Naked Parenting Webinar

August 17, 2014 by ldecesare

Naked Parenting logo, Naked Parenting book, parenting tips, teen parent help, toddler parent helpJoin me for a Naked Parenting webinar on August 19, 9:00 – 10:00 PM EDT

I’ll present the 7 Keys to Raising Kids with Confidence and answer participant questions. You’ll leave the webinar with practical tips you can start using right away.

 

Register now and feel free to invite your friends:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/354589086

Naked Parenting is parenting stripped down to the bare basics to focus on seven keys to raising kids who are self-sufficient, confident, respectful, and resilient. In this session, we’ll discuss these seven keys:  love, honesty, communication, responsibility, discipline, mistakes and gratitude.

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

Title:
Naked Parenting: 7 Keys to Raising Kids With Confidence
Date:
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Time:
9:00 PM – 10:00 PM EDT

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Naked Parenting Webinar.

Kappa Kappa Gamma’s Lifestyle Learning webinar series is open to the public. You are encouraged to share this Kappa-sponsored learning opportunity by forwarding the invitation to others who may be interested. Thank you.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

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Naked Parenting on Benjamin Dancer’s Blog

August 12, 2014 by ldecesare

Click here to read about Naked Parenting on Benjamin Dancer’s Blog.

Benjamin Dancer wrote a guest post on Sexting at School for Mother’s Circle and is an author, his newest book is Partriach Run.

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Naked Parenting on the Patch

August 12, 2014 by ldecesare

Click here to read: What is Naked Parenting? article on East Greenwich, RI Patch.

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Tattling or Telling? 2 Questions to Teach Kids

August 4, 2014 by ldecesare

tattling or telling, more than mommy, mostly together mommy, guest post Leah DeCesare, 2 questions,

I’m grateful to Mostly Together Mommy {More Than Mommy} for allowing me to guest post.

You can read the full post, Tattling or Telling? on MTMommy.

It can be hard for kids to understand if something is tattling or telling, in this post, I offer two questions as a simple guide to help us teach kids the difference.

As always, thanks for being a Mother’s Circle reader!

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© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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The Day of Big Parenting Talks

July 23, 2014 by ldecesare

talking to teens, talking to kids, big parenting talks, parenting triumphs, tough parenting days, Naked ParentingWhew – I’m exhausted.

Today was a day of big parenting talks, ever have those days? The kind where topics arise that spur in-depth discussions, or behaviors warrant longer sit-downs. Today, I had both types of big parenting talks, and I had them with all three kids at different times throughout the day. It felt like tag from one kid’s situation to another one’s – topped off  with a teary moment at bedtime that needed an energetic mommy-pick-me-up.

There were moments of utter frustration and feeling like I wasn’t being heard or getting through, followed by instances of triumph where I felt like I said or did the exact right thing. I’ve joked that we have our “Oprah Days” and our “Dr. Phil Days,” the picture-perfect and the ugly, and the everything in between. Today had it all!

A few of today’s big parenting talks revolved around Michael who really wanted to go out on a power boat with two other 13 year old boys and no adults. Um, nope. I wasn’t comfortable with that and gave him a, “no” answer which, of course, made him unhappy. He was disappointed, I wasn’t budging, but felt his disappointment. He tried a bunch of tactics, to his credit some were quite creative, but my answer was still a negative, and with me, you’ll never get anywhere with begging, however clever the form.

We talked about safety and choices, among other things. He was so focused on missing out and not getting what he wanted that it dissolved into some snippy talk to me which led to him lose a privilege. Told you, tough day.

As he biked home, he was in a state of upset and even welled up with tears. And here comes my mommy-win moment, ready? It’s not even monumental but it worked! I calmly (that always makes the biggest difference) told him to, on his ride home, think about what he could have done differently, not to think about the wrongs he thought were done to him, and I left him alone, sulking and peddling away.

When he got home, he was calm and we had another big talk, one that he heard with a more open mind. He was able to express his emotions and verbalize his wrong-doings, he was able to recognize possible safety issues. He even told me that when he left the beach he was thinking he was having “the worst summer ever,” but while biking home, he thought about all the really fun times he’s had this summer. How proud I was that he was able to put things into perspective and find appreciation and gratitude from within an emotionally charged afternoon.

This thing called parenting is not easy. It’s not meant to be, we’re guiding young lives and teaching them responsibility, self-sufficiency and how to love and care for themselves. Taking the time and energy to be consistent, to stand by your family values, to come up with creative solutions, and to repeat things endlessly, all adds up and it’s worth it.

So if you feel beaten up – and beaten down – be kind to yourself. Take time for yourself in your days. Smile and pat yourself on the back. It’s often helpful to seek out new ideas, suggestions, and fresh ways to look at a parenting situation. Talk to trusted friends and family, read blogs and books and be open to other ways of trying things as a parent.

It takes boundless creative energy to parent, find things that encourage you and give you tools to help along the way. My hope is that you will find those things in my new book, Naked Parenting.

What kinds of big parenting talks have you had recently?

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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What is 20 Years?

July 16, 2014 by ldecesare

what is 20 years?, 20 year anniversary, platinum anniversary, china for 20th anniversary, symbol for 20th anniversary20 years is to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. It’s needing notes to remember the words, a congregation of friends chuckling.

20 years is our first home with a deep front porch. It’s tearing out ugly mustard-colored carpet to find pristine hardwood floors beneath, it’s stripping wallpaper in dime-sized pieces. It’s sitting on lawn chairs and eating off stacked crates.

20 years is traveling far and wide, young and carefree, climbing historic church towers and hiking stunning canyons. It’s snorkeling, horseback riding, swimming in waterfalls and driving coastlines. It’s Arizona, Hawaii, France and the Olympics, Prague, Poland and Germany, it’s islands, mountains and oceans.

20 years is the first plus-sign on the stick, the happy tears, the growing belly, the drive home with our new baby girl realizing she was ours to care for and protect and love. Forevermore. And then we were three.

20 years is first cell phones, cool-looking things with an antennae and no such thing as texting. It’s sleepless nights, dribbling giggles, first steps and ABC’s. It’s time with grandparents and families, time with each other. Time together. A family.

20 years is a baby boy, the first in a generation, smiley and sweet. The gift of a brother for his sister. It is outdoor wedding photo, wedding 1994, wedding photography,saying goodbye to our first house and moving over the river. The house of dreams, a front porch covered in vines, that we filled with infinite love.

20 years is birthday parties and christenings, first days of school and scraped-up knees. It’s toddlers and tea parties, Play-Doh and sledding, bicycles and finger paints. It’s welcoming an 8-year old Little Sister and making our son a big brother with a water baby blessing our lives. Our family complete.

20 years is moving once more to honor our values, to live what we believed. It’s family dinners and home movies, it’s being there, planting gardens, building tree forts, and continuing traditions. Shorelines and friendships, school days and camping trips, first bus rides and kids growing big.

20 years is teamwork and connecting as partners and best friends. It’s talking and debating, deciding and dreaming, hoping and laughing. It’s holding hands, rubbing shoulders, nudging snores, and dancing slowly. It’s silly jokes, knowing glances, being understood. It is freedom to be who we are, authentic, whole, and safe.

20 years is a gift. A blessing, a treasure. It is at once a forever and a beginning.

My heart is yours. You always have been, and always will be, my true companion, my soulmate, my knight in shining armor, my Mr. Right, my perfect steak knife.

I love you. I live you.

Happy 20th Anniversary, My Love.

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

20 years ago, engagement photo, young couple, 20 year anniversary, hello summer party, orange shirt, happy 20th anniversary

Prince George’s First Birthday

July 16, 2014 by ldecesare

prince george effect, prince geoge birthday, when is Prince George's birthday, cupcake with crown, birthday crown cupcakeSo, I’m not much of a royal-watcher, but years ago, I lived in London for four months and, because of that, I have a love of England. As Prince George’s first birthday approaches, I’m thinking of my time there.

My flatmates and I would explore Hyde Park, shop at Boots, and poke around Portobello Market on weekends. Once, after I’d heard words almost exclusively in a British accent for months, I came home and in all seriousness, reported that I’d heard a lot of foreign languages that day, which wouldn’t be odd except that I was talking about American English!

While in England, I loved walking to school from my flat, remembering to LOOK LEFT before stepping off a curb, and “minding the gap” before hopping onto the Tube. I loved going to the theater, local attractions and taking side trips around the English countryside. We even once spotted Princess Diana taking her boys to school. It crossed my mind then, how difficult parenting as a royal would be, but as a mom, I feel it even more acutely now, watching Kate and her young prince.

Yup, I really loved my time there and my visits to London and England since. While there, I was immersed in the castles, the history, and even the Royal Family; it really can’t be avoided. Decades since, and a mom three times over, I both chuckle and sadden at the attention George and his parents receive. Parenting is tough: tantrums in the market, meltdowns at restaurants, bickering siblings waiting in line at the bank. Can you even imagine doing all that on a global stage? Sure George is only one year old, but we parents all know what’s coming.

Little George is even already setting trends as the small “Pre-King.” Have you heard about the George Effect and how items that look like whatever he wears are selling out by the droves and shutting down websites? I wonder what the wardrobe will be for Prince George’s first birthday celebration. No doubt we’ll see it in stores and catalogs before he’s even done celebrating on July 22nd.

