Donations

By: Rachel Ventura

I’ve always admired people who donate their hair for charity. I even attempted to do it once. I grew my hair out for a long time, which is a painful experience, especially for someone with fine, thin hair like me. But it was something I really wanted to do. After about a year of growing my hair, I went to check out the website again to see how much further I had to grow, and realized, they do not accept hair that has been highlighted. During the year I was growing my hair, I didn’t highlight it at all, but there was still some bleach left in there from before. I gave up. I really hate to admit it, but I did. I chopped it all off and wasn’t able to donate any of it. But at least I tried, I guess.

As a cancer survivor, I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am that I did not need to go through any treatment. My cancer was completely removed by surgery. I didn’t have to go through radiation or chemo, or lose my hair. As a woman, our hair is something that is very precious to us. It must be such a terrible experience to lose it, even for those who are crazy strong (what cancer patient isn’t?!) and have a positive outlook about losing their hair.

About a week ago, my daughter began saying she wanted to get a haircut. Her hair is very long, and she loves it. She says she wants it to be as long as Rapunzel’s hair. So when she said she wanted a haircut, I figured I would give her a little trim one night when we had a chance, no big deal.

A few days after her initial haircut statement, the 4 of us were sitting around the living room on a Saturday afternoon when my husband began commenting about how long his hair was getting. He jokingly said it was almost long enough to donate. Right away, my daughter jumped up and said, “I want to donate my hair!” I explained that it would mean cutting her hair very short and she said, “I want it short! I want to donate my hair, to help sick people.” My heart, which is already exploding from the love I have for my kids, almost burst. Never had I felt so much pride and happiness and love.

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My little lady and her long Rapunzel hair

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Before

So, that night, I took my 4 year old to get her hair cut. They cut off 9 inches of beautiful, blond hair, that will make someone who is very sick, very happy. She had a huge smile on her face throughout the entire cut, and so did I. I couldn’t stop telling her how proud I was and how what she was doing was such a good thing. I wanted to make sure she really understood what she was doing, and how big it was.

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So proud! As she should be

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Nine Inches

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After

To top it off, she looks adorable with her little bob! She looks older actually, which I’m not sure I like very much. She drew a picture of her getting her hair cut and someone who was sick getting their wig, and she added it to the envelope with her hair. I hope it makes someone at Pantene smile as much as it makes me. I know whoever gets my baby’s hair in their wig will be smiling, and that’s what it’s all about.

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Her note to send with her hair

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Cute as a button

Have you ever donated your hair or received a wig from a hair donation organization? Please tell us about your experience! I would LOVE to hear your story! And if you would like to donate your hair, visit Locks of Love and Pantene Beautiful Lengths for more information.

Posted in Cancer Survivor, Donating Hair, Locks of Love, Panteen Beautiful Lengths, Rachel Ventura | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Teacher’s Rant

By: Kathy Trainor

Thank_you_pinned_noteThe holiday season is fast approaching! There are always SO many gifts to buy and often people think to send one to a teacher. As a teacher I never expect a gift, but I am so thankful when someone has thought of me. Most teachers often feel it is a waste, as we think we should be giving you and your student a gift.

However, there are times we wish there was no gift. Now-I’m not trying to sound greedy, but let me explain…

The DON’Ts of teacher gift giving:

  • Candles or Scented Soaps (we have 1000 of them)
  • Mugs, cups or glasses (I have small shelves)
  • Anything teacher related or with “teacher” on it (they are with the 1000 candles I have and I KNOW I am a teacher)
  • Baked goods (allergies and diets we are trying to be summer ready)

I asked some of my co-workers what they thought they best gifts were and not once did they mention mani/pedi’s, massages, wine, or even money! So what do they want? It was notes and cards from kids or something personal from a parent about the school year and how it went. All my teacher friends still have these notes and letters. We keep them, look at them again and again, and show them off. Many keep these notes in their classroom desk to cheer them up on a crazy day. Teachers I have worked with also stated they didn’t care the cost of the item; it was simply the thought of the item.

Many families are homeless where I work so I could care less about a gift. A simple post-it with the words “Thank you!” is worth $10,000 in my book. I have saved EVERY note from a parent. I’ve thrown away my fair share of nut-filled brownies, but I have never tossed a note.

Crayons, markers and glue sticks OH MY… If you feel you want to give a teacher a gift, give her a gift for the classroom. The average teacher spends $500 a year on her classroom (not including coffee). This goes miles further than a teacher apple or candle.

