A Parent’s Touch Actually Transforms A Baby’s Brain

A child wants to be held and touched from the very first day of life. And a parent’s affectionate touch goes a long way, from boosting a newborn’s healthy development to shaping the child’s brain later on, a new study suggests.
For many animals, touch is a strong communicator of emotions, a signal that bonds a parent to a child. To a newborn, a parent’s love may be as important as food, as the young monkeys in Harry Harlow’s famous experiments in the 1950s showed us when they clung to a soft dummy even if their milk came from somewhere else.

Now, years after the famous monkey love experiments, researchers in Germany and Singapore used brain imaging to see whether receiving a lot of fond caresses affects the human brain in any measurable way.
“We explored whether the touch parents direct at their children has effects beyond social bonding and shapes functional aspects of the developing brain,” researchers Jens Brauer, Annett Schirmer and their colleagues wrote in a study published in the August issue of Cerebral Cortex.
The researchers gathered about 40 children around age 5 and their moms, and asked the pairs to play with Playmobil Farm toys for 10 minutes. The researchers watched and counted how many times mothers touched their children and how often the children touched their mothers.
A couple of days later, the researchers scanned each child’s brain while he or she was at rest to see its activity patterns. They focused on the “social brain” ― that is, the sum of neuronal networks that makes us deal with a person differently than we do with, say, an apple. It is what’s at work when we behave socially, are interested in other people and try to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Researchers observed that brain activity across these networks was stronger for kids who received more tactile attention from their mothers.

“There is already a substantial literature looking at the positive effects of touch in infants,” including links between touch and an infant’s growth and emotional development, said Schirmer, a psychologist at the National University of Singapore. “Our work adds by showing a relation specifically to the social brain … and extending this to an older age group, suggesting that benefits exist beyond infancy.” 
It’s almost impossible to directly confirm a cause-and-effect relationship between touch and brain development in humans (researchers can’t deprive a child of parental touch to see what happens), but animal studies suggests such a causal link exists, Schirmer said.
The new findings were drawn from one slice of time in the children’s lives, but it’s likely that the more tactile mothers have always been that way, and have been boosting this brain development since their kids were born.

“We can only speculate that this is the case. However, our findings nicely align with evidence from non-human animals,” Schirmer said. “So if what happens in humans compares to what happens in rats, then yes, body functioning and the workings of the social brain are being shaped throughout development by the amount of touch individuals receive.”
“Note, however, that touch is probably one of several factors in a child’s environment that shape social functioning,” Schirmer added.
A gentle, affectionate touch reaches the brain through a class of nerve fibers in the skin called c-tactile afferents. Some scientists believe this particular group of nerves has evolved in social species, from mice to men, and may be fundamental in developing the social brain. These nerve fibers, discovered later than pain and temperature-sensing nerves, respond best to slow touch and strokes. They are found mostly on the back of the body and appear to be absent on the palms. When activated by gentle touch, the nerves trigger a cascade of hormonal effects in the brain, animal studies suggests. 

Harlow’s monkeys overturned a widespread school of thought in the early 20th century that viewed unconditional love as detrimental to a child’s proper upbringing and mental health. We now know that as a well-documented social species, humans are born with a brain eager to seek and form social bonds.
But some social abilities many of us take for granted, such as the ability to imagine another person’s thoughts and perspective, don’t even emerge until around age four or five. This shows that the social brain we start with still needs years of learning, from birth to adolescence, to fully mature. 
“Touch is a fundamentally important care taking behavior that can have much benefits for children,” Schirmer said. “If infants and young children seek tactile comfort from their parents, their parents should happily indulge them.” — 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

