Teacher Uses Bruised Apple To Show Devastating Effects Of Bullying

One woman found an incredibly way to teach a crucial lesson. 
Rosie Dutton of Relax Kids, a U.K.-based company that deals with kids’ mindfulness and relaxation, teaches a weekly class for 10- and 11-year-olds. During a recent class, Dutton used apples to brilliantly illustrate the point that the effects of bullying aren’t always so conspicuous. 
The coach, who documented the lesson in a now-viral Facebook post, started out by showing the class two typical, perfect-looking apples. But unbeknownst to the students, she had dropped one of the apples repeatedly on the floor. She picked up the dropped apple and began insulting it. 

“I … started to tell the children how I disliked this apple, that I thought it was disgusting, it was a horrible [color] and the stem was just too short,” Dutton wrote. “I told them that because I didn’t like it, I didn’t want them to like it either, so they should call it names too.”
They passed that apple around in a circle and the kids joined in on the insults. After, Dutton took a completely different approach with the other apple.
“We then passed another apple around and started to say kind words to it, ‘You’re a lovely apple’, ‘Your skin is beautiful’, ‘What a beautiful [color] you are’ etc,” the 31-year-old wrote. 
While both looked the same, she eventually cut both of them open to reveal that the apple that had been insulted was mushy and bruised inside. The apple that received praise wasn’t. 
“When people are bullied, especially children, they feel horrible inside and sometimes don’t show or tell others how they are feeling,” Dutton wrote in her post, summarizing her lesson on empathy. “If we hadn’t have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it.”
She told The Huffington Post in an email that she’s wanted to teach a class on the power of words and a recent experience with an unkind person further propelled her to tackle the subject of bullying. 
“This gave me the added inspiration I needed to show children what our words can do to each other; we can build each other up, or we can break each other down,” Dutton said. “The bruised apple activity was the perfect visual to help children understand, and a powerful one at that.”
The 31-year-old noted that when she finally cut open the apples that day, the lesson really sank in. 
“It was definitely a lightbulb moment for children (and adults) in the room,” Dutton said. “Before I cut the apples open I talked about how they resembled us, as people. They literally sat back and I could see in their faces they ‘got it.’ There was huge discussion afterwards.”
Dutton’s words seemed to have paid off. She said it was clear the children put what they learned to use. “They started talking about it straight away, making connections with moments in their lives.”
All in all, she hopes that by gaining a better sense of empathy and compassion, the kids can put their knowledge to good use
“Unlike an apple, we have the ability to stop this from happening. We can teach children that it’s not OK to say unkind things to each other and discuss how it makes others feel,” the 31-year-old explained in her post. She later added: “More and more hurt and damage happens inside if nobody does anything to stop the bullying. Let’s create a generation of kind, caring children.” — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

Love

I tend to keep my posts light, but I do have something to say today that I think is very important. Here goes.

Can we all just agree to love our kids?

Of course you love your kids. I do, too. What I mean is, can we all make a promise to love them unconditionally? Can we make a daily effort to let them know, that no matter what, we accept them? Can we allow them to actually feel their feelings, even if it makes us uncomfortable, and not force them to stuff feelings away simply because we think they shouldn’t be having them?

Can we let them be who they are, no matter how strange that may feel for us, no matter how much it doesn’t match the picture we painted in our heads for them – for us?

Because I think that if we can all make this conscious effort to accept our kids, there would be a lot less hate in this world.

I’ve found that practicing acceptance is hard, because many of us struggle to accept ourselves as we are. We’re still trudging through our own hurts, or trying to undo the damage of things we were told about ourselves when we were young and wanted nothing more than to be free and be accepted for who we are, but were shut down because of it. Maybe we were told we “shouldn’t” feel this way, we are “stupid” for saying that, or that our families would reject us if we “acted like that”.

But I really believe that if we accept our kids for who they are, they will in turn feel secure and loved – and they will spread that love and acceptance around to others. At the end of the day, love, is love, is love. It doesn’t really matter what form it comes in, or how clumsy it appears. It won’t be perfect, but that won’t matter.

Let’s all promise never to make our kids scared to show their true colors. Let’s not make them hate themselves for simply being themselves. Let’s not make them hide or stuff their feelings down, down, down until they burn and bubble like lava beneath a dormant volcano. Because we know that volcanoes only stay dormant for so long.

