her at home worried.

They brought baby Mark to me to breastfeed in recovery and having him in my arms, nursing eagerly, helped distract me from the nausea, the persistent shaking. I had my baby boy with me.  Finally, the nurse I didn’t like released me to the postpartum floor with Nick and my dad. Nurses really affect the experience of a patient – anywhere in the hospital. I loved loved loved my first postpartum nurse, Lydia, thank God for Lydia.

Alone, a few hours after his birth, Nick said, “He doesn’t feel like a ‘Mark,’” and I burst into tears of agreement, thankful he’d said it. “How about Michael?” Nick suggested. We’d love the name Michael all along but kept dismissing it as an option since it’s my brother’s name and we thought it would be confusing. As we were deciding to re-name our little guy, my brother called.

“We’re thinking of naming him Michael,” Nick reported, at which point Michael sent out an email (he had better technology at his NYC financial offices than we did at home) to 400 of his closest friends announcing that we’d named the baby Michael. We laughed, that’s that then. Decision final.

meeting baby brother, siblings meeting, new baby, sibling to hospital, big sister at hospital, meeting baby brotherAli first meeting her brother is a special memory. She was so curious and interested, she kept gently pinching his nose as she examined all of him. Head, ears, fingers, we even unwrapped his tight swaddle to let her see his tiny toes. My mom and I laughed secretly, it couldn’t be helped, while teaching Ali she couldn’t touch his nose. He calmed and turned to the sound of her singing the ABC’s, a song we’d sung no fewer than a trillion times while I was pregnant. It was truly amazing to witness his response.

Encouraged to walk the halls to help recovery, I would take my walks pushing the transparent bassinet up and down the hospital corridors. One day, at the very moment I was wondering how close to the doors I could go without setting of the alarms, the alarms went off. Nurses leapt from pinching baby's nose, older sibling looking at baby, older sibling with baby, big sister, baby brother, siblings meeting, siblings at hospitaltheir station and ran down the halls, lights, whistles, even the sound of the doors locking whirled around us. I giggled while apologizing, thinking it was a good, if unintentional, test of the system.

Michael’s birth didn’t happen as I’d hoped, envisioned or wanted, but it brought me my Michael. My sweet, kind, thoughtful, inventive, creative, empathetic little sweetie who’s now a teenager. Who needs deodorant, a razor and truck-fulls of food. He still does things his own way and is incredibly resourceful. He came into this world the way he needed to, upside down, though really he was right side up, and he brought me some lessons with him.

baby bath, baby eating hand, fist in baby's mouth, new baby bath, baby in towel, I am a better doula and birth educator for having had a cesarean birth. I am living proof of the possibility to VBAC (which you can’t do without the “C”) safely and I can teach clients and students how to advocate for themselves in a cesarean birth as they would a vaginal one. But mostly, he’s taught me flexibility from the day of his birth, his birth made me live my belief in making the best of a situation, in seeing the positive in things. Michael’s birth showed me a new kind of strength within myself. That scar across my belly, that crooked, angled scar, is a part of me and tells the story of one of the most important, blessed days of my life.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Music For Newtown Auction Live Today

January 22, 2014 by ldecesare

music for newtown logo, music auction, lorde autograph, signed guitars, autographed music memorabilia, sandy hook, green music note, The second Music for Newtown Auction goes live this afternoon, January 22, 2014 at 3:00 pm EST. You can keep bidding on your favorite items through January 29, 2014.

Visit the auction here: www.24fundraiser.com/musicfornewtown

We grew up in Newtown, it’s my hometown and last year’s atrocity moved my sister, Beth Bogdan to start the Music for Newtown organization. Major musicians have donated autographed items, meet and greets and tickets. All of the proceeds will benefit the Resiliency Center of Newtown which offers long-term healing to anyone impacted by the tragic events of December 14, 2012.

