Lessons From The Turtles

By: Heather O’Neill 

We’ve had quite a few snow days these last couple of weeks and with that I’ve watched more than my fair share of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

If you have kids under the age of 10 or remember the 90s when the Turtles were first introduced, you know that there are four turtles: Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo and their Sensei, Master Splinter.

My boys are 4 (JD) and 6 (JP) and, like most other kids right now, are obsessed with the Turtles. This past weekend we went to 3 birthday parties – all Turtle themed.

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What is it that my boys love about them? In their own words:

  • The fight bad guys.
  • They train and they get better when they train.
  • I like Karate and when they fight (Kicks a leg and yells “Kee-ya”)
  • They are brothers.
  • I like to dance to their song. (There is an instant dance party whenever the theme song is played)
  • They are powerful and strong.
  • I like the turtles because of who they are – They want to do good and save and help people.

About each of the brothers:

Mikey: JP: “He’s silly and fun” ; JD: He yells “Booyakasha”

Leonardo: JP: “He’s the leader and he’s true and honest to his master.” ; JD: “I love Leo’s swords.”

Raphael: JP: “He has anger like me.” ; JD: “Because he chases Mikey.”

Donnie: JP: “Because he’s smart and he likes science.” ; JD: “Because he trains with his brothers to get better.”

This fascinates me because while they clearly like the fun-loving cartoons, they are making some connections to these characters.

In one of the more recent episodes (like I said there have been LOTS of snow days and I’ve watched this way too many times…) I started to really listen to the advice that Master Splinter was giving to his “sons” and heard myself saying the same things, although maybe not in quite the same way.

            Find your inner spiritual strength –Finding what’s strong inside of you to make the outside of you stronger. There have been many discussions in our house about right vs. wrong and acceptable behaviors vs. unacceptable behaviors. As a mom I want to make sure that my kids are making those smart choices, especially when I’m not around. Having them see what’s strong about them on the inside is a big part of that.

            We choose what holds us back and what moves us forward – This is a great life lesson for most adults, never mind young children. Having my boys hear this at a young age and understand that their mental toughness is just as strong (if not stronger) than their physical toughness is hopefully going to carry on into their adulthood. Now if only I could apply this when it comes to chocolate ….

            Your temper is like a fire that you must learn to focus for power – Interesting that my 6 year old found a connection with the character that has a temper. My son definitely has a temper and we have been working on ways to manage that temper and focus his energy in alternative ways. He’s getting the same advice from a cartoon rat … and he’s listening!

            Your mind is overrun with distractions. Learn to be strong and calm like the forest – Again, something we have touched upon at home many times, especially when completing homework. We are always talking about maintaining focus and not giving into distractions. I felt like this was a moment for parents of kids with ADHD- Master Splinter is telling our kids to be calm … and it’s working!

            You rely too much on your mind and not on your body. Be strong like the mountain – While we haven’t gotten here yet, I can see us having these conversations when discussing technology and how it’s creeping into their young lives. I want them to be physically strong as well as mentally strong. I don’t want technology to replace physical activity for them. And what kid doesn’t want to be big and strong like a mountain?

            You must be the leader in body and spirit. Be like the wind, let nothing weigh you down – It is my hope that my kids don’t let themselves get weighed down with anything. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be loyal, responsible and accountable but I don’t want them missing opportunities that may pass by if they feel anchored down.

While this show is primarily about four brothers who act just like teenage boys rough-housing, playing practical jokes and acting silly, it also teaches loyalty to one another, strength and resiliency. If they take anything from this show I want it to be respect – respect for themselves and their bodies, respect for their families and loved ones, respect for their teachers and coaches, and respect for their community and environment.

Who would have thought I would have gotten so much out of watching cartoons on a snow day … TURTLE POWER!