Let’s not ever make our kids become the adult who sits at a bar hiding from himself, angry at the world because he can’t be who he really is, hurting until he explodes, making everyone around him suffer.

Let’s not shut down our kids’ feelings. If they’re hurt, or upset, let’s help them by letting them know it’s OK to feel a certain way, that there’s nothing wrong with feeling frustrated. Rather than forcing them to swallow their feelings, or telling them they are wrong – which ultimately makes them swallow their feelings anyway – let’s tell them that it’s OK, that they are only human. And then let’s give them the tools to work through them.

If you’re a parent, like me, that means you created this person, this individual, whether by choice or chance. Maybe they carry the same DNA and name as you, but they are an individual; one soul vibrating inside their own skin, with unique wants, needs, character traits. They are not us. They are not our second chance, they are not our do-over, they are not an extension of us. They are individuals. And all that really matters is that we love them unconditionally, and guide them as best we can. That we accept them, that we serve as their safe haven, that we let them know that in the center of this chaotic, crazy world, we are their home.

Let’s anticipate that they will disappoint. They will do things differently than we may have imagined. Their path in life may not be the one we paved but we have to remember that we paved our own paths too, and that all we really wanted was someone who would hold our hand as we walked along the way saying, “I’m here. I accept you. And I really don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks because I love you, and you’re a good person.”

Sometimes it will get messy. Sometimes they won’t be able to control themselves, and how could we expect them to, because sometimes we can’t control ourselves, either. But when we feel out of control we hope that those around us show empathy and reach out a hand to pull us through the storm, because without them, we’d drown.

I know my babies are still little, but I try to live by these thoughts on a daily basis. It’s a constant struggle, and I fail and fall over and over again, but I make a constant promise to myself to try. Because they need to know that all of us, including their parents, are “weird” and “strange” and that the beauty of life emerges in our perceived differences. That our strongest connections emerge through our vulnerability. And that all that truly matters, is love.

We can’t fix the world. Things are very broken. But what we can do is teach acceptance and empathy within our own families, and trust that those efforts will ripple out into the world. And that eventually, the world will change on its own.

Alessandra Macaluso is author of The Real-Deal Bridal Bible and What a Good Eater!, available on Amazon and Kindle. She is the voice behind her blogs PunkWife.com and RealDealBrides.com, and has contributed to The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy, among other media outlets. Her original screenplay, Polar Suburbia, placed as a semi-finalist in the Moondance Film Festival. Learn more about Alessandra and her current projects at her author website AlessandraMacaluso.com. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

The Lazy River

We were in Mexico. I was floating on a soft, cushy water pillow down the ‘lazy river’, the kind that weaves in and around the resort and spa, the kind that makes you forget that there is any other place in the world or any work to be done. The air was breezy and cool on my skin, and I could taste the ocean water that was mere feet away. As I slowly floated by I cracked one eye open slightly. I saw a crystal blue sky, palm trees, and caught a glimpse of the condensation dripping down the Corona in my hand.

I glanced over at my husband, who was floating along nearby just as peacefully, his mouth slightly open and his eyes gently closed, and suddenly I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. It became uncontrollable and rolling, to the point of tears, to the point that I felt like I was borderline insane, because how could we be this lucky?

It wasn’t an every day scene, but the fact that we were able to save some money and take a vacation like this, where we could float down a lazy river with a drink in our hands and mariachi music playing off in the distance, no idea where we were going or what we were doing, our biggest concern being where we felt like eating dinner – it was a little slice of heaven.

That was four years ago.

Lately, the days are loud, loud, LOUD, with a whole lot of movement, a whole lot of action, and not a whole lot of sense. But every once in a while, it gets quiet. I’ve talked a lot about the shit-show, and the madness, but I don’t think I say enough about the points among the chaos where I feel it: that strong surge of mad, insane happiness. When I can settle myself among the noise, just for a few moments, I can hear it, too.

Yesterday afternoon, I sensed it again. Our infant was occupied and calm, exploring some instruments on our floor, and our toddler had run herself exhausted after a full-blown dance party before collapsing into a heap the couch. I had a soothing music station on. I lay down next to her for a moment, closed my eyes, and relished in the fact that things were quiet for a minute. I stroked her hair, hummed along to the music. When she’s feeling affectionate, she does this thing where she takes her stuffed Rabbit’s ear and drapes it over my shoulder, or her little brother’s head, or my husband’s arm. I suddenly felt it on my cheek.