To honor a very royal summer, 888ladies is celebrating with their online bingo game about the royal family. This July 22nd, on Prince George’s first birthday, this online bingo jackpot is seriously royal so players can celebrate, too.

Happy First Birthday, Prince George!

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

This is a sponsored post. All opinions and statements are my own.

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3 Playground Rules for Parents – Guest Post

July 11, 2014 by ldecesare

playground rules, tips for parents at playground, playground parenting tips, red swing, naptime reviewerI am happy to share my guest post on The Nap Time Reviewer on:

3 Playground Rules for Parents

Click here to read my guest post on The Nap Time Reviewer.

As always, thanks for being a Mother’s Circle reader!
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Naked Parenting Book Trailer

July 10, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

 

 

naked parenting book trailer, naked belly, belly button,

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Naked Parenting – New Parenting Book from Mother’s Circle

July 9, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

Naked Parenting is parenting stripped down to the bare basics focusing on seven keys to raising kids who are self-sufficient, confident, respectful, and resilient. Nudity not required.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership and your support!

I’m grateful for the advance praise for Naked Parenting

“Leah is such a gifted writer, woman, mother and more! . . . I am truly inspired by her wealth of wisdom and knowledge . . . this book will touch and inspire parents to not only enjoy parenting, but to embrace all it has to offer for themselves and their children . . . Naked Parenting offers a nonjudgmental, open-minded approach to parenting . . .”
– Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Co-Author, Creator and Director, Orgasmic Birth, and Chair, International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization (IMBCO), debrapascalibonaro.com

“As an author and an educator whose focus has always been on helping children to maximize their potential, I highly recommend Leah DeCesare’s Naked Parenting  . . . use of her recommended strategies and knowledge of the principles upon which they are based are practical and effective tools for all parents who want to raise their children to be successful and fulfilled.”
– Carol Cooke, author of America’s Answer to the Tiger Mother

“Naked Parenting is a fantastic resource for parents with children of any age. Leah provides a transparent and honest lens on parenting with beneficial and practical advice. An engaging read!”
– Dr. Claire Nicogossian, Clinical Psychologist, momswellbeing.com

“A parents go-to peace book for creating a positive, happy and nurturing environment while raising responsible, respectful, and productive children. A practical guide for all parents who know they’re not perfect!”
– Kara Ratigan, Elementary School Teacher

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Song Lyrics for the 4th of July

July 4, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your friends, family, parties and picnics today, and take a moment to remember what it’s all about.

Here are some of my favorite song lyrics for the 4th of July.

I thank god for my life
And for the stars and stripes
May freedom forever fly, let it ring.
Salute the ones who died
The ones that give their lives
So we don’t have to sacrifice
All the things we love

Zac Brown Band, Chicken Fried

If tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life,
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife.
I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

Lee Greenwood, Proud to be an American

He’s got the red, white, and blue flyin’ high on the farm
Semper fi tattooed on his left arm
Spends a little more at the store for a tag in the back that says u.s.a.
Won’t buy nothin’ that he can’t fix,
With wd40 and a craftsman wrench
He ain’t prejudice he’s just, made in America

His wife, she’s that wife that decorates on the 4th of July
But says “every day’s independence day”
She’s golden rule, teaches school,
Some folks say it isn’t cool but she says the Pledge of Allegiance anyway.

- Toby Keith, Made in America

Drivin’ down the street today I saw a sign for lemonade
They were the cutest kids I’d ever seen in this front yard
As they handed me my glass, smilin’ thinkin’ to myself
Man, what a picture-perfect postcard this would make of America

It’s a high school prom, it’s a Springsteen song, it’s a ride in a Chevrolet
It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids sellin’ lemonade
It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God
It’s America.

- Rodney Atkins, It’s America

Grateful to be an American!

Thank you, always, to our US Troops all over the world!

Happy 4th of July!

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

June 23, 2014 by ldecesare

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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.

I also think these tips are applicable and great to keep in mind for helping a friend who is sick herself.

 

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

Guest Post by Kerry Sheeran

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:

10. DON’T ASK, DO TELL:

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.

9.  OPEN YOUR EARS:

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.

Don’t tell them about someone else you know with a similar saga.  Such stories can’t possibly help to alleviate your friend’s sadness or stress.  Just open your ears and hear what they have to say.

A good listener is always genuinely appreciated.

8.  ASK BEFORE YOU VISIT:

Always check with your friend before “surprising” their child with a visit.  Whether it’s at the hospital or their home, it may or may not be exactly what the doctor ordered.  Sometimes visitors can brighten an otherwise dreary day.  It can be the happy distraction that a friend or child needs.  But other times it may do more harm then good.  Timing is everything  – so be sure your visit is at a time that works for everyone.  Often tests or surgery can wear a patient out, making sleep their #1 priority.

Make sure you’re coming on a day he or she is up for visiting.  And 30 – 40 minutes is more than sufficient.  Also, ONLY visit if you are in good health.  The last thing a compromised immune system needs is another virus to fight off.  Your germs aren’t welcome in the company of a child who is trying to recover, so leave them and yourself at home until you are better.  The child’s health is ALWAYS more important than a visitor “showing face.” Be sure to weigh what is best for the parents and child before executing your travel plans.

7.  FOOD IS LOVE:

Who doesn’t love a home-cooked meal? Not many people, that’s who. Unless you are told otherwise, fire up your stove-tops and throw some cookies in the oven. Everyone needs to eat. But nobody has time to cook when they are helping their child through an illness and/or hospital stay. And, by the way – in case you’ve never heard:  HOSPITAL FOOD STINKS. There, I said it. It may be tolerable for a few days, but once you hit the week-mark – it all starts tasting the same.

Cooking for your friend (or even their child) is a wonderful way to show how much you care. It does, however, require some coordination with other friends. Start a “food chain” and space out food deliveries so that your friend isn’t getting bombarded with three meals in one night, and none for seven days straight. Talk amongst yourselves when it comes to the menu. Elect one person to be the point person to run questions by regarding food allergies and delivery times.  Don’t ask your friend questions like: “What would you like me to make you?” Again, that’s putting them in the position of asking a favor of you. Coordinate with the point-person and pour your heart into your meal. Your “eaters” will taste your support and dedication in every delicious bite.

6.  HELP THEM TO ADVOCATE FOR THEIR CHILD:

Patient Advocacy is an extremely important role for any parent with a child in crisis.  It requires questions, research, lots of notes and a clear grasp of the medical situation at hand. The problem is, many times a parent can become debilitated by their own emotions, thereby leaving facts, figures and health records on the back burner.

Suggest they bring a notebook to every appointment or ask them if they’d like your assistance.  Maybe you could be a note-taker for them? Perhaps you are a doctor, nurse – or just a very organized friend with a knack for details. Offer to put together a binder with sections labeled: Calendar, Hospital Records, Diagnoses, Questions, Medications, Research and Treatments. Jot down a list of questions for them to ask their childs’s physicians or nurses, and mark important dates on their calendar.

Be their brains, temporarily, and get them on track for success with their child’s care, while being sure to respect boundaries and maintain privacy.  It’s one of the best gifts you can give a friend whose mind is probably spinning out of control as it is.

5.  KEEP THEIR OTHER KIDS OCCUPIED AND HAPPY:

Part of the stress of having a sick child to care for is a parent’s inability to give their focus and attention to their other children.  The physical and emotional distance from their “healthy” children, while unavoidable, can invite emotions of guilt and sadness from the parents, and jealousy and resentment from the kids.  Help lighten this additional burden on your friend by stepping up and using the art of distraction with their offspring.

If your family is going bowling, invite your friends’ kids along. Set up play-time or sleep-overs. Make them feel special and loved. Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing. As stressful as it may be for your friend, this is a child’s sibling who is sick. It’s just as scary – if not more – for a young one to witness their brother or sister in failing health. Couple that with absent parents, and a kid can feel downright sad. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and offer to bring them to visit their sick sibling whenever they can. Feed them, hug them and tie their shoes. Be a “stand-in” mom or dad.  Your friend will appreciate this kind of help more then you could ever know.

4.  KEEP YOUR ANXIETY TO YOURSELF:

mom with baby in NICU, sick baby, sick baby with mom, helping friends when they have a sick baby, helping when baby in NICU, how to help family with ill baby, Repeat after me:  It’s not about YOU.  Don’t say things like: “I don’t know how you’re holding it together…I’d be a total mess!” or “I’m so worried about you, this is too much to take!” or “I feel helpless.” It’s hard enough for your friend to manage his or her own worries and fears. It’s not fair to pile yours on top of them.

Be a positive force, while staying realistic about the child’s condition. It’s not a good idea to suggest things like: “Everything’s going to be fine,” or “God only gives you as much as you can handle.” The simple fact is that your friend will be forced to handle whatever comes his or her way.  The alternative would be crawling up into a ball and hiding from their worst fears – and that is precisely what you should be trying to steer them away from doing.

Encourage your friend to stay strong and take care of him/herself.  It’s your job to hold them up when they feel weak. A sick child will benefit in many ways from a parent who is keeping it together.