Here is the list of items every teacher wants and often never gets:

  • A note or small letter about how the teacher made you feel or a note on what their work did for you or your child (This is the MOST wanted item and straight from my teacher friends on the playground.)
  • A gift card (COFFEE, school supply store, Wal-Mart, Target or super market)
  • School supplies- I make endless trips to the store to get these items for the kids in my class (pens, markers, tape, etc.)
  • If you want to make a teacher smile try a letter- a gift card is nice if you feel like you need to get us something, but we really just want the note or card.

Take note: (GET IT?)

Teachers grade 6-12: Teachers in these grades rarely get gifts because kid’s have so many teachers during the year. A note to say why they enjoyed the class can keep a teacher going for years.

Child Care Workers and After-school Teachers: The end of the year for these valued educators is NEVER! They work all year round. Try a note with how each day would never be the same with out their support. I like to give them something each season because I know I couldn’t do their job.

Support Staff: My support staff is the backbone of my class. I am not able to do anything with out them. Give them a small note to say thank you. Is your child best friends with the librarian? Think about sending them nice note at the end of the year. They love and support your child each day.

Special Education Teachers: Like myself, these teachers work above and beyond to safeguard your child and move them to a new level in their education. They are extra special and deserve some special thoughts.

Posted in Holiday Gift Giving, Kathy Trainor, Teacher Gifts | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

10 Thanksgiving Myths Dispelled

You may think you know the story of the first Thanksgiving, but it turns out that many of the details are myths! Read through this fun infographic to learn the real story behind Thanksgiving.

10 Thanksgiving Myths Dispelled [Source: Today I Found Out]

Posted in Holidays, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What Are Your Gifts?

By: Carolyn Coleman

I recently joined a women’s bible study group. First of all, I must say that it is not your typical bible study class. One of the first topics we discussed was, “What are your natural giftsgifts?” Before this question was asked, I never really thought about my gifts. Honestly, I didn’t think I had any “natural gifts.”

As I started to think of this, I realized that I had a very special gift: I am a keeper of peace; I tend to bring harmony to most situations.

During all those years of being a stepmother to my husband’s twin boys, I never realized that I had a “natural gift” that helped me through that phase of my life. When mothering my stepsons, I always questioned why I was a stepmother and not a mother, knowing that I wanted to have my own child. Now I realize that I had a natural gift that prepared me to be a mother to my own child.

If it had not been for this discussion during bible study, I know that I would not have thought of myself as having any gifts. As women, mothers, and wives, we give so much of ourselves to others that we just think we are supposed to do these things. For me, being a stepmother removed all the myths about being in that role: the wicked stepmother myth, the myth that being a stepmother automatically makes you a mother, or (my favorite) the myth that if you’re nice to your stepchildren, they’ll automatically like you.

As I mature and think back on my challenges and or tough times, I’m amazed at the full circle of life. Raising my stepsons certainly had its challenges, but it was an enjoyable experience. And now here I am today raising my own son.

Some of the other gifts shared during this discussion included the gifts of patience, baking, organization, focus, and many more. I was amazed at the many gifts this group of women had to offer.

As the gift-giving season begins, I want to continue to search from within to see what other gifts I have to offer. I hope that you can take some time to think of the special gifts that you have and can share with others.

Posted in Carolyn Coleman, Mommy Advice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Postpartum Depression

By: Jessica Aldred

At 2:11 am, exactly 10 days after I delivered my perfect, healthy and gorgeous baby boy that I sat straight up in my bed and couldn’t breath. There was no nightmare, no pain from my c-section or anything really legitimate that woke me that night. It was just an all out panic that I couldn’t explain, couldn’t contain and couldn’t overcome. I remember waking my husband out of a dead sleep because I just didn’t know what to do, I was freaking out! Once he came to and got a grip on what was going on, he looked me dead in the face and asked me “Where’s the baby?” I was speechless. My husband- the most supportive person in my world, the man who I couldn’t pay to read any of the Father-To-Be books I had bought him with any of our children- in that moment, questioned if I was having Postpartum depression issues. I couldn’t believe it. I was floored. The baby was peacefully sleeping next to my side of the bed and I was horrified on top of my panic that he would think I would harm the baby.