I think about the lazy river a lot. I think about it when things get tough and intense at home, when I feel like I’m in desperate need of a vacation. I think about it during the days when I’m so tired my eyelids hurt. When I don’t know whether it’s Tuesday or Sunday or May or August. But in a very different sort of way, I’ll often sense that same feeling I had when I was floating down that lazy river. Still not knowing where I’m going or what I’m doing.

And still wondering how we could be this lucky.

This post first appeared on the author’s blog. Alessandra Macaluso is author of The Real-Deal Bridal Bible and What a Good Eater!, available on Amazon and Kindle. She is the voice behind her blogs PunkWife.com and RealDealBrides.com, and has contributed to The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy, among other media outlets. Her original screenplay, Polar Suburbia, placed as a semi-finalist in the Moondance Film Festival. Learn more about Alessandra and her current projects at her author website AlessandraMacaluso.com. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

7 Questions to Determine Whether Your Kid's Summer Camp Schedule is Too Much

It happens every year. Sometime in early February, I find in my inbox the first of many messages about summer camps. The well meaning emails from other moms share similar agendas–weeks of sports, tinkering, drama, nature, and sleep-away camps that my twins’ classmates will be attending when school’s out for the summer. Typically, I feel miserably behind and hastily register my boys for loads of fun-filled enrichment before rosters fill. But this year, I remember how exhausted my then seven-year-olds were at the end of last summer’s camp weeks, and I wonder if I’ve been doing them more harm than good. Am I overscheduling my kids? Maybe we could all use a little breather this summer. Since I’m no expert on the topic, I called Jean McPhee, Ph.D., a child and adolescent psychologist, for some advice.

“Parents have good intentions when they sign their kids up for summer camps,” she reassured me. “But, think how you–an adult–feel when you are over-committed and over-scheduled. You feel stressed. Children have far fewer coping resources and less resilience than we do, yet they, too, can easily be stressed and negatively impacted by an overload of planned activities. They may not be able to say it, but they need down time, too.”

We sign our kids up for summer camps not only for the childcare, but also because the experience is enjoyable, keeps them active and creative, and because structured activities with other kids foster social skills and independence. So how do we know if we’ve gone overboard, creating a schedule of opportunity that is out of balance for our kids? Ask yourself these 7 questions to find out:
• Is my child more irritable or emotionally needy?
• Does he or she have time to play with friends, the dog, or their sibling?
• Am I tired or stressed by their schedule?
• Am I spending more time in the car than anyplace else?
• Is our family able to have meals together?
• Is my child not excited to go to the activities they once liked?
• Is my child exhausted?

If you’ve answered yes to most of the questions, chances are your kids could use a break. If you’re worried about them missing out, consider that the negative effects associated with over-scheduling are far greater than those of under-scheduling. Kids love unstructured moments–like hanging out in their PJs and helping mom make breakfast–which typically only happen on weekends and holidays. Summer provides an opportunity for those moments. It also gives kids a chance to become more proficient in essential life skills, such as self-sufficiency and self-direction, and gives them freedom to try and fail without judgment and even just play or create without a product or outcome in mind.

I admit that the highly productive free time Dr. McPhee recommends was a bit tough for my kids the first few weeks of summer. They were bored and at times had a hard time entertaining themselves after being used to structured activities and instruction during the school year. Dr. McPhee says parents can make the transition easier on kids (and their parents and caregivers) by providing suggestions of what to do with their new free time. Together with your child, write down ideas for fun activities–an outdoor scavenger hunt or quiet time with a favorite book, for instance. That way, you’ll have a go-to idea bank at your disposal. These ideas become the perfect antidote for the whining that often results from boredom.

Dr. McPhee says summer is also a great opportunity to create balance by offering kids new activities for a short duration–maybe a one-day workshop instead of a week of full immersion that may be too much for their growing brains and bodies to handle. “Let them try being an actor, a circus star, an artist or a golfer,” she says. “How about a poet, hockey player, dancer or computer programmer?”

Before committing to any activity or camp, learn as much as you can about the time involved, know who will be leading the activities, and what the kids will actually be doing. Get feedback from other parents whose kids have attended, so you know what to expect and can gauge how much your own kid will benefit.