3.  SEND GIFT CARDS THAT PAY FOR COFFEE, GAS OR PARKING:

Flowers and balloons are a nice gesture, but a lot of hospitals don’t encourage either (because of latex and pollen allergies).  Maybe this is my über-practical side talking (I’ve been guilty of worse), but if you really want to brighten your friend’s day, pick up the tab for a day of parking, gas or coffee.  The daily expenses associated with having a child in the hospital can really add up.  Hospital bills alone can send some families into a lifetime of debt. Treating your friend to something as simple as a cup of coffee sends the message that you understand their burdens and wish for them to have some relief – if only for a few minutes.  It’s a thoughtful little gesture that shows you are thinking about them.

2.  KEEP THEIR CHILD IN YOUR PRAYERS:

It’s a simple thing that means so much.  Do not dismiss the almighty effect of positive thoughts, good vibes and prayers.  It’s the least (and, perhaps, the most) you can do for your friend and their child.

1. REACH OUT WITH THOUGHTFUL PHONE CALLS, EMAILS AND CARDS:

Don’t ever assume you are bothering someone by letting them know how much you care for them and their child. They may not be able to return your calls or write back (and DON’T take it personally if they don’t) – but they will feel your love and support in every word you write or speak.  If they can answer the phone, they will. Some people like to talk and some do not. This is their decision to make.

Whether your friend is Kerry Sheeran image, headshot Kerry Sheeran, The Marathon author, photo of Kerry Sheeran, photo of Marathon authorholding vigil at their child’s hospital bed, or care-giving at home, they are most likely extremely overwhelmed with responsibility. Give your friend a pass on social etiquette and simply know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.  I’ve never met one parent who has said: “Gee, I’m so glad nobody called or wrote while my kid was in intensive care.”

Never EVER underestimate the power of love and compassion.

About the Author:

Kerry Sheeran, author of The Marathon, a gut-wrenching memoir based on the gripping ride of a mother and father forced to seek answers to life’s biggest questions as their child fights to survive.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book benefits prenatal and neonatal research and care at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Available on Amazon.com and in local stores.  For more information visit www.kerrysheeran.com.

Find Kerry on Twitter: @kerrysheeran6
Find Kerry on Facebook
Find The Marathon on Goodreads

©Kerry Sheeran 2014, Ocean State Press

 

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8 Parenting Lessons from Frozen

June 17, 2014 by ldecesare

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

So back to the parenting lessons from Frozen …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Family first and love conquers all.

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

As parents, we need to nurture, support, and encourage kindness and caring among siblings. Take them to each others’ ball games, concerts, tennis matches, and don’t allow cruelty or meanness. Sure they will be angry with each other at times, but as parents, it’s all about how we coach them in expressing that frustration, how we ask them to talk about it face-to-face, how we create the space for them to really hear the other siblings point of view.

Teach your kiddos to stick up for one another, to respect the space, belongings, and opinions of the others. They’ll still bicker and argue, as siblings do, but they’ll build friendships that are deep. Seeing our kids being wonderful and loving together is one of the greatest rewards as a mom!

3. Be honest and foster open communication.

In Naked Parenting, two of my key principles are Naked Honesty and Naked Communication. KEY to parenting with confidence and raising kids who are resilient and respectful.drawing of Sven, reindeer from Frozen, tips from Frozen, tips for parents, how to raise confident kids, Frozen characters

If Elsa and Anna’s parents had been open and honest with Anna and had allowed Elsa to be honest about who she was, well, there would be no story, but besides that plot point, they would’ve raised more stable, happy, and well-adjusted kids. By teaching her to hide and be secretive, even within their family, their parents’ actions hurt everyone.

Along with honesty in your speech and actions, families need honesty in their communication. If you have a problem talk about it. Everyone has different ways to cope with the situations in life, every family will guide their children differently, but talk about it. Even young children can understand so much, and setting a family culture of open communication at the outset will serve you well as kids grow older. I’m so proud and grateful that our kids, even as teens, really still talk to us and come to Nick and I with their problems.

4. Help kids accept and embrace differences.

Encourage kids to accept others, no matter how unlike ourselves they are. We are all different, unique individuals and that’s a beautiful thing in life. Anna opens up easily to, well, to both guys she meets, but she was equally as comfortable with Kristoff as she was with Hans, as kind in the uncertain meeting of the trolls as she was with familiar Olaf. We all have strengths and weaknesses and, without being dishonest, we can re-frame things for our children and  help them see themselves positively no matter what their excel at or struggle with.

5. Teach personal responsibility.

Naked Responsibility is another key in Naked Parenting and a huge component in raising kids with confidence. It bugs me that Elsa doesn’t take personal responsibility for her actions. She dismisses it and tries to turn her back on the consequences of her rage, “The cold never bothered me anyway,” she sings. How selfish!

I am big on spelling it out for our kids when they’re not taking responsibility for their actions in any situation. From an early age, kids need to understand the connection between their actions and the outcomes.

6. Be able to laugh at yourself.

trolls from Frozen, what do the trolls from Frozen represent, unconditional love in parenting, unconditional love in Frozen, drawing of trolls, Kids who learn not to take themselves too seriously, kids who can laugh at themselves will fare well in life. Do you set this example? Can you take a joke or a jab? Olaf represents humor in times of trouble. He represents so much more, too, innocence, childhood joy, youth. All things that are important to remember as adults, all things valuable to see and treasure in our kids. Let them be kids, let them be playful and jolly and silly and join them!

7. People aren’t always who they say they are.

So this is a tough lesson, but kids somehow sense it and can learn it younger than you might imagine. Just this week, our youngest was telling me about the inconsistencies she recognizes with what friends say they believe and how they act.

And as a parenting lesson for teens – well, this one is loaded! Navigating friendships and high school group chats, who’s posturing for the boys (or girls) and who’s being sincere, and PLEASE don’t jump in when you barely know the guy! He could be the bad guy! (I’m also working on a big rewrite of my debut novel, working title, The Fork Book, and Hans is the definition of a fork!)

8. Sometimes the enemy is yourself.

So this one, I blame on the girls’ parents to start. The King and Queen should’ve been accepting of their daughter for who she was (see lesson #1), instead they taught her to close herself off and “conceal, don’t reveal.”

Elsa was her own enemy. She kept herself inside and didn’t trust herself which led her to not trust anyone else. Now this is hard to teach! We see the stubborn toddler digging in his heels and making everything worse for himself, we see the teen talking back and losing privileges or avoiding a chore only to earn extra ones as a result.

New and unpredictable feelings, like in puberty, can be scary and leave adolescents feeling uncertain and confused. Trying to see the driving force behind tween and teens actions, without giving them a pass for rudeness or disrespect, can allow parents to respond with empathy, compassion and in a productive instead of destructive way.

Share with us.

What parenting lessons from Frozen do you see?

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Sexting at School

June 10, 2014 by ldecesare

sexting at school, book about sexting, girls and sexting, parenting teen girls, advice for parents of teen girlsMy thanks to Benjamin Dancer for this guest post. As a mother of two teens, I am happy to learn and share this information as a means to continue to keep updated and aware. There are so many challenges and things to keep on top of with kids in our high-tech world, it’s important to stay vigilant and educated to best guide and protect our kids.

I love Benjamin’s advice in Sexting at School which is so important to remember: “She needs you to be confident in your role. … Jessica loves you, and she knows that you love her. This is universal: the teenager wants desperately to have her independence, and she is terrified of it. Jessica is not aware of the fact that she is conflicted about this. She’s just a kid. As much as she pushes you away, she wants you to be strong, to love her.”

This is a great, quick read written for parent’s of teen daughters. Download the article-length ebook for free.

SEXTING AT SCHOOL by Benjamin Dancer

I’m a high school counselor, which means I work with parents every day who could use a little grace in their lives. Because I’ve made a career out of my work with adolescents, I see as a matter of course what a parent might be seeing for the first time. This includes a long list of unfortunate life events.

As a parent, I have a lot of empathy for other parents. It’s not easy, especially when you’re going through something for the first time. My life, on the other hand, is a little bit like Groundhog Day. In a sense, I’ve never left high school. Every school year I see the same things. Different kids, but the same behavior: alcohol, drugs, tobacco, bullying, kids running away from home, pregnancy and something newer: sexting.

Take an adolescent boy with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, which by definition means he is incapable of fully contemplating notions such as consequence; take this teenager raging with sex hormones and give him a tiny device that he will carry with him everywhere, a device capable of sending messages instantly to anybody, anywhere in the world and install a camera in that device. What do you imagine might go wrong?

When you and I were teenagers, we were no less reckless, no less idiotic with our choices, no less eager to use our bodies as grownups. The difference is that our stupidity has been forgotten by history. Back then they didn’t have a massive network of servers positioned strategically across the globe to capture and record, forever, the embarrassment of our adolescent choices.

Over the last seventeen years in my work of mentoring adolescents and partnering with their parents, I’ve seen a lot of parenting styles. I’ve learned some important strategies in dealing with the situations teenagers present–strategies the average parent doesn’t have the time, through repetition, to learn. I feel confident telling you that there are some really good ideas out there. And some really bad ones, too.

Because I’m a writer, it occurred to me to write it down, what I’ve learned over the years. I’m a parent. I know it just as well as you do: we need a little grace in our lives.

Being a mother in the age of smartphones can be an unsettling experience. My article-length ebook, SEXTING AT SCHOOL, is about a teenage girl who got in trouble with the law for sexting at school. The ordeal precipitated an identity crisis for the mother, through which she learned to trust herself and to guide her daughter.

The story I tell is a composite of a dozen mothers and a dozen daughters I’ve work with over the years. After the story is told, I analyze it–elucidating what I believe to be the important parenting considerations.