Panic_buttonThe night went on and he went back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I sat awake in our living room watching reruns of whatever I could find on TV in the wee hours of the morning. Each time exhaustion would creep in I would startle myself awake in a cold sweat and start the cycle over again. This went on for six solid days. I caught maybe an hour of sleep here and there I guess. I had to be getting some sort of rest or I’m not sure I could’ve functioned as I did during the day. But as each night approached and the sun started to set, the tears would well up and my heart would beat faster. Something about the nights, the dark, the uncertainty of what the overnight hours would bring, brought on a sense of all out panic that I had never felt before.

I’ve always been an anxious person, but this was different. This was sheer panic and no one could help me. I came to find that it was a subset of Postpartum depression called Postpartum Panic, or Sundowner’s, and that lots of people suffer from it. I didn’t want to hurt the baby, which I think is the first thing that comes to even the most naïve parenting mind when they hear the words Postpartum depression. I just couldn’t handle myself, and particularly at night. I was breastfeeding at the time so I couldn’t take any medications to help really, and honestly I’m not sure that they would have. For someone whose sole hobby in life is napping, not being able to sleep and being full on afraid to do so was a lot to handle.

What made it worse is that no one seemed to understand or wanted to understand. While there were some who reached out daily to ensure I was doing okay, there were others that literally said, “What is Panic?” Are you kidding me, in 2014 someone does not now the definition of that word or its implication. A simple web search would have yielded a basic definition. The idea that it didn’t exist or I was making it up infuriated me in my already tender state. I quick web search today told me that 1 in 8 women suffer from Postpartum depression and upwards of 80% of woman suffer from some form of it.

As the months passed and the hormones flushed from my body, I began to sleep again. The panic subsided and I was left with my normal over-extended level of anxiety. We’ve adjusted to life with three children. Well, as much as we can with three active little boys. I often reflect on those long 10 days and think, how terrible it must be to have to deal with that every day. I was actually lucky to have it be linked to the hormonal spike/decline during the Postpartum timeframe. The concept of panic is not something just felt when you haven’t studied for an exam or before a big public speaking engagement. It’s a real gut-wrenching level fear that you often can’t explain. While my story goes on, I hope that this basic snip-it of it inspires someone else to educate himself or herself. I hope that it helps someone else to be more sympathetic and to be that great friend who reached out daily to ensure I was okay, but most importantly that it helps another mother, another woman, another person to feel less alone in their suffering.

Have you had any experience with Postpartum Depression? If so, how did you cope with it? What resources did you find helpful in overcoming it?

Posted in Babies, Jessica Aldred, Mommy Advice, Post Partum Depression | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Can Women Have It All?

By Janice Johnson-Plumer

Luna_Park_Melbourne_scenic_railwayAs I finally sit down after a day that I committed to doing nothing, this topic came across my mind. Nene Lekes, a housewife on Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ has been quoted as saying, “I am just a hustler, I’m a grinder. I’m a worker bee.” This is a woman who is appearing on Broadway, started a clothing line, and is in constant demand for appearances. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, CEO of Center for Talent Innovation and mother of four, thinks “women can have it all but maybe not all at the same time.” According to Hewlett, when women are in their early 20’s they should be looking for a mate and not worrying about their careers.

When I was just out of college I wouldn’t have listened if you told me that I was not going to have a career. I always said that I would wear Gucci shoes, and that I’d have a big desk and a chair that I would turn around like Alexis Carrington (remember the show Dynasty?) to let people know that I was a boss.

Now that I am older and supposedly wiser, I have come to the conclusion that family is important. My son is important. Being there for him is important. Yes, I would love the lucrative job where I am a leader who calls the shots. But when it is all said and done, I want to leave work at work. I don’t want to be available 24/7, especially when it interferes with my family time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a hustler and I can make a worker bee dizzy trying to keep up with me, but I know how to shut it off. I am a worker bee because I want to be a contributor to my household and when my son wants those $150 sneakers I can do it without batting an eye because I have earned extra money to do so.

I can look back on when my mother was raising me and appreciate all that she did for me, especially because she was able to spend time with me and be there when I came home from school. I had all the comforts of growing up and never knowing the wiser that my mother contributed what she could with part time jobs because all I could remember was that she was there.

But then we have the flip side of the coin from PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, who admitted how hard it is to get it right.

“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all,” she said in an interview.