If you didn’t get the balancing act quite right this summer, cut yourself (and your kids) some slack. You have another chance to get it right with back-to-school activities–soccer practice and piano lessons–that should start appearing in your inbox right about… now. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

8 Ways I'm Aging That Totally Snuck Up On Me

I’m no longer young.

This awareness didn’t hit me all at once, it occurred gradually over an extended period of time. You know how old-school glass windows flow downward, but the flow happens so slowly you can’t see it happening, it just eventually becomes obvious that the bottom of the window is much thicker than the top? The accumulation of evidence that proved I am past my prime happened sort of like that.These are the types of things that have been slowing increasing in frequency and intensity:

Explanations.Younger people have started explaining simple things to me because they assume I’m too old to have an understanding of them on my own. I’m a high school teacher so I’m surrounded by teenagers. The other day, one of my students looked at me and said, “Your haircut is fresh!” before sitting down at his desk and flipping through the pages of a book. After a moment, he paused, looked up and added, “That means it looks good.” If I overhear a group of students talking about something they saw on Instagram or Vine, inevitably one of them will turn to me and give me a simplified synopsis of what Instagram or Vine is. They’re shocked if they find out that I know how GroupMe works, or that I use Snapchat. Similarly, I find myself explaining what it was like back in the day when we used encyclopedias and didn’t have Google.

Fears. Things I never thought twice about when I was younger I now have to purposefully push out of my mind to keep from losing it. Having an aneurysm. Getting murdered while out on a jog. Anything related to my children getting hurt. Most of my fears seem to be health-related. I now even view the equipment at the playground as dangerous. I often catch myself holding my breath when my kids go down the slide by themselves, even though my rational self understands that the damage would be minimal. Me, though? The last time I went down a slide I tweaked my hamstring badly enough to make me terrified of getting seriously wounded should I ever try that again. Which I won’t.

Wrinkles. I remember waking up in the morning several years ago and noticing a couple of deep horizontal creases across the entire width of my forehead. I thought it was because I had slept particularly poorly the night before. Now, the horizontal creases are in no way correlated to the quality of my sleep. That’s just how my forehead looks now. It’s not just my face, it’s my entire body. I work out regularly but no matter how fit I become I’ve got an undeniable sagging situation going on. Under my belly button. Above my knees. My skin’s elasticity used to be as snappy as a rubber band, but now its resiliency is more on par with silly putty.

Ouchies. I have a few bodily injuries that have been progressively getting worse. These afflictions cannot be explained by any sort of trauma, they’re just happening because my body is starting to wear out. I can no longer sleep on my side in bed because my shoulders begin to ache. The joint on my right foot has been bugging me; I think I might be developing a bunion. I’m not even entirely sure what a bunion is, but I can’t deny that I am aging when I start using the word “bunion” in any sentence referencing myself.

I.D.s. I’ve stopped getting carded. If I am asked to remove my license from my wallet, it is due to a strict policy rather than a legitimate query. When this transition began, it shocked me more than it should have. I must’ve been in denial that others could see the gray hairs and crow’s feet. I’ve crossed over into acceptance, and now I’m comfortable being referred to as “Ma’am” instead of “Miss” by the bartender. I find myself getting annoyed on the rare occasions when I do get carded, because it means I have to wait 30 seconds longer for my server to get my beer.

Hangovers. While I certainly still enjoy having a drink or two, I can’t drink all night long anymore. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. My stomach gets too full or I end up with a headache or I stay up way too late, and then I get pissed off because I end up wasting the next morning not feeling well or sleeping in. Two nights in a row of staying up late and drinking is pretty much out of the question. It’s a good thing I’m okay with that, because my metabolism is no longer capable of keeping up with all of those extra calories.

Confidence. I’m comfortable in my own (saggy) skin. I do not care if other people think I’m good-looking. In fact, I hardly even care if I think I’m good-looking. I haven’t dyed my hair in a decade and it is not uncommon for me to go an entire day without brushing it. I don’t have time to care that much about looks because I’m busy focusing on things that actually matter. Not being fixated on the mirror allows me to target what is truly invigorating and important to me. This is incredibly liberating.