Here’s the bottom line: you and I are human beings. The behavior of our kids confronts us with ourselves. So the first step, I think, in being a parent is to be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself so that you can teach your kids to be kind to themselves. Such a simple task can be so much more difficult than it sounds.

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Excerpt from SEXTING AT SCHOOL:
“The police called it child pornography. So I understood Nicole’s concern: she wanted to talk to me about her daughter. Jessica was fourteen and three years younger than her boyfriend. He had been distributing images of Jessica through his phone. Nicole was worried; she was scared, and understandably so. Jessica still thought she was in love.”

SEXTING AT SCHOOL is a FREE download at Goodreads.com
Or if you’re feeling generous, you can buy it for $0.99 at Amazon.com

About Benjamin Dancer:
benjamin dancer, author benjamin dancer, counselor Benjamin Dancer, PATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN, FIDELITYBenjamin is a high school counselor at Jefferson County Open School where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. He wrote the novels PATRIARCH RUN, IN SIGHT OF THE SUN and FIDELITY. He also writes about parenting and education. You can learn more at BenjaminDancer.com
Benjamin Dancer on Facebook
Twitter @BenjaminDancer1

Baby Names

May 15, 2014 by ldecesare

I’d like to introduce you to a new feature on my site to help you pick baby names.

When you were growing up, did you have a list of names you wanted to name your future children? Then, as you realize that you’re naming a real person, it feels more weighty! There’s so much to consider when choosing baby names and middle names and twin names …

There are thoughts of giving your child a name that sounds good out loud, that looks pretty written, that works with your last name, that is individual or classic or meaningful. And then there’s always selecting a name that doesn’t remind you or your spouse/partner of the boy who picked his nose in math class or the girl who made faces at you from the bus window. Lot’s to think about when it comes to baby names!

So give this fun tool a try – have fun with it, get others involved, and maybe you’ll uncover a name you hadn’t considered which fits just right.

I hope this will be helpful to those of you who are expecting. It’s a fun tool that helps you figure out your favorite name for your new baby! You can add your own to pick baby names or search a list, then you can invite your family and friends to play the game.

Rather than just a one-click poll, this game elicits your deeper preferences.  Click Get Started below to build and share your very own baby names poll.

I hope this new tool helps you find the perfect name for your little one!

 

Love Thy Body – Agroterra Photography

May 13, 2014 by ldecesare

Leah DeCesare, Leah DeCesare RI, Love Thy Body Leah, Agroterra Photography, My talented friend, Lisa Gendron, has launched a project entitled Love Thy Body – Women celebrate themselves in essays and portraits. Lisa invited me to participate and I’m honored to be the first featured in her series.

Click here to read my Love Thy Body essay and to see Lisa’s artistry in photography.

I bared myself in writing and physically for this project. Lisa and I spent a chilly morning together in her studio, chatting while she snapped away, making me feel like a model.

Since the photos accompanying the essay are on the Internet, I was quite selective in what I chose for Lisa to post, but all of the images are something I’ll cherish.

Lisa shared that she treasures an old photo of her own grandmother and told me that it will be so special for my children, and even my grandchildren, to have a beautiful picture of me years from now. I love that thought.

Here’s how my piece begins:

I have a what feels like a confession, but I have no apologies. I love me. I love who I am: my spirit, my mind, my heart, and yes, I love my body. Loving my body is like a guarded secret, something that seems unacceptable to admit. It’s not that I don’t see my body’s flaws, lumps and wrinkles, it’s that I embrace them and accept me wholly. Today, I give voice to the joy my body brings me; no hiding that I’m happy with who I am inside and out.

So I bare myself for you. Please read my Love Thy Body essay then come back here and leave a comment to let me know what you think!

Here’s the link to the post on Agroterra Photography.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Regrowing Lettuce – Fun Activity for Kids

April 30, 2014 by ldecesare

grow lettuce from lettuce, science project for kids, romain lettuce, using stump of lettuceA month ago, at my friend’s house, she had a row of Romain lettuce stubs floating in glasses of water on her window sill. Puzzled, she explained to me that she was regrowing lettuce.

She’d learned about it from this post about thirteen different vegetables that regrow themselves. I was intrigued and introduced this new fun activity for the kids.

I used the short tea cups (who uses those little things?) that came with an old set of dishes. We put the cut off stumps of Romain lettuce filled with about 1/2 – 2/3 water and changed the water ever two or three days.

We started to see the lettuce sprout with tiny fresh green the very next day! We were amazed that we were actually regrowing lettuce! All three kids found something to love about it,  Ali wanted to show her high school biology teacher and carted off some Romain stubs to school. (I’m not sure they made to the classroom, but her interest was there!)

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Then after another few days we saw more growth.

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At the same time, we also planted one stump into a pot of dirt since the article said the leaves would grow bigger in dirt. Sure enough, they really did grow fuller. I plan to start putting them right into my garden from spring until it’s too hot in early summer.

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Finally, after regrowing lettuce from about five ends, with a few of them having formed stems up the center, we picked our crop.

As we put the leaves into the bowl, they smelled bitter to me and I thought, “Well, it was a fun science experiment but these aren’t going to taste good.” The harvest was small but a bright, healthy green; that night, instead of individual salad bowls, we passed the serving dish and each took a few bites.

Surprisingly, despite the smell, our regrown lettuce tasted delicious! Not at all bitter, but fresh and tender.

So on we grow and regrow. Now we’ll have to experiment with other ends of lettuces.

Try regrowing lettuce and tell me your results.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Nurturing Beginnings by Debra Pascali-Bonaro

April 22, 2014 by ldecesare

Nurturing Beginnings cover, baby with wings, doula guide, books for doulas, Debra Pascali-Bonaro book, Announcing the newly updated Nurturing Beginnings, Debra Pascali-Bonaro’s terrific postpartum doula guide. I’m proud to share this with you because I worked with Debra and her team to revise and contribute to the updated version. Click here to purchase Nurturing Beginnings on Amazon.

Debra Pascali-Bonaro was first my doula trainer, then my mentor, then my friend.

We met in 2007 in New York City at a doula training, as the workshop progressed, I felt achier and sicker and on the last day, I listened to Debra lying down with my eyes closed. (It turned out I had Lyme Disease).

Then I invited Debra to teach several doula trainings I hosted and we attended conferences together. We had pajama talks, chats over glasses of wine and on long walks. We talked about issues monumental and trivial, and everything in between. We shared our families and pondered world problems with our toes in the sand and at restaurants over meals.

So when Debra asked me to be a part of this project, I jumped at the chance. I am proud to have helped to edit, contribute and update this version of Nurturing Beginnings. I am honored to be a co-author beside Debra Pascali-Bonaro.

Nurturing Beginnings takes you through the new mother’s journey and into your own as you explore what it means to be “in service of a postpartum woman and her family.” Nurturing Beginnings was one of the first comprehensive postpartum training manuals and is on the current DONA Reading List for Postpartum Doulas.

Chapters include: The Role of The Doula, Home Visiting, Providing Care with Caution: Protecting Health & Safety in The Home & Car, Honoring Postpartum Women and Teaching Self-Care, Easing Postpartum Adjustment, Appreciating Your Clients’ Cultural Diversity by Karen Salt, Supporting The Breastfeeding Mother (Donna Williams & Opal Horvat Advisors) Newborn Basics: Appearance, Behavior, and Care, Offering Support to Partners and Siblings, Unexpected Outcomes: Caring for The Family at a Time of Loss, Nurturing Yourself by

Leah DeCesare, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, DONA, doula workshop, Orgasmic Birth,

Debra and me at the DONA 20th Birthday Conference
Cancun, Mexico, July 2012

Carlita Reyes, Pursuing Professional Development and Building Your Practice plus poems by

Maureen Cannon and “A Doula Speaks” writings from the authors adding insights to the chapters.

Nurturing Beginnings has a tremendous amount of links and resources valuable to birth-workers of varying levels of experience.

Enjoy reading Nurturing Beginnings and making it a valuable tool among your birth resources.

Click here to purchase Nurturing Beginnings on Amazon.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Building The Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness

April 8, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

Destiny Africa choir, Kampala Uganda, Wasiko,

Mary Phiona, Dorothy, me and Claire

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

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

Destiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in ugandaCan you imagine villages where all the adults have died of AIDS leaving children caring for children, trying to survive. Can you visualize not having access to a doctor in an emergency, or even just for a cough, or being gravely misdiagnosed?

This fall while the kids were with us, the Kampala Children’s Centre lost a beloved child, Martine. Hers was a beautiful life lost that most certainly would have been prevented with proper and preventive medical care. Martine’s story magnifies the need for the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness, a fully equipped medical center on the KCC campus to serve the children there as well as the people in the surrounding community.

Because the need is great and urgent, Nick and I jumped up to help and together, with a great group, we’ve set the goal to raise the $70,000 needed to build this center by June this year and we would be grateful for your support in any way!

If you’re local, you can help by attending the May 15, 2014 cocktail reception at the Newport Yachting Center (it’s a gorgeous location on the water, overlooking the harbor and bridge), sharing this event with others, making a donation, contributing to the silent auction or sponsoring the event.

uganda kids, Destiny Africa, medical center in Uganda, giving tuesday,

Shivan, Mary Phiona and Claire apple picking in Rhode Island

Your gift will make a meaningful, life-changing impact on countless lives. The Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness will incorporate immunizations and communicable illness prevention, health and wellness education, an on-site lab, surgical capabilities as well as dentistry and a pharmacy.

