Category Archives: Inspire

Kids understand more than we think

“Why do we have belly buttons?”

My six-year-old asked me, while staring down at his own naval during bathtime.

I explained to him that his belly button is the spot where his umbilical cord connected him to my placenta, which is how he got nutrients inside the womb. I told him how after babies are born, the umbilical cord is cut and what’s left is the belly button.

I went on to talk about how his younger brother’s umbilical cord might not have been cut properly, which is why he got sick when he was born.

We talked about how he had to go to the hospital, and my six-year-old commented on how lucky his brother was to have good doctors working on him, and I agreed.

My son followed up by asking me if doctors still had to help patients even if they didn’t have money. I explained how doctors have a sort of “code” which demands they care for anyone, no matter the circumstances. I told him that afterwards, the hospital or doctor’s office sends a bill saying what is owed to the patient or the patient’s family.

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We talked about how our family fortunate to have the means to pay for his brother’s procedures and NICU stay, and to be financially well enough to afford quality healthcare for our family.

I told my son that some families aren’t so fortunate, and many have to do things like sell their homes, or ask others for help because their medical bills are too expensive.

My son looked at me and asked with the innocence of a child, “Why can’t it just be free?”

I could have just said, “I wish, or, I don’t know,” but I believe our children deserve honest, thoughtful answers. Continue reading

Two dads are on a mission to “solve” childhood cancer

I was maybe eleven or twelve years old, when I first knew of a parent to lose a child to cancer. A family in my community had a little girl who was very ill. I knew she had cancer, but not what kind. I understood she was suffering, and her parents were working hard to care for her.

That little girl passed away, and I remember seeing her father in the days, weeks, months and even years after; always amazed by how positive he always remained. At my age, I couldn’t comprehend the depth of child loss, the unique experience of caring for a child with cancer, or how grief manifests itself in many ways.

I wish I could say that little girl would be the last time I knew of a child lost to cancer, but year after year, a family I know — whether from my “real life” or online community — has to bear the unbearable and mourn the death of a child to this horrible disease.

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What inspires me most about so many of these families is how even in the face of unspeakable grief they find hope and the will to seek out ways to help others dealing with a child’s cancer diagnosis. As a parent, I can say, most of us would do almost anything for our children, and it is no surprise parents are often at the forefront of movements to better our world.

Parents like John London and Scott Kennedy, the co-founders of Solving Kids’ Cancer.

Inspired by their children Penelope (John’s daughter) and Hazen (Scott’s son), who even while dealing with their own illness, remained hopeful other kids wouldn’t have to suffer, John and Scott came together in 2007 to form a foundation dedicated to addressing the unique issues of childhood cancer. Continue reading

Finding magic outside the “Magic Kingdom”

Every few months or so, I mull over the idea of planning a family trip to Disney World. I go online, research the best hotels, compare vacation packages and express my interest in Disney to a chorus of responses from friends who are Disney vacation planners, or know people who are Disney vacation planners.

The process overwhelms me, as I am confronted with the reality of how difficult — and expensive — a Disney World trip can be for families, not to mention how hard visiting the Happiest Place On Earth is for anyone traveling outside a very narrow selection of dates.

So, I table my plans and think, maybe another time, all the while wondering if I am depriving my children of some magical experience they will only appreciate when they are young.

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It doesn’t help that my six-year-old has never been that into Disney or most other “fantasy.” I swear the kid was basically born an adult.

My younger son, however, loves princesses and make believe and all things magical.

He is four, which means soon, he too will have no interest in childhood fantasies.

I often worry I’m depriving him of the opportunity to have his dreams come true.

But, then I think about how magic can come from anywhere.

I am reminded simple joys can mean the world to a child.

On a family trip to Mystic, Conn., we decided to drive about 25 minutes away to watch the Connecticut Tigers, a minor-league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Continue reading

Dear parent about to send your baby off to Kindergarten

I sometimes have trouble believing nearly two years has passed since I sent my oldest off to Kindergarten.

I remember doing my very best to hide my nerves to keep my son from picking up on my anxiety and becoming worried himself.

I had no idea what the year would bring, and my mind buzzed with questions.

Will he adapt to the school environment?

Will he get along with his classmates?

Will he like his teacher?

Will he behave?

Will he meet expectations?

With each school day attended, a little bit of my worry eased. Not just my son, but my husband and I, became more acclimated to school life.

We learned along with him.

We got through the struggles with him.

And, sure enough, our son finished Kindergarten and went on to have an excellent year in first grade.

Your kids will get there, too.

While on their journey, here’s some things which may help.

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Continue reading

Foundation seeks to make college a reality for deserving youth

My parents drove me up to my dorm, the family car stuffed with clothes, bedding and more to get me through the coming year. I was filled with excitement and a little bit of fear, as I was about to embark on my collegiate journey.

I had the typical freshmen concerns:

Will I like my roommate?

Will my classes be hard?

Will I have a good time?

One question, I never had to ask, however was:

Will I be able to afford my education.

I am privileged to have had my entire college education paid for by my parents. Not once in my four years as a student did I ever have to worry about where I would find money for books, room and board, or even food. I was fortunate. More fortunate than many of my peers.