As mothers, are we just pretending to have it all when deep down we feel stressed out, overworked, unappreciated and just waiting for the day to be over with so we can rush home and throw on our pajamas? I know I can speak from personal experience when I say that I have been all of those things. Don’t get me wrong- I burn the candle at both ends. I work full time, do real estate part time, teach multiple spin classes a week, and I attend any community or school meetings that take place. Do I wish I could get off of this roller coaster? Absolutely! But how do you take a step back and get off the rollercoast, while still accomplishing everything you want to?

I think it all starts with us mothers taking care of ourselves. After all, if we don’t put our health first, who will? That is why I have elected to workout in the mornings while my husband is getting ready for work. It’s my time. It’s my sanctuary and it allows me to take care of my health. I have also adopted a healthier way of eating, and in turn I feel good! When you feel good, the little things don’t get you angry- like when you ask your kids a thousand times to pick up their room. Woosah!

In terms of mental well-being, I have learned to turn more into prayer and to try and just be still. I have a hard time being still, so I do it at odd times.

I look for the greater good in people rather than in things, especially material things. Those Louis Vuitton handbags will have to take a back seat until my son is old enough to supplement his sneaker fetish.

I also look for ways to give back. There’s something about giving back to others when we find fulfillment in our lives. I want to help women who may not have the opportunity to do it for themselves, whether it’s helping them to find a suit for a big interview or just having a day of beauty.

As you are running around asking yourself if this is all worth it? If it’s meaningful? If you’re making a difference for your children?

Let me know your thoughts.

Posted in can women have it all, work life balance | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Bedtime Bliss

By: Martianne Stanger

Before marriage and children, one thing I fantasized about was parenting my own children to bed one day. I imagined cuddling with my darlings to say our bedtime prayers, sing calming lullabies and share bedtime stories before I got up, tucked each child into bed, offered each a kiss on the forehead and quietly left the room as the children drifted into sweet slumber.

sibs sleep

Never did I imagine the reality that was to become mine. Years of bedtime struggles with a boy who “cannot turn his brain off” and his siblings who can, but don’t, because if brother is not sleeping, why should they? (Um, because Mommy needs somebody to do so – like herself!)

So it is that through the years, bedtime in my home has been anything but dreamy.

Sure, there have been some sweet moments when my children have scrambled to offer me bedtime blessings like the ones I give them or have melted my heart with their spontaneous prayers. And, there have been a number of occasions when I’ve sung my children their special songs and one or two of them have actually fallen asleep. Plus, nightly bedtime storytelling is a reality here (Granted, it is a reality that sometimes is less cuddly than it is claustrophobic since all three children want to be next to me, I only have two sides and the kids solution is to find another side. Yes, one child lies on one side of me, one on the other side; and the third either lies on my chest or against my head. Mind you, this was all well and good when the children were tiny, but now they are growing. Well, let’s just say it is not the most comfortable positioning for bedtime stories.)

And what about hat tucking in I imagined? Hmm… Reality looks different than my dreams. For, I envisioned the typical tuck in, blankets tight around smiling children. It was not until I had a “sensory kid” that I learned for some children the preferred weight upon a body is not that of lightly tucked blanket, or even a number of heavy ones, but that of a parent! Yes, for years even if left in his own bed sleeping, one child would eventually get up, come find a parent and “tuck” himself into that parent by squirming his legs under said parent.

His siblings wanted Mom or Dad, too. Can we say, “musical beds”? How about “bedtime mayhem”? Kids outlasting Mom or Dad in staying awake?

That has been our reality.

Until recently.

Recently – through prayer, persistence (and adaptation of!) with our bedtime routines, the children’s growing maturity, coaching and sensory work, and, I do believe, the grace of God – bedtime has become a little more blissful.

In fact, it has become something better than I ever imagined. More often than not, one or two of my kids crash while we pray a rosary with youtube after bedtime stories and the other goes to – and stays! – in bed, trusting I will be in with him at some point. He does not beg for me to stay with him until he falls asleep, nor does he cry or panic quite as often about his inability to fall asleep. He just rests as best as he can and, sometimes, actually drifts off before I go into him.

And, then, in the morning, if I sneak out of bed before the kids are up, sometimes I hear a rustling and find this:

big boy

A well-rested boy reading quietly to himself as his siblings cuddle nearby still asleep.

Morning bliss beget by better bedtimes. I will take it!

Posted in Family, Martianne Stanger, Siblings | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments