Bringing smiles to children of war

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I would like to tell you about my friend David Mason and his amazing plight to bring smiles to the faces of innocent children. He has dedicated his life to helping children of War.

Unfortunately, right now, while our kids are safe and thriving, there are millions of children around the world suffering. This is happening right now, in our lifetime. Those of us who are parents can imagine the horrors that these innocent children have face. Think of what they feel and how they are able to survive.

I met David in 2003, when I was on a trip to Afghanistan, my parents homeland. I had not been there since before the war, so I was vey young. My family was in the US, when Afghanistan was invaded by Russia. My father was a diplomat in the United Nations and so, the trip in 2003, was my first time back “home”.

It was an emotional trip. Before our plane even descended, the landscape of the country took my breath away and took me back in time. Seeing the majestic mountains ignited a rush of  bitter-sweet memories.

 

My cousin Wais introduced me to David, a Danish-Iranian, in his early 30’s who had left his comfortable life in Denmark to help the Afghan children. He was inspired after 9-11. He wanted to do something good, for the most innocent of us, for our children. According to David, my cousin kind of adopted him and his dream of what is now the Afghan Mobile Mini-Circus for Children (MMCC). 

 

David, is the founder, MMCC, an educational non-profit that uses circus activities to educate and empower kids. The program also manages to bring smiles to the faces of Afghanistan’s children and promote peace in the war-torn country.

At MMCC’s flagship school in Kabul, Afghanistan, 120 children ages ten to 17, learn juggling, unicycling, acrobatics, theater, singing, puppetry and magic tricks. They then perform and conduct workshops across the country, spreading awareness about health, land mines, the importance of education, and other issues along the way.

 Most of the circus activities are led by the kids themselves.

This wonderful human being continues to spread joy and awareness with the Afghan Mobile Mini-Circus for Children (MMCC) for all these years. 

 

Now they are looking to raise money to transform the harsh winter of 900 underprivileged Afghan Children into a cheerful one. By donating, you will help ensure that the children will be safe and secure from the cold and bitterness of winter, while learning English, Computer, various Artistic, physical, Social and Life Skills while having fun.

Please take some time to log onto their site and give what you can. 

46% of the funds for Cheerful Afghan Winter for 900 underprivileged is raised, Thanks and keep Donating and Sharing please: www.globalgiving.org/projects/Cheerful-Af

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“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” -Bill Keane

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There are mornings when I wake up and the reality that I have lost both of my parents hits me hard! My heart falls into my stomach, I feel sick and so lost. To be without them always feels like a punch in the gut. It still takes my breathe away. My father is gone a year and four months, my mother passed away almost a year ago. It’s a pain that I would never want for anyone to experience, yet we all will. Some morning  I feel completely paralyzed, unable to accept that they are both gone, until I hear my 12 year-old call out to me. Her voice helps me to  refocus and be grateful for her existence.

It’s not easy to deal with loss, especially when you suffer multiple losses. Regardless of my pain, I put a smile on my face and try to begin my daughter’s day on a positive note. We chat as she gets ready, some mornings we are frantic, trying to get out the door.  After I drop her off at school, I return and often find myself unable to leave the couch.

I try to enjoy and be mindful of my first cup of coffee. It always puts a smile on my face. I thank God for my husband, who almost never leaves the house without making me coffee. That’s love.

As soon as I allow myself to feel gratitude,  my heart gets lighter. I am grateful for the people I have in my life. Today is a present.

Mindfulness

You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

The past few weeks have been difficult for my family. It was our first Thanksgiving since my parents passed away. We decided to skip it this year, it was too difficult. Instead, we sat in our pj’s and watched movies. I took some time to think of all that I had to be thankful about, there are boundless things and people whom I am thankful for. I am mostly grateful for my parents and their gifts of discipline, faith, compassion and their love of family. We will forever cherish one another because of how they raised us.

So while I mourn my parents, I also need to honor them by being the best wife, mother, sister, friend that I can be. So I sit, I reflect, I am mindful of the pain, but I’m also mindful of all they have given me. I am grateful for their love and that will never leave me.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness expert, uses the ancient metaphor of the ocean to describe how mindfulness works. The entirety of our mind is deep, it’s vast and intrinsically still and quiet, like the debts in the ocean. There are times in life when the waves are dangerously rough, but if we learn to sit still and get a hold of our thoughts, we can ride through the waves.