Auction items include an autographed guitars from Florida Georgia Line and Anberlin, signed FLAGA Line Guitar, autographed guitar, Music for newtown auction, signed guitar, bidding on music memorabiliaposters from Black Sabbath, Neon Trees, Black Veil Brides and Colbie Caillat. There are also signed photos from Nickelback, Ellie Goulding, The Avett Brothers, and Psy, signed CDs from Bon Jovi, Cassadee Pope, and Ben Howard, and signed vinyl from Jack Johnson. Lorde donated a few items including autographed “Royals” sheet music. Also up for auction are a signed drumhead from The 1975, signed lithograph from AFI, and a signed set list from The Naked and Famous. Austin Mahone and 3 Doors Down have donated tickets and Meet & Greets to upcoming shows.

All proceeds from this auction will benefit The Resiliency Center of Newtown. “The Resiliency Center of Newtown offers long-term healing to those impacted by the tragic events of December 14, 2012 to help these individuals reach their full potential, and is a Program of Tuesday’s Children, a 501c3 non-profit organization or Resiliency Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath autograph, bid on Black Sabbath items, MFN auction, sandy hook,Center of Newtown is a program of Tuesday’s Children.” All services are offered free of charge and confidentially.

Beth Bogdan founded Music For Newtown to unite the music community to provide support to those affected in her hometown of Newtown, CT. The first auction was held in March 2013, three months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to raise money for the “Sandy Hook School Support Fund.” Items were donated to the auction by Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Gotye, Elton John, The Eagles, Blink 182 and many more. There were a total of 96 items and during the 3 day auction over $35,000 was raised.

The auction will go live from January 22- 29, 2014 at www.24fundraiser.com/musicfornewtown.Lorde Royals, signed sheet music, signed Royals music, Lorde autograph, Lorde signature, Royals by Lorde, MFN auction, raising money to help newtown,

Donations are also accepted directly through the site during the auction or by sending Music For Newtown a check made out to “Resiliency Center of Newtown.”

For more information contact Beth Bogdan at: MusicForNewtown@gmail.com
www.musicfornewtown.org
www.facebook.com/MusicForNewtown
www.twitter.com/MusicForNewtown

Services Donated by:
Logo Design: Christopher Kornmann for spit and image spitandimage.net
Website Design: Orange Hat Group Orangehatgroup.com
Printer: Remsen Graphics www.remsen165.com

Resiliency Center of Newtown, logo Resliliency Center of Newtown, RCN, helping newtown, helping Sandy Hook, remembering Sandy Hook, © Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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How Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Pregnancy and Birth

January 21, 2014 by ldecesare

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.

Your birth experience matters; survivors, and all birthing women, are wise to seek out and surround themselves with caring, sensitive providers.DONA founders, Annie Kennedy, Penny Simkin image, Phyllis Klaus, DONA conference, DONA Cancun, sexual trauma and childbirth, sexual abuse and birth, how sexual abuse affects pregnancy

Regular Mother’s Circle readers (thank you!) know that I believe in empowerment through knowledge and awareness. I believe in grabbing hold and owning your birth. For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, perhaps this is even more important advice. To be aware of some of the potential emotional, physical, medical, sexual, social and psychological responses you may experience is a first step in protecting yourself from a birth experience that feels like another violation. Understanding possible personal triggers can help empower you to decline or request certain procedures during your pregnancy and birth. Your experience will be more positive if you feel that you’ve made the decisions and calls along the birth path versus feeling like things were done to you.

when survivors give birth, penny simkin book, sexual abuse and pregnancyA study published in Breastfeeding Medicine in February 2013 shows that new mothers with a history of sexual assault had more sleep disturbances and increased risk for depression. However, breastfeeding Moms had a lower risk than those who were formula feeding or mixed feeding (some combination of breastmilk and formula). Read the abstract here.

I highly recommend this book to any survivor of childhood sexual abuse, an additional resource is PATTCh.org which stands for Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Birth. PATTCh is a collective of birth and mental health experts dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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