Posted in Heather Desmond O'Neill, Snow Day, TV Shows | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Consequences

By: Carolyn Coleman 

WOW!! That’s the first thought that comes to my mind as I think about my son. My son is far from perfect, but he is so wise. In a recent conversation with a friend, we talked about our kids. Her kids are young adults- her son recently graduated college and her daughter just started her first year of college. She described her kids as being grounded. During our conversation she said how as very young children her kids always had consequences for their actions. I could relate when she said this, because my son is always held responsible for his actions, whether it is cleaning his room, staying on top of his grades, or playing video games for too many hours.

I am a true believer in what you instill in your child at a very young age will be with them forever. My son and I recently had a conversation about what’s going on at school. He shared with me that he has to write a paper for his public speaking class, and the subject he decided on was “Consequences.” I asked him why he chose that topic and he said he has had consequences for his actions, and yet he knows kids that get detentions, suspensions, and have no consequences for their actions.

My son recently received a “C” on a progress notice and he has very upset. I said to him it’s a progress report you have time to bring the grade up before report cards, and his reply was, “Mom this is my first “C.” My husband and I have always told him how important his grades were and he would have consequences if his grades were to drop. Then, out of nowhere, suddenly it occurred to me that finally he is holding himself accountable for his actions! He is setting his own consequences. I noticed in the days following that progress report that he watched less TV, and spent more time studying and doing more homework at home.

My son is very competitive both on and off the basketball court, so to see a “C” on his progress notice was a motivating tool to get him moving on his studying. For me it helped me to realize that we have instilled some good values in him.

One of our biggest family rules is that my son has never been allowed to play video games Sunday evening through Thursday night, and this has worked for us. I’ve had parents ask how we’re able to do this, and it’s something that has been a rule in our house since he’s been in school. I think this really helps keep him focused on school.

I know some parents don’t believe in consequences, but so far it seems to be working pretty well for us!

Posted in Carolyn Coleman, consequences, school work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Curbing My Sweet Tooth

By: Rachel Ventura 

I totally have a sweet tooth. I admit it. As someone living with Type 1 diabetes, and also someone who is trying to be healthy, a sweet tooth is a bad, bad thing. Luckily, with my amazing insulin pump, I am able to eat like a normal person, as long as I count my carbohydrates and bolus the correct amount of insulin. It’s not exactly a piece of cake for me to enjoy a piece of cake, hehe, but I am thankful that I can do so.

But even worse, in my opinion, is the effect of my sweet tooth on my healthy lifestyle. I’m not a believer in completely denying yourself of the things you love to eat. It just doesn’t work, but I also don’t think a nightly bowl of ice cream, and I’m talking every night, is something people should do either. And that’s exactly what I was doing. Every night.

When my hubby and I started on P90X3, and really eating healthier, I decided that I would make Sunday my rest day, and also my ice cream day. I would work really hard all week long to workout, eat healthy, and avoid temptations. On Sunday, I would not do a workout, and I would allow myself a treat. It made me feel good to eat that bowl of ice cream. I had earned it, I deserved it, and I enjoyed it!

The first 2 weeks were good. I avoided any and all temptations. They say once you cut certain things out of your diet, after a bit, you realize you really don’t need them and you stop craving them all together. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for my sweet tooth and me. During week 3, I was started having a hard time holding out until Sunday. I needed something sweet. My nightly cup of fat free Greek yogurt with fruit was not cutting it. It was yummy, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t satisfying my craving for something sweet. What I needed was chocolate. I was weak.

I ran across this recipe, tweaked it a bit, and oh my goodness, it is just too good not to share! These little bites are not only amazingly delicious, but they’re also clean and nutritious! I don’t feel guilty eating these, and I feel good about giving them to my kids as a treat as well. It totally satisfies my sweet tooth and my entire family is in love with them! You can add ingredients or leave some out if you want, but whatever you do, make these. You’ll thank me. I promise.

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No Bake Energy Bites

  • 1 cup dry oats (I use Quick Oats, because we always have these in our pantry, but any will do)
  • 2/3-cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2-cup peanut butter (I use almond butter)
  • 1/2-cup ground flax seed
  • 1-tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1-teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3-cup honey
  • 1/3-cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3-cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3-cup raisins

Stir all ingredients together until mixed. Cover and let chill in fridge for 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll into 1-inch balls. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Posted in Health, Rachel Ventura, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Let it Snow!

By: Jessica Aldred 

imgresAs New England grunts and bears all that winter has to offer, I find that there are two types of mothers: those who legitimately enjoy the snow and extra time at home spent with their children, and those who dread those unplanned snow days and pray they don’t see their city or town’s name scrolling at the bottom of the T.V. screen. There’s no right or wrong, however in general it seems that the first group tend to enjoy that time because they spend a lot of time away from their families working, or with the children in full-time school. Absence makes the heart grow fonder if you will. The second group is more likely to spend many of their days with their families at home, so this is just another day for them, only now they’re stuck in the house with no hope of expending that childhood energy.

Until somewhat recently I’ve found myself in the second group. After spending so much time home alone with my children, another day trapped with no outlet for their energy is not ideal. However, as my children have grown and matured, entered school and learned to play together more, I’ve found the dreaded snow day to be more bearable. I still dislike them, don’t get me wrong, but I now try to embrace them. There’s no use in denying it, the roads aren’t safe and the children are better off at home baking cookies, playing with Playdough and watching endless Disney movies. I think my change of heart has to do with the fact that they are shifting into full-time school mode and I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I used to. There will certainly be time-outs issued and tears shed, but there will also be memories made and many laughs had. As I prepare for the first snow day of 2015, I found myself mentally creating a list of ideas, or things to do at home to keep the boredom and fighting at bay. This is what I’v put together so far:

  1. Make a Fort: Inside or out. We recently got a great fort structure kit. You just pop it together and toss blankets all over it. It’s simple to do and better/safer than dragging random furniture all over the house.
  2. Bake: My boys love to bake with me. It will surely end up messy, but it’s an enjoyable experience had by all.
  3. Make a snowman: Inside or out. Snowmen can be made inside with marshmallows and pretzel sticks, or other things around the house, much easier (and dryer) than they can be outside.
  4. Bring out new toys: There’s no denying that my kids are spoiled. So much so that we often stash away toys or games for rainy/snowy days. Sometimes I even manage to rotate out old toys that resurface like new on these days.
  5. Color the Snow: Inside or out, you can add food coloring to spray bottles and let the kids have at it.
  6. Read: We honestly don’t do it enough, but I try to gather all my kids (6.5, 4.5 and 8 months) in one room and read to them, or have my oldest read. Although the younger ones get distracted and wander a bit, they often return to the story and can’t help but get something out of it.
  7. Arts & Crafts: I have to be honest, I wish we did more arts & crafts at my house, but the truth is I have boys and despite my best efforts, Playdough is about as close as it gets.
  8. Movies: Tubs of popcorn and an old, or new movie, will suffice at our house.
  9. Shovel: No joke, my middle man thinks it’s great to help shovel! Let’s hope that continues.
  10. Games & Puzzles: Oldies but goodies, these are always a favorite.

I’d love for you to share below your favorite ways to spend your time on these infamous New England snow days.

Posted in Blizzard of 2015, Jessica Aldred, Snow Day Activities, Winter Activities | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

What you should and shouldn’t say to a family struggling with infertility

By: Kathy Trainor

Screen-Shot-2015-01-01-at-10.29.47-AMMy husband and I struggled for 9 years to become pregnant. We went through endless tests before I found out I have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome), which is a problem that involves a woman’s hormones getting out of balance. It can cause problems with your periods and make it difficult to get pregnant. PCOS may also cause unwanted changes in your appearance. If it isn’t treated, over time it can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.  For me it also caused hair growth and weight gain that even the strictest, nutritionist approved, diets can’t help me lose the weight. Many factors can contribute to infertility and it can be different for every family going through it.

By the time we found out I had PCOS we had already had 3 miscarriages. We were told our best way to get pregnant would be to try IVF. We were very unsure; we knew we wanted to be parents, but we knew the risks and the increased chances of having twins or triplets.   The choices were not easy.   We started our cycles and I lost 2 more babies, including one still born baby girl.

The whole time we were trying we would hear so many statements from people, and many times they hurt almost as much as losing our babies.

We would hear things like this:

  1. “Don’t try so hard, maybe it is not the right time”
  2. “Are you Pregnant yet?”
  3. “Maybe you should try ….. (insert suggestion)”
  4. “Why don’t you do foster care or adoption…you would make great parents”
  5. “Maybe you’re not meant to be parents… there has to be a reason”
  6. “What about getting a pet?”
  7. “I know how that feels, trust me.”
  8. “Haven’t you learned after six losses?”
  9. “What about a donor or a surrogate?”
  10. “Take my kids for a day! You won’t want kids anymore.”

We learned that part of it was the fact that many people didn’t know what to say to a family who had lost a child.  It’s something that many people feel uncomfortable about don’t even want to bring up.

My husband did like when people would do the following to show support and offer understanding:

1.  Offer them a cup of coffee 
We may not need anything, but it is nice to know someone is asking to see us or wants to talk to us.

2. Make them a meal. 
We are often so drained from losses or even medical appointments that a free meal that we didn’t have to prepare really gives us time to regroup and relax.

3. Don’t exclude them. 
Many times we were not invited to baby showers, birthday parties or baby celebrations . It was not to be rude, but just that people didn’t want to offend us or make us upset. We really do want to go to them. It may hurt a little but it gives us hope.

4.   Listening ears and open arms.
It may be hard to listen to a family in the middle of a fertility  struggle but, when you are out for coffee or at the office, just give them a second to speak. Often we need time to vent, and even if it’s only for a few minutes, it makes our day a little easier.

5.  Ask questions.
Ask them about what they are going through ? Ask them about the process and doctors. It is a great learning experience  for people and allows families to teach others about what really goes on.

6. Be understanding but not suggestive 
As much as in number 3 we want to be asked to  social settings for babies and children, please support us if we opt not to attend. It may be just too soon.

7. Talk to us
We are still people .  Ask us about the house, a trip or even ask us what we thought about a recent movie. It may seem our whole life is about getting pregnant or having a loss, but in reality we do lead normal lives .

8. Offer to help
Ask us if we want someone to go with us to an appointment or watch our other children. Maybe even offer to walk to dog if we need a day or so to rest. We may say no, but it means so much to be asked.

9.Do your research.
Read up about infertility, possible treatments, or other family building options your friend is considering. This way you are a little more informed when your friend needs to talk.

10. Offer to be an exercise buddy.
Sometimes losing weight is necessary to make treatments more effective. If you know they are trying to lose weight, you could offer to join them! It might also help you achieve your personal fitness goals as well.  It gives us a chance to talk and relax with a good friend.

Posted in Infertility, Kathy Trainor, Pregnancy | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Time To Love Is Now

By: Janice Johnson-Plumer

When was the last time you said “I love you” to someone? When was the last time you encouraged a love one? When was the last time you had a real heart-to-heart conversation with someone that wasn’t through text, instant messenger, or email? As I sit here and reflect on the passing of a friend who was 36 years old with kids and a fiancée, I start to ask myself those questions.

The questions have lingered with me since the untimely death of my friend, Henry Dwayne William. What makes it even harder to digest is that I just saw him three weeks ago. The last time we spoke he started telling me how he was related to a very large family that I know in Brockton and how his mother had passed away a few years ago. He told me how he just took his oldest son to look at colleges and he was very specific on what school he wanted to go to. He also told me about how he was not currently working due to his disability, but he was thinking of starting to work again in an office nearby. This conversation took place during a basketball game that his youngest son was playing in and my son would be playing afterwards. I felt he was really into his son’s sports activities and making sure he got to the practices and games. We shared a conversation that I will never forget because we had it face-to-face and not through text. It was personable.