Mindfulness is a practice, it’s all about being. Mindfulness helps you find your way, it allows you to listen to your heart, listen to your own yearning. Just begin by paying attention to your mind, really get to know it, be present, so when you are stirring the pot, or washing the dishes, just do that, be mindful of it. Whatever you are doing, do it with awareness. Dive underneath your pain, your anxiety, your anger and you will find awareness capable of holding it all and knowing “this is anxiety, It’s going to be ok”. When we actually believe our negative thoughts we spiral into anxiety and depression. Change your thought pattern and you can change your entire life. When you become aware of your negative thoughts, you have power over them. Zinn says that mindfulness is the gateway into the full dimensionality of being human of being alive. Without it you miss a lot.

I try to be mindful as much as I can. I often find it easier when I walk in nature. Mindfulness is not meditation, you don’t have to sit still for a period of time in order to be mindful. It’s just the practice of being present. Try it and you will realize that you are not your thoughts, but the awareness of your thoughts. It will change your life.

You can learn more by picking up Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners.

Children and Electronics

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Recently I was talking to my cousin about the amount of time he allows his two-year old to be in front of the screen. This started a conversation about how I don’t let my 10-year old watch any television during the week. Our conversation turned into whether or not the amount of time in front of the screen makes a negative impact. This prompted me to put some research into the subject and find out what the professionals suggest. I really always went to my sister, a speech therapist and my go to guru for what I should and should not allow my daughter. I trust and respect her input and her knowledge.

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So first, here is what screen time means, watching television, being on computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets.

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I found out that too much screen time has been linked to health problems in kids including obesity and emotional problems. Experts say using media while in the classroom can be helpful, but too much use outside school decreases academic performance. Using it at bedtime has been shown to disrupt sleep. Technology can also get in the way of family time. As with anything in life balance is key.img_6336

Here is a family media use plan that is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Mealtimes should be screen-free.
  • Homework should be done without any electronics.
  • If homework requires a computer, have kids work on it in the kitchen or other common area.
  • Don’t use electronics during the school week; this will help avoid creating a dynamic where kids rush their schoolwork to get to their screen time.
  • Have kids earn screen time by equal time spent on physical activity or chores.
  • Make bedtime screen-free.

Here are the limits of screen time for kids in different age groups according to experts:

  • Ages 0-2, no screen time
  • Ages 2-3, 30 minutes per day
  • Ages 3-5, 1 hour per day
  • Ages 5-6, 1 and a half hours per day
  • Ages 6-12 2 hours per day

So now we know that too much screen time is harmful, but it’s important to also think about what our kids are doing online. Content matters! We can use screen time to learn, create and challenge ourselves or simply to veg out. It’s important that our children’s screen time emphasizes the first three.img_6337 img_6338

Obviously technology is here to stay and we want our kids to thrive in this digital world. They can do this with our support and involvement. Start a conversation on the risks of technology use and how much screen time Is too much.

Good luck, they aren’t going to like it now but they will thank you later in life.

Oh the joys of parenting!

Time is Fleeting

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 Let me love you a little more before you’re not little anymore. I want you to be my little girl forever but at the same time I’m excited about all the great things you will do in the life. In the meantime I cherish every minute I have with you because I know it will all end way too soon.

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You will have a newborn for a month…

An infant for a year…

A toddler for two years…

A preschooler for two years..

A child for five years…

A preteen for three years..

A teenager for five years..

And then they are off to college and life.

Be mindful and present in what you do with the years that you have with your children.

They are few. And then you’ll have to let them go. So until then, listen to them when they want to talk, hold them tight when they want a hug. Play with them even when your tired. Read to them, take in their innocence and show them that everything they do interests you. Breathe in their sweet smell, love them. Take note of how very lucky you are to have them and pay attention to how much they teach you. Appreciate what you have before time makes you appreciate what you had.

Yoga for Kids!

 

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If you’ve ever tried Yoga, you have already felt the benefits of it. Why not try it for your children? My ten-year old has been taking yoga from the very beginning. I first exposed her to it when she was just an infant. We took Mommy and me yoga together. Since then, she has been practicing yoga on and off for years. I also practice meditation with her.img_9735

I recently signed her up for a series of yoga classes that my friend teaches right in my town. Both Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve physical and mental health in children.

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Yoga can be fun and beneficial for kids. It improves balance, strength and endurance.  In fact, research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, classroom behavior and can even reduce anxiety and stress in kids.

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Another benefit of yoga is self-awareness. Through this practice kids begin to listen to their internal cues and emotions. By shifting self-awareness inward, a buffer forms between the yoga student and the many negative outside influences that promote poor body images.