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Knowing my financial situation was always stable, I was better able to focus on my studies and handle the other pressures of college life.

But, my family support wasn’t limited to money, I also had parents, who, were actively invested in ensuring myself and my two siblings made it through school and earned our degrees.

They knew getting through college is not a task easily accomplished without help. Continue reading

What YouTube means for representation

When he was about three years old, my now six-year-old son, discovered YouTube. Like many toddlers and preschoolers, my child would stare in awe as other children un-boxed and played with toys — many of which we had in our very own home, sitting un-played with on a shelf near by.

Maybe it was the comfort of hearing another child’s voice in the home, or the thrill of watching a kid get a new toy, but for whatever reason, my kid just ate this stuff up.

Above all, one YouTube kid kept making his way onto our screen.

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Ryan.

Ryan, the now eight-year-old star of the behemoth YouTube channel, Ryan ToysReview, began making videos with his parents in 2015, and has grown into what may be the biggest child star of my kids’ generation.

What Macaulay Culkin was to the 90s, Ryan is to this decade.

My older son has mostly moved on to watching gamers, but my four-year-old has found his own joy in watching Ryan’s channel.

And, I know that grinds a lot of gears.

Parents, including myself, often disgruntling watched our children stare fascinated at Ryan, all the while calculating in our heads all the money he and his family earn from every single video.

I thought of how this poor child was being exploited, for some sort of bastardization of entertainment. This wasn’t acting, this wasn’t a skill.

Any parent with a cellphone camera could do this.

But, one moment changed my view on Ryan and his YouTube fame. Continue reading

Mystic Aquarium is a wonder of aquatic life

My six-year-old loves learning about sharks, and I’m almost certain we have read every library book available on these fascinating sea creatures. When our family had the opportunity to visit Mystic Aquarium this summer, I was eager for him, and his brother, to see some sharks and other marine life up close.

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From the time we walked in, our family was impressed by the size of the aquarium. The facility boasts plenty of outdoor and indoor exhibits — be prepared to do a lot of walking — and remember with small children, it can be hard to visit everything, so focus on what interests you.

Continue reading

Growing a love for gardening one community at a time

I was volunteering in my son’s classroom, when his teacher asked me help a few students do some weeding in the school garden. She handed me an example of what to look for, and I thanked her, as I am as far from a “green thumb” as one can get.

My shortcomings in gardening mattered little, as the children themselves schooled me on the finer points of tending to their little plot of various flowers and produce. I thought about how fortunate they were to be part of a educational community that values the importance of learning where our food comes from and teaching future generations to care for and respect the Earth.

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The benefits of spending time outdoors working in the soil are evident, and one Chicago-based woman has made it her mission to show the world that anyone can be a gardener — no matter where they live or their level of experience. Researching for this blog has even started to convince me I might have a shot!

Natasha Nicholes, saw the empty plots of land in her Chicago neighborhood as opportunities. From one small, West Pullman community garden plot started in 2016, the We Sow We Grow project was born. Today, Nicholes spreads her enthusiasm about gardening beyond the reaches of Illinois and has indeed launched a movement to make gardeners out of all of us. Continue reading

It’s time to stop ‘boot-strapping’ parenthood

Scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I came across a video featuring a well-known motivational speaker, who this person is doesn’t matter, as the message shared is pretty much the same for the lot of them:

“I worked hard, came from nothing, did this all on my own, became successful, and you can too, if you just tried.”

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At face value, this is an encouraging sentiment, and provides us with that “can-do” attitude we need to achieve our dreams.

Yet. when we dig deeper, we find that success is never achieved in an isolated vacuum, and this message is dangerous no matter what you are pursuing, but it is especially true for parents — women and mothers in particular — who are taught we most work harder, better and smarter, with little or no help from society at large, because this is the American way.

Suck it up, pull up those proverbial “bootstraps,” and do what you gotta do.

This toxic message roots itself deep in our psyche and tells us that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Continue reading

Announcing the Blogging For Better Facebook page

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Last fall, I started a campaign known as Blogging for Better (#bloggingforbetter) as a way of raising awareness and money for various nonprofits. My dream was to bring together a network of bloggers, writers and influencers and use our collective platform to champion those smaller, grassroots organizations which don’t always have the time or money to engage on social media.

Since September, we have raised hundreds of dollars for foundations serving victims of sexual violence, homeless families, children in need of speech services, our veterans and much more.

Though, we still have a long way to go in terms of raising the amount of money I believe these organizations deserve, I am proud of how much this movement has grown over the past nine months.

To support our the efforts of Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter), I am excited to announce we are launching a public Facebook page. This page will serve as one-stop place to find all of the great content about our various nonprofits, as well as a home for inspirational stories and ways you can help your community.

In a time when social media can often leave us feeling sad, angry or defeated, Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter) will serve to bring some hope and good will to the digital world.

I invite you to like our page, comment on our posts, and share our content.  Also, please feel free to comment on this post with any suggestions or ideas on what type of stories you’d like to hear more about.

Here’s to blogging for better.