For the children who shared our home, for those who have never left Uganda, for the bright dancers and drummers and for the mothers, babies, fathers and families in the surrounding community of Wakiso, please help us build hope – The Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness.

Thank you!
With love,
Leah

Click here to buy tickets
Click here to donate
Click here to learn more and see the beautiful website Nick built – you can contact me through the Mother’s Circle contact page or through the Kampala Hope contact page with any questions.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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Child Development Birth to Age 5

March 26, 2014 by ldecesare

Thank you to Early Childhood Education Degrees.com for inviting me to share this infographic on child development from birth to age 5.

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

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Motherhood: Juggling Eggs

March 17, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

Being grateful always centers me and brings me back to what’s important in life. Being grateful even helps me realize that if I should drop an egg or two now and then, it’s okay. Life will continue, most of the time no one will even know an egg cracked or shattered. So I pause, smile, breath.

Moms out there, who gets what I’m saying?

Read this Thank You Note to Moms, it’s one of my favorite and most popular posts, it’s the thank you note that all moms deserve to get!

Back to juggling eggs, but now with a new calm. Besides, I do like scrambled eggs.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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The Science of Raising Happy Kids – by Happify

March 12, 2014 by ldecesare

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7 Ways to Make your Own Luck

March 11, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

7 Ways to Make Your Own Luck

1. It all begins with attitude.

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

2. Do the work.

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

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

3. Make the tough choices.

We always tell the kids that almost always, the right thing to do is the harder thing to do. And so it goes, I see examples daily. As parents, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance, to give in because you can’t take any more whining and begging. If your end goal is well-behaved kids, then letting things slide or walking away from a moment needing clear discipline won’t get you there.

It’s tough to keep a child home from a birthday party because of backtalk. It’s tough to walk your child back to pick up his toys for the 28th time or to apologize for grabbing. It’s tough to stick with your “No” answer when there’s a melt down in public. They’re all tough parenting choices, but people with well-mannered kids aren’t lucky. They made those decisions and they worked and followed-through to teach their children respect and courtesy.

4. Be ready, even if you’re not ready.

three 4 leaf clovers, three clovers,  pressed flowers, pressed clovers, lucky clovers, teaching kids confidence, teaching kids to believe in themselvesPeople who make their own luck don’t wait around until they’re ready. They have their eyes open for an opportunity and accept a challenge when it comes their way. They also make their own opportunities by building contacts, relationships, and taking actions to position themselves where they want to be. Then they jump in even if they don’t feel quite “ready.”

This means, don’t wait to grab that job until you have another credential, sell them on you! Are you thinking of writing a book but don’t know where to begin? Start writing (see tip number 2).

Is someone offering to take your kids for the weekend but you have a million excuses as to why you couldn’t possibly take them up on it? Pack up and be ready for some guilt-free, self-nurturing time either alone or with your spouse. Grab opportunities. Ready or not – here they come.

5. Trust your instincts.

Do you justify away a feeling? Do you talk yourself out of believing what your heart is telling you? People who make their own luck trust their instincts. It may not always be logical or practical, but their intuition guides them – and they listen to it.

Even though parenting is a learned behavior in so many ways, our instincts play a strong role. Even for those who feel naturally inclined to the job or had good parental role models, parents still need to seek out help, advice, read books and blogs. There are times to dig deeper to find ideas for your current parenting dilemma or to spark better ways to manage everyday parenting life.

Within that context, trust yourself. Trust that you know your child best. Trust that feeling when you think your child needs extra help and be his advocate. Trust when you think he’s in trouble at school, doing drugs, being bullied, in over her head online. You get a gut feeling when you’re not on the right path in a parenting decision (see tip 3) and let that feeling direct your actions.

6. Believe in yourself.

To make your own luck you need to believe that you can. Confidence. It’s the key to being able to handle whatever comes your way. Believe that you can handle it, that you can find solutions, get support, figure it out. It doesn’t mean you need to do it alone, but believe you can put the right team in place, that you can sleuth out answers, that you can problem solve effectively.

Believe that you are a good mom. Believe that you can teach and guide your children to become happy, confident adults. When you believe in yourself, you are giving your children an incredible gift by showing them how to believe in themselves. All the self-esteem boosters in the world won’t be as effective to a child whose parent doesn’t believe in herself.

7. Be generous and giving.

Open hands can receive more than fists. Sharing, serving, giving through acts of kindness, community service, or just a thank you note help to make your own luck. The intention behind generosity must be genuine, meaning you don’t give in order to get. Call it karma, call it the Golden Rule, call it the Law of Attraction. Giving feels good, sets a positive example for kids and helps others.

Make your own luck by being generous of mind (share your knowledge), of body (spend time with the elderly, your kids, your family, volunteer), of gifts (small, large, goods, or money), of spirit (give your heart, your caring, your love, give YOU)!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Go on and make your own luck – you don’t need a leprechaun or a rainbow!

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2013

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The Fork Book is coming …

March 2, 2014 by ldecesare

The Fork Book, Fork Book logo, what is the Fork Book, a novel about guys, novel about forks, forks knives and spoons,
Have you noticed a slowing in frequency of my posts lately? I finished the first draft of my first novel in December last year and since then, I’ve been immersed in my first rewrite of The Fork Book.  I write between laundry, shuttling kids, shoveling snow, planning a fundraiser, cooking, shoveling snow, reading some great books (just finished The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – a terrific read!), vacuuming and, yup, more shoveling.

It’s amazing to me to be able to say, “I have a manuscript for my first novel.” Ever since I was little, I have wanted to be a writer. Blogging got me back into regular writing, but even back then, I meant writing books, stories, fiction! I recently found a picture from when I was eight years old, the heading question was: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I drew myself on a way-too-neat desk, writing (with a pencil!). I’ve prioritized my life to follow that life-long dream and I’m so close, I am giddy!

I want to tell you, my loyal readers, first about this new venture. I don’t know yet, about a time line for when the book will be available, it’s still a ways off, but I’ve got an editor and I’m rewriting like crazy!

Read my first blog post on Why Matthew McConaughey is a Steak Knife.

In the meantime, please subscribe on TheForkBook.com and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I will be blogging about the types of guy-utensils and you’ll be among the first to know about its launch!

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© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

 

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.

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© 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 | MothersCircle.netA 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 of 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, when I had no visitors, 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 off the alarms, the alarms sounded. 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 safely (which you can’t do without the “C”) 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.

Click to read Anna’s birth story, my VBAC birth.

© 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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Short And Well Rehearsed: Kids’ Plays and Performances

January 15, 2014 by ldecesare

kids plays, kids performances, acting kids, school plays, kids creating, shakespeare for kids, Growing up, I put on my fair share of plays and performances for my parents and babysitters. I remember one in particular that must have been torturous to my parent’s friend who was put in charge of us while they were at a funeral.

After she took us to see the newest Superman movie, her daughter, my brother, sister, and I acted out the entire movie. The ENTIRE movie, scene by scene. Now the props were exceptional, mind you, we even upended all of the dining room chairs to build the perfect recreation of a cave of icicles, but as an adult I think of what a saint Jo-Ann was to sit and watch us just play. Sure we had rehearsed it a little bit, we had some rough guidelines we all went by, but really, we were just playing and having fun while she sat captive as our audience of one.

kids in plays, tree costume, kid dressed as tree, tree in a play, playing as a tree,

Michael as a tree.

As a parent, we have experienced (and sometimes endured) a litany of our kids shows, dances, plays and performances. I do love to see their creativity and cooperation, I just don’t necessarily care to sit there while they’re creating and cooperating. There is truly great value in kids producing their own shows from their imaginations and in learning to navigate the give and take of each of the participant’s contributions and ideas.

oompa loompa, kids in plays, willy wonka play, kids acting, kids performances

Anna as an Oompa Loompa in Willy Wonka

 

I don’t remember where I read it,  it was in a magazine long ago, but it is one of those snip-its that has stuck with me and that we instituted in our family the second I learned of the idea.

The mother writing the piece said she required her kids plays and performances to be short and well-rehearsed, then she would watch them. Our kids got right on it and since then, whenever they have a show for us to see, they tell us, “It’s short and well-rehearsed!” They even monitor one another. Last week Anna had a piano/musical instrument show she prepared and Michael checked in with her before I was summoned, “Anna, is it short and well-rehearsed?”

mulan play, school play, mulan play, asian costume, asian school play, disney school play,

Ali as Mulan

The short and well-rehearsed guidelines have served us well and really have inspired the kids to take more time planning their scenes, working things out before we arrive on set and figuring out how to make transitions between actors and props. Sometimes they’re still a little tedious, but mostly, we enjoy watching the kids shows, grinning all the way through impressed by their inventiveness.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

 

mowgli in jungle book, anna as mowgli, kids in plays, mowgli costume,

Anna as Mowgli in the school play

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Goal Setting for Kids

January 9, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

The goal needs to be specific and quantifiable. For example, we could guide a child whose goal is “to be a better reader” to create a goal like, “I will be a better reader and will move to the next reading level by January 31, 2013.” That is a measurable and achievable target.