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Thousands of schools across the country are now offering yoga. If your school hasn’t implemented the practice yet, you can always find one in your neighborhood. So go ahead and look for it at a studio near you. You will see for yourself just how great it can be for you and your child!

Namaste

 

Lavender Feilds

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Forgiveness is the smell that Lavender gives out when you tread on it.-Mark Twain

img_9311Every second of every day is an opportunity to be grateful. Grateful for the air we breathe, the beauty that surrounds us, our health, the children we are fortunate enough to raise, our loved ones, our friends. Every situation in life good or bad gives us an opportunity to grow and to be grateful. Even in the worst of times we can find something to be thankful about.  Live this way and you will see your life change for the positive.

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Here are some other ways to live a positive life

  1. Spend time getting to know yourself
  2. Appreciate what you have
  3. Accept and love yourself 
  4. See the positive in every situation
  5. Live in the moment
  6. Travel to new places
  7. Stop worrying about the future
  8. Spend quality alone time with your spouse
  9. Enjoy every second of your children, they grow fast
  10. If you are lucky enough to still have your parents, spend time with them
  11. Make time for friends that want to spend time with you
  12. Be a positive role model for your children by living authentically
  13. Teach kindness and compassion by practicing it yourself
  14. Do something for others on a daily basis, you will be surprised how much happiness this will bring you
  15. Keep on learning, a new language, knitting, dancing, cooking, something that will keep you reaching for goals
  16. Take time to make new friends and reconnect with old ones
  17. Forgive, love and let go
  18. Stay away from negative people
  19. Live your dreams and take risks, life is happening now
  20. Connect with your source, learn to meditate, pray

In all things in nature there is something of the marvelous -Aristotle

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Take time to be present, stop and smell the flowers.

 

Ride the waves

 

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In life we experience ups and downs, rocky and smooth times. People disappoint us or surprise us. New friends come into our lives while others leave. Loved ones pass away and new ones are born.

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All we can do is focus on the positive, appreciate today, enjoy the ones we have and be grateful.

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Expectations

In life we have a lot of expectations. We expect to grow up and find the perfect job. We expect to meet the right person, get married, have children and live happily ever after. We expect to have certain friends in our lives forever. We expect to be able to change people. We expect people to love as we do, to have the same heart as we do. We expect too much.edc7092b092876388276cb81f3fe89d5I’ve learned that expectations lead to disappointments. It’s a heartbreaking experience. Instead of expecting life to go a certain way, it’s better to live in what’s happening. Take every disappointment as a lesson learned. It teaches you something about the person involved or even about yourself. Expect nothing and appreciate everything in life. Sometimes the most difficult lessons to learn are the ones you need to learn the most. It may surprise you and force you to move in the direction that will bring you happiness.

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So be at peace, expect nothing, appreciate everything and live the life that you want. No exceptions!

Girl Power

They are the apple of our eye, our sweet little girls. My child and most of her friends have now reached double digits. They are no longer little girls, soon they will blossom into lovely young ladies.IMG_8228It’s our job to empower them to grow up feeling secure in themselves. Powerful girls learn to take action, making positive choices about their own lives and doing positive things for others. Here are some ways that many parenting experts say will help us raise powerful girls….IMG_8267_peEncourage her to pursue a passion.IMG_8263Let her have a voice in making decisions.IMG_8302Let her solve issues on her own rather than fixing things for her.IMG_8353Encourage her to go beyond her comfort zone, to take physical risksIMG_8374_peEncourage your daughter to participate in team-building activities or join organizations that rely on teamwork.

Be honest with her.IMG_8524 Give her time to just play!

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Having close friends that are like-minded and most importantly kind is an important part of her growing up. Help them foster positive, loving relationships. IMG_8578_peLet her know you love her because of who she is, not because of what she weighs or how she looks.

IMG_8283.Allow her to disagree.IMG_8621_peMake time to listen to her on a regular basis.IMG_8402Listen more, talk less.IMG_8231Limit your daughter’s exposure to the media and popular culture.IMG_8635_peTalk with her about her body and sex in ways appropriate to her age and your values. Yes, it’s really time to do that!IMG_8334_peKeep her active.

Be the person you want her to be. Love yourself so that she can love herself too.IMG_8242Help foster and flourish her relationships with a powerful women in your family, like an aunt or grandmother.IMG_8277_peMost importantly, don’t forget to stop and really enjoy this special time with them. Enjoy them!