Happiness. I’ve settled down. I have an occupation, a home, a family. I’m past the stage of figuring out what I’m going to do with my life and I’m able to focus on how I’m going to live it. I’m beyond self-consciousness and self-doubt. I’m okay with who I am, flaws and all, and that allows me to focus on fostering happiness. As a result, I’ve never been more content than I am now.

It’s no longer a sneaking suspicion, it’s been confirmed that I’m no longer young. And I’m okay with that.

To read more of Christine’s work, subscribe to her blog, A Morning Grouch, or follow her on Facebook. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

This Beautiful Mama Breastfed Right In The Middle Of Her Wedding Ceremony

When Christina Torino-Benton’s nine-month-old daughter, Gemma, started crying in the middle of her June 18 wedding ceremony, she took one look at her fiancé, Danny Benton, and said: “It’s happening.” She then sat down and began to breastfeed. 

“I made it work… I had to!” Christina told The Huffington Post. “Danny has always been so incredibly supportive on this breastfeeding journey, so he just nodded in agreement.”
No one blinked as the Canadian mama breastfed the couple’s daughter at the Resurrection of Our Lord Church in Lachine, Quebec, and the priest simply carried on with the ceremony.
“The people at my wedding were not surprised with me feeding Gemma mid-ceremony because I’m always feeding her at some point or another in front of them,” Christina said.  

Christina posted the photo, captured by her photographer Lana Nimmons, on the Breastfeeding Mama Talk Facebook page because it’s one she figured the group would appreciate. She was right.
“I’m feeling nothing but positive vibes from the public response,” Christina said. “Everyone has been very encouraging and supportive.”
While Christina didn’t know the photo was being taken at the time, she said she absolutely loves it.
“Breastfeeding is so natural,” Christina said. “It took me a while to become comfortable with nursing out in the open, but now it’s completely second nature and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Christina and Danny have known each other since childhood; he was her first crush.

“I always was so drawn to him,” Christina said. “I feel like I knew we’d end up together one day.”
And end up together they did.  — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

How Faith And Love Paved The Way To A Family For These Dads

One of them always wanted children, the other not so much. In this week’s installment of the Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild.US “‎Let Love Define Family®” series, contributing writer Beth Hallstrom talks to Bruce and Kevin Baker-Rooks about how love and fate changed the idea of having a family — and then came their son, Brayden.
Juggling a long distance relationship is difficult enough, but navigating an interstate adoption is another story. But determination, love, faith and lots of patience gave the Revs. Bruce and Kevin Baker-Rooks and their son, Brayden, the happily ever after they hoped for.
Bruce, 49, and 52-year-old Kevin, who reside in Matthews, North Carolina, are both ordained ministers currently serving South Park Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Charlotte.
They were first parishioners until several resignations moved them to apply for the vacant positions. Bruce is the interim pastor while Kevin is the interim church administrator for the congregation, which was founded in 1969.
Bruce noted the family loves the church because it is a fiercely open and affirming congregation that welcomes everyone.
“When Kevin, Brayden and I walked through the doors, we immediately felt at home,” Bruce said in a recent sermon.
Faith and service to others have always been central to Bruce and Kevin’s relationship. They began dating in October 2007 in Boston, where both were attending seminary.
“One night I went to hear friends preach at Kevin’s church. He was sitting behind me. Don’t ask me what the sermon was about,” Bruce said with a chuckle.

“We took things fairly slow,” he continued, “and our fourth date was the wedding of some friends — I was the piano player and Kevin was the photographer. By December or January, we were a couple.”
They became engaged on their second anniversary in 2009 and married a year later while still living on campus at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts.
Kevin received his Masters of Divinity degree in 2010 and secured a position at an area church while Bruce completed his final two years of seminary while working as a pianist and student pastor.
“Early on in our relationship, we talked about getting married and having children. I always wanted to be a Dad, a Dad with four kids,” Bruce said.
Kevin added, “I didn’t always want kids, but after Bruce came along, the idea became more appealing.”
Bruce recalled an eerie and, it turned out, quite accurate conversation he had with Kevin. 
“This happened even before we got engaged. We were driving to dinner one night and Kevin told me he had a dream that we had a little boy with us. I, of course, peppered him for details. Looks? Age? Hair color? But he didn’t remember all the details,” Kevin explained.