My son always tells me he loves me and will hug me when I am on my hands and knees washing my kitchen floor or when I’m cleaning. He says it all the time and sometimes I bug him by assuming he’s trying to get something from me. He doesn’t want anything- he just says it unconditionally without looking for anything in return. When I was younger my parents never said they loved me. Maybe it was a generational thing. Back then husbands and wives worked hard to provide a roof for their children and they made sure they provided the necessities of life for them. It was all about the hustle and making sure there was food on the table. My father worked nights and my mother was a stay at home mom until I was older.

When my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer I watched in disbelief as the illness overcame her so quickly. It wasn’t until those moments in the hospital when I would leave her room when I would say “I love you” that she would say it back. I would think about how many years had passed and now, as grown women, we are just starting to say that we love each other. No matter how weak she was she always managed to say those words back to me.   To quote the Master Card commercial, it was “priceless.”

Today, as the pastor gave the eulogy for Henry, he touched on how short life can be. One day we’re here and then the next day we could be gone. That’s why it is so important that we get right with our families, friends, and most importantly- ourselves. He explained that Henry’s passing is a way for us to get better with ourselves and a time for families to get right with one another because life is too short for us to take it for granted.

His words struck a cord with me. I thought to myself “How many times do I look for the good in people instead of being so judgmental?” “How many times have I judged someone without getting to know them?” “How many times have I spoken words of encouragement to someone?” Life is short and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.

The conversation that I had with Henry is one that I will always remember. It was effortless and it just flowed. I really gave me a sense of the kind of person he was.

There’s a saying that is so true in this situation: “Give me flowers while I am living, not when I am dead” which to me means- give me the flowers when I am able to enjoy them not when I cannot.

Who are you going to give flowers to today? Who can you tell today that you love them? Who can you have a conversation today that doesn’t involve social media?

Posted in Janice Johnson-Plumer, Saying I love you, Signature Moms Blog, Untimely Death | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Easy Dinner Ideas for Working Moms and Dads

By: Carolyn Coleman 

I think figuring out what to make for dinner is one of the biggest issues for working moms. For some, the effort it takes to coordinate family dinner isn’t worth it or even possible and I totally get that. I feel like I spend most of my evening preparing dinner and then cleaning up afterwards. This by far is my biggest challenge. I was getting to the point where I despised food shopping and cooking dinner.

One night recently I cooked a steak, baked potato and spinach for my son, when he sat down to eat he said, “Mom what’s the occasion?” and I answered that I actually had time to prepare a meal. He was very thankful and at that point I realized I was thinking about the dinner process too much.

I’m amazed at the fact that my husband’s cooking skills have completely vanished because he used to be a great cook and actually enjoyed preparing dinner. Yet somehow all the dinner prep responsibilities have fallen on me. This can be really frustrating because my son is somewhat of a picky eater and because my husband doesn’t eat pork or beef and will only eat brown rice and whole wheat pasta.

So with my son’s busy high school basketball schedule and me thinking I need to attend every game I have managed to come up with a few (easy!) meal selections that will satisfy everyone:

Purchase a roasted chicken from deli, make a few sides to go with that and the leftover chicken can be sliced and make sandwiches for lunch the next day.Unknown

Prepare a lasagna or pasta meal on the weekend that only needs to be popped in the oven one evening.

Unknown-1Your crockpot is a great tool to cook a variety of yummy meals- from chili to fajitas…the possibilities are endless! 

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I have found that preparation is key for dinner, shopping ahead of time and having somewhat of a weekly menu, helps to eliminate the nagging question of” what’s for dinner tonight.” Now that we share the food shopping responsibilities and both come up with dinner ideas, our evenings are a bit more organized. I’m happy to admit that I have come full circle and I now enjoy dinner time with my family again!

 

Posted in Carolyn Coleman, Food, Recipes | Tagged , , | 1 Comment