Now help them plan steps they can take daily and weekly to work toward the bigger goal. If a child’s written goal was to “get straight A’s on my next quarter report card” the daily and weekly action steps could include doing homework everyday, handing assignments in on time and studying notes each night. It’s the daily work that builds toward positive life habits and deliberately drives us toward our bigger vision.

As we welcomed in 2013, I’d been thinking about how to do better about teaching goal setting to our kids so I created a simple form (I’m a form nerd!). Mother’s Circle Goal Form At the dinner table, we talked about each kid’s goal for the month and helped each other formulate the daily steps. The kids really smart goal setting, goal setting tips, new years resolutions, life skills for kids, goal setting form,jumped on board, I hope we can stick to it and do this every month. I think the “debriefing” and discussions at the end of the month about the process of aiming for a goal will be equally (or more) valuable than the goal itself.

Even if a goal isn’t achieved on time or completely, by doing this exercise, by setting intentions and being accountable even just within your family, your kids (and you) will be closer to accomplishing that goal than they would’ve been without having put the energy and focus on it!

Honestly, falling short teaches many life lessons in itself. Working through feelings like regret, disappointment and set backs in a loving, nurturing setting can help kids to manage those emotions as they grow up and can also serve to be a motivator.

Goal setting is a life skill, a self improvement tool, a means of self reflection and self discipline.

There is so much kids are learning on the way toward their goals that getting there is only part of the victory!

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2013

Quotes on Goals:
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”
― Karen Lamb

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
― Bruce Lee

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
― Michelangelo Buonarroti

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.”
― Henry David Thoreau

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
― C.S. Lewis

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
― Louisa May Alcott

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”
― Coco Chanel

2014 Reasons to be Grateful

January 1, 2014 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

I’m thankful for:
Friends
The 500 kids of the Destiny Africa Choir and at the Kampala Children’s Centre
Our church and the people thereDestiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in uganda
Newtown, my hometown
Books – I’m sure I have over 2014 books to be thankful for!
Tennis
Yoga
Music
My daughters’ voices, ukelele and piano
Heat in the winter
Pools, beaches and air conditioning in the summer
Sunsets
Good sleep
Nutritious foods
Enough food
Memories
Past vacations
Future vacations
Time with my familyhappy kids with sunflowers
My flower gardens
My vegetable garden
My photo albums and photo books and pictures on our walls
Yup, I’m going to say it, my phone, I really am thankful for how my phone helps me be efficient
While we’re at it, my computer, for writing, connecting and learning
Time to write
Finished pages in my book (I’m finally going back to my childhood dream to be a writer)
The support of family, friends, and my writing coach in my writing
Electricity
Prayers
Midwives, doctors, surgeons
People who can do things that I can’t (so this one alone exceeds the 2014 reasons to be grateful!)
Modern Family – hilarious show!
Cameras
Dancing!

If you’re keeping track, we’re up to 923 reasons to be grateful. For things big and small, important and less so, there are so very many things to be thankful for:

The United States armed services – Thank you! Thank you! Thank you to our troops and their families who sacrifice so much for us and our freedoms. (We have 1,429,995 active personnel and 850,880 reserve personnel  – that’s 2,280,875 reasons to be grateful. I’ll just give myself an even 500 to symbolize all of our troops and their families).
Our home
Our yard
Piper, our pet cockatiel
Our furniture, rugs, lamps, appliances
Washing machine and dryergirl doing handstand on beach, world's best mom, world's okayest mom, activities with kids, being a good mom
Happy perfume
Hair dryer
Toothpaste! I love to brush my teeth!
Cover-up for the hereditary, permanent dark circles under my eyes
Theater
Traveling
My new car
My office, my husband built this small sanctuary, my own little corner of the house
New Old Friends
Fruit, vegetables and especially avocados
Dark chocolate
Pretty stationery
Laughing, good deep belly laughing with tears running from my eyes
Scarves, mittens and winter boots
All 26 letters of the alphabet – really, I am very thankful for vowels!
Living in the United States
Airplanes and pilots

Are you still with me? Nick thinks no one will read this list – at least not this far. If you’re still reading – I’m thankful for you! That makes 1479 reasons to be grateful. 535 to go!

The thankfulness continues:

Colors – yellows and greens, pinks, oranges and blues
Teaching childbirth education classes
Over 150 doula clients
Doulas of Rhode Island
Zac Brown Band – Love my country music – I’m thankful for that, too.
Music for Newtown
The American Flag and the Pledge of Allegianceflower wreath, salt bowl, blessing way, green bowl, wreath for hair, making hair wreath, flowers in bowl
Money – to provide for our family, to access things we need and want, and to give to others
Our neighbors and neighborhood
Our former home: Sparta, NJ
44 Birthdays - each year is another gift
3 Times being pregnant
3 Births, each one beautiful and unique giving us the best thing in life
3 Houses Nick and I have owned
21 years with Nick
19 1/2 years married
My college degree, and all 3 of my majors
Speaking French
Mary and Wayne
50 United States
My blog readers – that, too, in itself exceeds 2014 – thank you!
Freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition, religion
Freedom to live or travel anywhere in the U.S., to work at any job for which we can qualify
Freedom to marry and raise a family, to receive an education
Freedom to join a political party or other legal groups
Flowers
Firefighters, police officers and first responders to emergencies
Central vacuuming
Spring and the buds and robins that tell me it’s coming
Acupuncture, chiropractic and physical therapy
Medications that do their job when needed
Today
Yesterday
Tomorrows – may there be many
The clothes and shoes in my closet – that should finish this list off neatly
My winter coats and summer sandals
Skiing, skating, sailingseagrass
Indoor plumbing
Hot water
A cup of tea with honey
Inspirational quotes
Blank books for writing
Kappa Kappa Gamma
GLP
20 Candles in the windows at Christmastime
42 All of my children’s teachers (okay, fine, I did leave one out)
Librarians
Hammocks
Green grass and its fresh cut smell
Texting – it keeps my teenagers close
100 minutes of a body strengthening, mind clearing yoga class

And the final 14 reasons to be grateful:

14. Hugs and kisses from my kidsseashells
13. Hugs and kisses from Nick
12. Snuggle time
11. Massages – Mmmm Hmmm!
10. Reading together time
9. Math kisses
8. Bedtime prayers
7. Grace at dinner time
6. Piper saying, “I love you,” and “Good birdie, Piper”
5. Receiving a handwritten letter in the mail
4. Sending a handwritten letter and telling someone I’m thinking of them
3. Thoughts of me on my birthday
2. My wedding and engagement rings and all they represent
1. YOU! Thanks for reading to the end!

That makes 2014 Reasons to be Grateful!
Add your own in the comments!
Happy New Year!

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2014

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My Christmas Binder

December 20, 2013 by ldecesare

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

Guest Post by Danielle Salisbury, Find Danielle on Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

to do list for Christmas, ideas for Christmas, cranberry vinegar, Christmas crafts, cooking with kids, handwritten list, My family appreciates the binder because every year I ask them what they liked and didn’t like, and I make a note of it in the binder. One very important and useful tool has been to talk with my kids about what traditions they want to do this year. There are so many wonderful and special activities and traditions associated with the holiday that you just can’t possibly do them all. For example, I will ask them to name their top three (and sometimes we browse through the list) and then we decide what we realistically have time for.

Can we bake several batches of different Christmas cookies AND gingerbread men AND decorate a gingerbread house – no, of course not. So they have to decide on one and they are pretty happy about it. Some traditions remain year after year such as putting out a plate of cookies for Santa and sprinkling reindeer food on the lawn.

Martha Stewart gives us the inspiration for beautiful things but if you’re like most of us, it’s hard to achieve that level of haute crafting. Martha sets the highest bar for cooking, decorating, crafts, and living and frankly, it’s not a realistic bar to reach. Now that there are a million Martha clones out there and they are all on Pinterest, we have even more to choose from!Christmas to do list, organizing yourself, Christmas list, Christmas cards, decorating for Christmas, baking for Christmas, Martha Stewart Christmas crafts, homemade jams,

My belief is that if you see something that you connect with whether it be online or in a magazine, and you safely stash it away in your special place (in this case it’s a binder) then you release yourself from the pressure to do it all. You can simply choose from the menu of options each year and switch things up a bit. I think that it gives you the feeling that what you are doing is enough, and helps you accept that you simply cannot do all that is out there to do.

Children are always looking at what other families are doing and comparing it to their own. And I believe that by empowering my children with choices, it helps them learn to accept that we can’t do everything that everybody does, we select the activities and traditions that mean the most to us, for our family. Since I have started this tradition of “choosing” our traditions they never complain about what we are NOT doing, and we can celebrate what we ARE doing.

table settings, Christmas table ideas, setting a table, pinterest, seven fishes, Italian feast of seven fishes, Christmas eve in Italy, recipes for Christmas,The Christmas binder (or any holiday binder) is one of those things that may appear to be a big job but it’s really very simple. In fact, if you decided right now to start a Christmas Binder, and all you did was buy the binder, label it and maybe put in some plastic page protectors and blank paper – in no time at all you would find yourself filling it.

Of course if you put it away in a drawer then this won’t happen. You need to leave it out and handy during the holiday season. Invite your family to get involved and write their own notes and drawings. Little by little, ideas start to come to you, magazine pages get ripped out, and before you know it – you will have a catalog of memories and inspiration over the years.

© Leah DeCesare 2012

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

December 19, 2013 by ldecesare

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. In the news today, Real Pot Use Up Among Teens.

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

Sign #1

Teens become secretive: If you ask them how their day was they often reply with one word answers. Teens may not want you to even know where they have been.

Sign #2

Teen marijuana substance abuse users start hanging out more outside of the home: Your teen, who was once a fixture in the household is never home anymore. He or she always has something to do outside of the house and they provide little detail about where they are going.

Sign #3

Teens do less with the family: The days of having your teen attend any of your popular family outings like camping trips, short vacations, or reunions are now a distant memory.
Some teens spend less time with their family when they use marijuana.

Sign #4

Aloof: If they do spend time with the family, there’s a kind of a strangeness to them. They become distant and less interested in other members of the family.

Sign #5

Unclean bedrooms: Their rooms aren’t being kept up anymore. A once tidy room is now a pig stye. Clothes are strewn all over the floor, beds are no longer made on a regular basis or perhaps not at all.

Sign #6

They’re not as meticulous about the way they look: Their clothes are disheveled and dirty. They shower less often and little things like their cuticles are not maintained.

Sign #7

They use eye drops like Visine to take the red out of their eyes: If you find a bottle of eye drops in your teens clothes while doing the laundry, you have real cause for concern. Healthy teens don’t often need eye strain medication.

Sign #8

You find drug paraphernalia in their room: Items in the form of rolling papers, pipes, a bong, roach clips are common-place when your teen is smoking marijuana. Drug paraphernalia is a pretty good indicator of a problem, and once teens acquire drug taking accessories, you can be sure they’ve passed the initial experimentation stage of use. They are not holding these things for friends.
Teens often hide drug paraphernalia in their room.

Sign #9

A sudden drop in academic performance: If your teen’s grades have begun to slip, there is a chance it is related to marijuana use. Research has shown much about marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, learning, and motivation.

Sign #10

Change in friends: When long-time friends of your teen, those who share the same values such as family and school, are seen less frequently and new ones, who look like trouble finds them easily, come into the picture, this may be a tell tale sign.

What can parents do if some or all of these signs of teen marijuana addiction match your child?

Parents should not be afraid to check their teen’s knapsacks or any other personal belongings that can reveal marijuana use. The same goes for the computer. A spot check of your teen’s social media profiles like Facebook or Instagram are perfectly acceptable. This applies to emails as well.

If all else fails and your child has ventured down a dangerous path that appears to be irreversible, it may be time to start searching for teen marijuana rehabs.

About Scott Brand:

Scott Brand works in the outreach department of Inspirations for Youth, one the nation’s leading Teen Adolescent Addiction Treatment Centers. He spends his time talking to the teens about their inspirational stories of recovery. He also performs the same duties for the Cove Center of Recovery.
In the next few months, Inspirations for Youth and Families will be reporting on the early warning signs of teen drug abuse. Each week they will explore a different drug that is currently being abused by teens and provide parents with helpful information which may assist them in detecting potential red flags.

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2013

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Christmas Tree Trunks

December 16, 2013 by ldecesare

what to do with Christmas tree trunks, fresh cut on tree, fresh cut christmas tree, traditions with Christmas tree, christmas tree memories, ideas for christmas tree trunksWe began collecting a fresh cut from our Christmas tree trunks the year Ali, our first daughter, was born. This is one of my very favorite Christmas traditions each year. I save the tree trunk disk until after Christmas when I write something special about that year’s holiday celebration.

The dates of each of my children’s and nephews’ first Christmases and the years of my grandparent’s last ones are marked on the tree trunks. The year it snowed two feet and the years we moved and were expecting babies are noted on others. One tree trunk slice commemorates the Christmas Eve that we were visited by the Fire Department. (It was just broiled asparagus but those guys tore themselves away from “A Christmas Story” to check it out and we enjoyed a cheerful visit.)

tree trunk tradition, writing on Christmas trees, scrooge Christmases past, ideas for Christmas traditions, new baby Christmas tradition, live christmas trees, allergic to Christmas treesSome tree trunk pieces are skinny, others so wide I could write a long story on it. Every year, as we unpack the decorations, the basket that holds our Christmas tree trunks is always poured over and cherished. The kids lay them out, read each one and fondly remember Christmases past, where we were, and highlighted moments.

The first year we moved to Rhode Island, I had the fantastic idea of cutting down a pine tree from our yard, it was too large for it’s spot against the patio. It was not only efficient, the tree had to come down, but also sentimental. I thought how special it would be to have our first Christmas tree in our new home be from our own yard, and besides, then it’s disposal will be taken care of by the town’s tree removal in January – a perfect and practical plan!

elves with tree stumps, tree stump tradition, Christmas tree cuttings, elfmagic.com, silly elves, crispin,

Elves playing with the tree trunk cuttings

Nick assured me the tree was way too big to be our tree and wanted to cut just the top off, I hemmed and hawed and insisted and finally, in the tree went. It was way too big.

Here it is in print, “Honey, you were right!”

It had to be trimmed down several times. Then it fell over - twice! It was the very first year Nick remembered to water the tree right away, so the water and pine needles and a nest of some kind of bugs all came crashing down (did I mention twice?!)

So I have my Christmas tree trunk wedge from a tree in our yard on our first Rhode Island Christmas along with all the (now funny) stories that go along with that tree.

This year’s tree stump sits in the basket, blank, waiting for our memories to be imprinted upon it. I’ve seen people make tree ornaments from their old Christmas tree trunks, you could also make coasters, wreaths, or personalized gifts. What creative ideas have you used or seen with Christmas tree trunks?Christmas tree stumps, writing on trees, saving Christmas trees, real Christmas tree traditions, tree stumps, elves with tree stumps©Copyright Leah DeCesare 2012

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Remembering Newtown

December 14, 2013 by ldecesare

I’ve been remembering Newtown all year. Newtown is my hometown, it is part of who I am and is one of my favorite places in the world.

I am praying for Newtown and holding the families, the residents, the first responders close to my heart. Today, I’m remembering Newtown. All of Newtown and those who have also called Newtown home. Returning this summer for an anniversary party and again for my class reunion, reaffirmed for me what a special place I grew up in, what an incredible town it is.

Join me in remembering and praying for the lost lives and the families of:

Charlotte Bacon
Daniel Barden
Rachel Davino
Olivia Engel
Josephine Gay
Ana M. Marquez-Greene
Dylan Hockley
Dawn Hocksprung
Madeleine F. Hsu
Catherine V. Hubbard
Chase Kowalski
Jesse Lewis
James Mattioli
Grace McDonnell
AnneMarie Murphy
Emilie Parker
Jack Pinto
Noah Pozner
Caroline Previdi
Jessica Rekos
Avielle Richman
Lauren Russeau
Mary Sherlach
Victoria Soto
Benjamin Wheeler
Allison N. Wyatt

painting of Newtown, praying for Newtown, growing up in Newtown, blue and gold, Castle Hill Rd Newtown, names of Sandy Hook vicitims

Watercolor Painting of Newtown by Jane Bogdan of Newtown, CT

Christmas Elves

December 9, 2013 by ldecesare

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

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

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

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

utility closet mess, cleaning supplies all over, elfs make a mess, christmas house mess, organizing for christmas

The elves took everything out of our cleaning closet, it DID need a purge and reorganization!

A couple of years ago, we were at a friend’s home just before Christmas, I knew she had an elf for each of her boys and I wondered if my children would notice. As we entered, the elves hung from the door frame and they noticed. That evening, only two days before Christmas, Michael took me aside and whispered that he wanted to ask Santa to send two girl elves for his sisters. He wrote a note secretly to which Santa replied that it was too close to Christmas and he needed every elf in his workshop, but he’d try to send the elves after Christmas. My son’s sensitivity and thoughtfulness, the pureness of his request was heartwarming, it embodied the spirit of Christmas. He wanted to give his sisters happiness. I hurriedly sat down at my computer. elves in toilet paper, elf mess, elf on the shelf ideas, Christmas elves, toilet paper prank, TP,

Two days after Christmas, Crispin returned and brought Jilly and Zibby. The three rascals emptied the pantry and made castles out of the cans and stacked towers of the boxes. Somehow, the elves know just what cabinet, draw or closet could use some attention, then they make a dramatic mess of it forcing me to organize it as I clean up after these playful elves.

ceiling fan, elves on a fan, elf tricks, elf hats and costumes, elves hanging by toes, green elf pants,The elves leave poems and notes and answer questions, one year they left early explaining that they didn’t like the bickering going on, once the kids pulled it together to get along, the elves returned and went back to their naughty ways.

Our elf adventures have grown and now they visit for each child’s birthday for about a week. It’s expected, anticipated and the elves are thought about throughout the year. Anna will lament, “I miss Crispin, Jilly and Zibby.” Or they’ll scheme and ask in August if they can leave out crackers and water so they’ll visit.

 

Some elfin tips:

elves with tree stumps, tree stump tradition, Christmas tree cuttings, elfmagic.com, silly elves, crispin,

The elves playing with the cuts from each of our Christmas trees.