Then, cold reality intervened and appeared to put the fatherhood issue on hold. Bruce, who still had a year of seminary left, and Kevin moved to North Carolina after learning Kevin’s sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“Kevin wanted to be near his sister and wanted to start a church. I took an internship as a chaplain at Duke and we really had a full plate. 
“We were still talking about having a family, but it was starting to look as if we wouldn’t have children. Besides, at the time, a same-sex couple could not adopt in North Carolina,” Bruce said.
But fate took an unexpected turn in 2013 when Bruce returned to Massachusetts for his final semester of seminary, leaving Kevin in North Carolina. 
Two months later, a friend in Massachusetts who is a foster and adoptive mother posted on her Facebook page that her foster son needed a forever home. Not wanting to sway Bruce and Kevin, she took the Facebook route specifically with the two in mind as perfect dads for this little boy. Her plan worked flawlessly. 
“Well, of course I saw her post and called Kevin about it. He told me to go meet the child so, two nights later, I went to his foster Mom’s house, opened the door and two-and-a-half-year old Brayden ran down the hall and leapt into my arms. I knew I was holding my son,” Bruce recalled.
Soon, they were seated at a table, holding hands, forehead to forehead, laughing and talking. “It was so natural,” Bruce said. 
“So, we called caseworkers in Massachusetts and North Carolina and both told us they would make it happen,” Kevin said. Bruce added with a laugh, “This is the gay man’s version of an unplanned pregnancy. All of a sudden, this is what we were doing. We were having a little boy.”
They began the adoption process immediately and Bruce began spending more time with Brayden. Around the middle of May, Kevin came North for Bruce’s graduation and to meet Brayden in person for the first time. 
“He crawled up on Kevin’s lap and then we took a walk around town with Kevin carrying Brayden in a backpack. It felt so good and so right,” Bruce said.
The excitement and celebration of graduation was bittersweet. Bruce and Kevin attended a graduation party with Brayden, where he won all the guests’ hearts. Then, the next day, they had to return to North Carolina, clutching photos of their son while Brayden remained in foster care with precious photos of his own.
Upon returning home, Bruce and Kevin immediately enrolled in classes and readied for their home study in preparation of securing their North Carolina foster home license.
“It took quite a few months for all the paperwork to be done because it was an interstate adoption. There was delay after delay after delay. We were hoping it would be complete by Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then we were told it would be at least March. It was so frustrating,” Bruce said.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, social services officials were reviewing all the pending adoptions and, according to Bruce, were aghast that the Baker-Rooks family was not yet complete.
Two days later, Bruce got the call that Brayden would arrive within two weeks and it was full speed ahead. Friends from church, who later became Brayden’s godparents, threw a baby shower for the new dads and, in February 2014, Brayden and his foster mother arrived at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. In a repeat performance of their first meeting, Brayden ran up the escalator and right into his dads’ arms. 
Bruce also invited the church’s children’s pastor to their home to conduct a special ceremony for the new family called the Service of Blessing and Transfer of Parental Responsibility.
“It’s one thing to have the adoption papers, but we wanted more of a ritual signifying the creation of our new family,” Bruce noted.
When Bruce first met Brayden, he was told the child had been removed from an extreme situation, was non-verbal and would probably never be able to learn in a regular classroom.
“Today, he is non-stop verbal, in a regular kindergarten class, loves math and science, is very inquisitive and can read some. He is so far ahead of what everybody told us, I have full faith he will be able to do whatever he wants to do,” said Kevin, adding, “He’s stubborn and doesn’t give up and that will take him wherever he wants to go.”
Bruce and Kevin attribute Brayden’s remarkable success to one simple factor: love.
“It’s love, unconditional love and the security of parents who love him beyond reason. We tell him all the time that we love him the whole world and back,” Kevin said.
“The LGBT community has so much love to give and a profound opportunity to give foster children the love, care, security and the life they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Bruce said. 
“Many of us have been rejected by our families, churches and friends so we know what it feels like to experience what many of these kids have experienced. There’s a special connection there, an unexplainable, wondrous connection. It really goes back to our faith and our duty to care for the least and most vulnerable. In many ways, Brayden chose us, not the other way around, and we are grateful,” Bruce added.
RaiseAChild is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild recruits, educates and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. Take the Next Step to Parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.US or call us at (323) 417-1440.
The Art of Love:
If you live in the Las Vegas area or plan to be there on the evening of July 16th, please consider attending a very special RaiseAChild benefit event at the Martin Lawrence Galleries at The Forum Shops. Tickets and event details at www.RaiseAChild.US — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families

83 Baby Name Ideas For People Who Are Obsessed With 'Game Of Thrones'

The “Game of Thrones” season six finale airs this weekend. But for parents and parents-to-be who love the show (and/or book series that inspired it), the “GoT” mania can live on in many ways … like baby names. 
Social Security Administration data over the past few years has shown that the franchise is already influencing parents’ baby name choices, most notably with  Arya and Khaleesi. But the potential beyond those examples is endless.
We examined the television show and books for some additional name inspiration. Here are over 80 baby name ideas from “Game of Thrones” characters  — the girls and the boys, deceased and the living, the good and the bad and the in-between.
Girls
Brienne
Meera
Margaery
Sansa
Ygritte
Shireen
Catelyn
Lyanna
Yara
Daenerys
Gilly
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Source: huffingtonpost families

Selena Gomez Has Adorable Dance-Off With 7-Year-Old Who Has Rare Illness

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Audrey Nethery is a dancing machine.
When we saw her last, she was taking the Zumba world by storm. Now, she’s charming the pants off America’s pop sweetheart, Selena Gomez. 
Audrey is 7 years old and has a rare bone marrow disease called Diamond-Blackfan anemia. The disease is characterized by a “failure of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.”
The “Love You Like A Love Song” singer met the little dancing warrior at a meet and greet. They wasted no time and had a pretty great dance sesh.

Finally got to meet this sweetheart -she owned it fully A video posted by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on Jun 22, 2016 at 7:57pm PDT

As per Audrey’s Instagram, Gomez had reached out to her on her Facebook page about four months ago and commented on her performing skills.

Look who left Audrey a comment!!! @selenagomez ❤️❤️❤️ #audreynethery A photo posted by Audrey Nethery (@audreynethery) on Feb 2, 2016 at 12:30pm PST

The pair looks like they had a blast together.

Dreams really do come true. We can’t wait to see who you dance with next, Audrey! — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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How This Preemie's Family Found Hope In 'Finding Nemo'

For one family, “Finding Nemo” became more than a movie. It became an inspiration while their son fought to live.
According to ABC News, Maureen and Jeffrey Azize’s son, Francis William Azize, was born at 23 weeks in January 2015 and weighed just 1 pound, 9 ounces. On June 17, the family shared a video on Facebook documenting Francis’ journey and his unexpected connection to the movie “Finding Nemo.” According to the video, during Francis’ stay in the hospital, Maureen’s brother, Charles Kinnane, sent the couple a TED Talk from Andrew Stanton, the director and writer of “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory.” In his talk, Stanton shared with the audience the day his dad told him he had been born premature.
“He explained that when I was born, I was born premature, that I came out much too early, and I wasn’t fully baked. I was very, very sick,” he said. “And when the doctor took a look at this yellow kid with black teeth, he looked straight at my mom and said, ‘He’s not going to live.'”
Maureen described Stanton’s story and everything he has accomplished as “really inspiring.” The family already had a connection with “Finding Nemo” since Maureen’s sister used the film as inspiration for her doodles on Francis’ whiteboard in his hospital room. Francis’ connection with the movie grew even more when Kinnane, who sent the TED Talk, sat next to Stanton during a flight.
“My brother showed him some pictures and kind of told him about Francis and then before the plane ride was over, Andrew Stanton handed my brother a piece of paper,” Maureen said in the video. 
The paper included a drawing of the beloved Disney character Nemo. The message on it read, “To Francis William, just keep swimming!”

And that’s exactly what Francis has done. According to the video, he finally went home after 118 days in the hospital. The video of his journey has been viewed more than 11 million times in a week and caught the attention of Stanton, who tweeted that the video made him cry. 

Can't stop crying. "Profoundly moved" is an understatement. #GoFrancishttps://t.co/BdV5PTc90f— andrew stanton (@andrewstanton) June 20, 2016

Maureen told ABC News her 1-year-old son is now trying to walk. She thanked everyone, especially the nurses and doctors, who offered their love and support and helped her son thrive. 
“He’s just a real little gift,” she said. 
H/T PopSugar — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Source: huffingtonpost families