  • Don’t let your children bring them to school, the other parents will angrily call you to find out how to get an elf to arrive that night.
  • Unless you have a child’s birthday in early December, like we do, don’t have them arrive too early in the month, it does take creative energy each night.
  • While the kids love to snuggle and sleep with their elves, it’s much easier to remember and to retrieve the little guys if your kids tuck them into their sleeping bags, leave them their food and sprinkle them with snow flakes before they go to bed.
  • Look online for some tricky ideas. Other sites: Complicated Mama, Blossom Bunkhouse

Some of our favorites:

  • When the elves cleaned up the whole play room, emptied out the entire DVD collection and left the new movie, “Elf” and the elves were discovered sitting lined up in front of the TV waiting to watch it.

    birthday girl hat, elf on birthday, birthday princess hat, Christmas elves ideas, birthday traditions, december birthday ideas, december birthday parties, girl hugging elf

    A birthday elf visit

  • The elves love to hang out in the fridge since they love the cold, it reminds them of home.
  • We’ve found the elves in the car ready to go out, dangling toe-to-toe from the ceiling fan, at the bottom of a pile of clean laundry that needed to be put away (the kids find them when they’ve done their chores!), and on the bird cage keeping our pet cockatiel company!
  • This year’s favorites were them lined up like a train in the dish washer (the child who put their cereal bowl away after breakfast was the lucky “finder!”) and the morning they were found peeking out of the cereal boxes.

 

 

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2012

elves in cereal, elves peeking out, Christmas elves, Elf Magic, magic elves, ideas for Christmas elves, playing with elves, fun with elves,

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Tips For Safe Christmas Decorating

December 5, 2013 by ldecesare

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!

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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 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.

It’s also recommended that you do not string more than three incandescent light strings together and plug outdoor electric lights into ground-fault circuit interrupters.

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Educate Yourself to Keep Your Family Safe

Take a moment to read the infographics included here and to read the resources on the Electrical Safety Foundation International website.

One thing you learn may be the key to keeping your family and home safe, and share this information with friends, too! If you see a neighbor decorating an outdoor tree that is touching a power line, go ahead an let him know it’s not safe, or if you’re at a party and see an open candle near a Christmas tree, blow it out and let the hosts know why. I hope you learned something helpful and wish you Happy Safe Christmas Decorating!

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© Leah DeCesare 2013

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GivingTuesday

December 3, 2013 by ldecesare

GivingTuesday is all about putting giving first.
When we give with a full heart we can change the world.
How will you participate in #GivingTuesday?

#givingtuesday, charities to give to, best charities, places to give, giving tuesday, what is giving tuesdayWhile avoiding all crazy lines, (we turned right around if there was anything ridiculous), I did my share of weekend gift shopping. My favorite moment was when Ali and I were leaving a store, both of us with bags in our hands. With a big grin, she turned to me and said, “I love this feeling. These are gifts I bought with my own money.” Giving in itself gives the giver a boost of happiness. Of course, that’s not why we give, but it’s a wonderful side effect.

On this #GivingTuesday, here are a few of my favorite organizations:

The Children’s Center for Hope and Wellness

In October, three beautiful girls and a pastor from Uganda moved into our home for a week and into our hearts for a lifetime.

Just like every other host family and all the people who see these kids perform across New England as a part of Destiny Africa Children’s Choir, these kids touch people to their core. Their needs in Uganda are great. While the choir was here touring, back home, a young girl died from a preventable illness. Martine would still be alive today with proper medical care and her story brings a greater urgency to the need to build The Hope Centre.

Destiny Africa, The Children's Centre for Hope and Wellness, KCC, Uganda home for orphans, giving tuesday, medical center in ugandaLast night, I hosted a group of women who are joining together in a huge fundraising effort to build a much needed medical center for the orphans who live at the Kampala Children’s Centre, for the over 300 local children who attend school there and for people in the community at large.

Help us build The Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness and make an incredible impact. They can start building with just $20,000 and for only $70,000, it will be built and functioning – what Destiny Africa, Kampala Children's Center, hosting a family from Ugandawould that take in the U.S.? This project is dear to my heart and we are determined to make this happen!

Please consider giving to save precious lives. The website for the Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness will be up in a week or so, in the meantime, you can contribute by PayPal at the Kampala Children’s Center, mark your donation for the medical center. Every single dollar matters. THANK YOU!

 Clean Birth.Org

CleanBirth.org is an organization that speaks to me, both in my work as a doula and birth educator and because of my affection for Southeast Asia.

CleanBirth.org “works to prevent the needless deaths of mothers and babies in Laos, where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. In the villages where we work, women give birth alone in the clean birth logo, cleanbirth.org, cleanbirth kits, birth in laos, forest. To make birth safer, together with Our Village Association (OVA), a Lao non-profit, CleanBirth.org” does the following:

1. Provides Clean Birth Kits

2. Trains nurses to distribute Clean Birth Kits

3. Trains nurses to train CleanBirth Village Volunteers

4. Funds CleanBirth Village Volunteer Trainings

A donation of only $5 saves two lives – $50 saves twenty lives! Donate to CleanBirth.org here.

Camp Southern Ground

Camp Southern Ground describes #GivingTuesday as “a day meant to remind us all that giving means much more than the exchange of presents; it means setting aside at least one day a year to support the worthy causes that mean the most to us.”

Camp Southern Ground, Zac Brown's camp, non profit camps, I’ve become a country music convert in the last decade, I love the stories they tell and how many speak of gratitude and living in the present. Zac Brown Band is my tippy top favorite among country groups. I love him for his music and now for his vision of Camp Southern Ground. [Read here about my special one to one time with Ali which we kicked off with a Zac Brown Band concert.]

Camp Southern Ground’s mission is “to operate a camp to allow children to overcome academic, social and emotional difficulties so they may reach their full potential by providing them with the opportunity and tools necessary to achieve excellence in all facets of their lives.”

We all know kids, even our own, who struggle in school or who just need that extra boost of confidence to find their way. Camp Southern Ground will provide kids with typical and special needs, ages 7-17, with a positive, enriching camping experience allowing them to feel success.

“The camp will be a place for children of diverse abilities, socio-economic backgrounds, races and religions to come together to learn life skills and encourage personal growth in a positive, healthy and organic environment. Our programs will build confidence through activities designed to allow children to overcome obstacles and grow in their capabilities, while incorporating advanced programs of superior nutrition and physical exercise.” Donate to Camp Southern Ground.

 KOTO – Know One Teach One

koto hanoi, hanoi restaurant, paper lanterns, white paper lanterns, globe lightsKOTO stands for Know One Teach One. It was founded by Jimmy Pham in 2000 to train Vietnamese street kids in English, hospitality and life skills giving them valuable experience to find jobs and improve their lives. The two-year program is free for the trainees to attend.

A quote from Jimmy Pham on the KOTO menu reads: “I knew the youths needed skills and jobs to earn a living to have a better life and from this KOTO was born.”

Creating a pathway for self-sufficiency and personal growth is a gift to koto new logo, koto restaurant, KOTO Vietnam, KOTO training, Jimmy Pham,these kids. The KOTO model builds pride, confidence and allows these kids to see value in themselves.

If you’d like to support this program, you can sponsor a trainee, buy a brick or donate to KOTO here.

Make #GivingTuesday more important than Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Wherever you send your resources, feel good about your gift, it’s likely to be one of the best presents you give all season.

© Copyright 2013 Leah DeCesare

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2013 by ldecesare

Happy Thanksgiving from Mother’s Circle

Wishing you a restful day surrounded by your family, friends, and loved ones.

I am thankful for so much, and on my gratitude list is you, my readers.
Many blessings to you today and throughout the year!
xo Leah

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Chanukah, However You Spell It

November 26, 2013 by ldecesare

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

Guest Post by Melissa Chernick

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

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

In our house, Chanukah was a fun holiday typically celebrated with just my immediate family. We had so much family nearby who we saw on a regular basis that this little holiday was our own!

My brothers and I anxiously awaited our father’s return home from work each night, lit the candles and ripped open presents, hoping for something special. To me, Chanukah means spending time with family, lighting candles and reflecting about what it means to be Jewish. It’s our time to be together, just enjoy ourselves and create memories.

We usually ate latkes only on the first night and not again during the holiday. They were so labor intensive and I menorah craft, candy menorah, child's menorah, colorful menorah, ideas to celebrate hanukkah, hanukkah crafts, family traditions, don’t think my mother enjoyed the mess, now that I’m a mother I can totally relate! Since having a family of my own and living a distance from other family members, we have created our own Chanukah traditions.

Instead of the smaller, nuclear family customs of my childhood, we like to have friends who are both Jewish and non-Jewish come over and celebrate our holiday with us. We enjoy teaching people who do not share our traditions in addition to spending time with people who do.

I like to serve potato latkes and donuts along with a meal to help incorporate the story of the oil unexpectedly lasting so long. Echoing my mother’s thoughts and feelings about making messy latkes I only do it once during the eight days. I didn’t grow up eating donuts on Chanukah, although many people did. Since moving to Rhode Island and discovering Allie’s Donuts 5 years ago we have since incorporated that into our holiday repertoire.

menorah with donut, donuts for hanukkah, Allie's donuts RI, menorah with donuts, chanukah menorah donuts, jelly donut cut open, jewish traditions, This year since we have moved back to New York we will continue our tradition of lighting candles with friends but we will also be celebrating with family. As our extended family continues to expand, this year will be a large, loud and festive celebration! Being with my brothers will bring back memories of youthful Chanukah festivities and seeing cousins and their families will help to create new traditions. I will have to find a replacement for Allie’s in our new home town.

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