Roses without Chemicals, After Knock Outs by Susan Harris

Peter Kukielski speaking at Behnke Nurseries.
Meet Peter Kukielski, former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanic Garden, who suddenly had to give up spraying when the city banned pesticide use on public lands. So he researched disease-resistant roses, which led him to Germany and the roses being bred by the breeder Kordes.  Interestingly, Germany had outlawed those same pesticides 20 years earlier and had invested heavily in hybridizing roses for disease resistance and other great qualities like fragrance and a long season of bloom.
Peter was happy to discover that thanks to Kordes and the Earthkind testing and certification program here in the States, you can have a great rose garden without chemicals, even one that wins awards, as his did.
In this video Peter shows off the garden and describes the rose trials he conducted there.
The demand for disease-resistant roses was pretty much created and met by one variety we’re all familiar with and have probably grown – the Knock Out. I enjoyed them for a while myself but I bore easily and gave up their space to trying new perennials.  Finding more interesting chem-free roses wasn’t an option that I was aware of.
So what a treat to discover Peter and his book Roses without Chemicals: 150 disease-free Varieties that will Change the Way you Grow Roses, in which he passes on everything he’s learned about this important subject.
Images from Peter’s talk.
I recently heard Peter speaking to the Potomac Rose Society (website under construction), telling the story of the garden’s transformation and actually making me understand the changes in rose breeding over the last 50 or so years. No more breeding for just the cut-flower trade, aiming for the biggest honking long-stems possible. He traced the story of how bans on pesticides and increased consumer concerns about pesticides have changing rose breeding, probably for good.
Peter inspired me to give one or two of his chosen roses a whirl, but where to find them? In an email, he suggested I try the remaining late-spring supplies at Chamblee Roses.in East Texas. They’ve long been active in promoting and spreading the gospel of Earth Kind roses,  which is a service of Texas A&M.  In a quick interview, owner Mark Chamblee  owner.
He told me that while Earthkind did start a movement in disease-resistant roses, its sales were down. Customers and landscapers are increasingly asking, “Anything besides Knock Outs?” But Millennials are liking the Kordes-bed roses that are pretty and easy while bringing back more qualities that people have always loved about roses.
The Kordes types, though, are filling the gap because like me, customers ask, “Anything besides Knock Outs?” Landscapers ask the same question. And they’re liking the roses from Germany with more of the traditional rose qualities we love (without the fungal disease).
With Mark’s help I narrowed my shopping cart to two roses from Chamblee – Sachet, a miniature, and “very fragrant” according to the catalog, and Fire Opal Kolorscape, a Floribunda, whatever that means. (Rose families and their respective traits have always escaped me.) They arrived looking good and are spending this season in sunny holding spots.  Next year I’ll give them more prominent locations; I have a gorgeous pot picked out for the miniature, with a trailing Sedum.
Folger Rose Garden.
Peter’s Roses to Debut at the Smithsonian!
Now back to Peter for a happy ending. A couple of days before I heard him speak I happened to be chatting with Shelley Gaskins, curator of the Smithsonian’s Folger Rose Garden, which is currently undergoing a total re-do. She told me that in choosing roses for the next iteration of this historic garden she’s relying completely on Peter’s book. In fact, at the public Smithsonian Garden events where I met her, his book was on display.
So I got to tell Peter this story and his reaction was to clutch his heart and declare that “You’ve made my day.” I put him in touch with Shelley and it looks like he’ll be attending the grand reopening of the rose garden later this year.
Roses without Chemicals, After Knock Outs originally appeared on Garden Rant on July 29, 2016.

Source: GardenRant

These Two Dads Share The 'Meant To Be' Story Of Their Beautiful Family

Was it providence or coincidence that took two dads named Brian from the darkest lows to the most exhilarating highs before the stars aligned and delivered the family they longed for? In this week’s Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild “Let Love Define Family®” series, contributing writer Beth Hallstrom shares their story.
How the family was brought together doesn’t matter to Port St. Lucie, Florida, residents Brian Skirvin-Leclair and Brian Skirvin as much as all the good the future will bring. Still, there are clear signs this family was meant to be. 
Brian Skirvin-Leclair, 46, who is professor of nursing and a nurse practitioner, and 50-year old Brian Skirvin, formerly of the biotech field and now a stay-at-home Dad, have been together 19 years. They married in Massachusetts on May 21, 2005. 
“We actually met 21 years ago, but I was in nursing school and had no time to date, let alone commit to a relationship,” Nurse Brian, as he is frequently called, remembered.
But, two years later, their paths crossed again while both were out with friends for a night of pool.
“We started talking and decided to go out, but we dated sporadically and kind of lost touch. Then, after graduation, I was out with friends and, when I went up to the bar to order a drink, I looked to my right and there he was standing right next to me.
“We talked and we both admitted neither of us could get the other off his mind. We’ve been together ever since,” he said. 
When the two Brians decided to start their family, they first went to an office of the state’s foster care system and were stung by remarks made to them by the caseworker. 

“She told us she didn’t approve of two men in a relationship and, even if we were approved, we would probably get a special needs child and certainly never a girl. It was horrible and we quickly opted out of that plan,” Nurse Brian said.
Next, they decided to consult a private agency with a strong track record of support for the LGBTQ community, Full Circle Adoption in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Nurse Brian explained, “We called and met with the director the next day. It’s a very small agency, exceptionally detailed and thorough. That was in November, 2005. 
“The process seemed to take forever and, in hindsight, it really didn’t, but they looked at every aspect of our lives and every aspect of our families’ lives. It was a thorough investigation and it seemed like it took an eternity and I really wanted a child. I worked with children ― abused, sick, and malnourished ― and it just broke my heart because I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Then, in February, on what Nurse Brian called “the most exciting day of my life,” the agency called with a possible match.
“We were so happy and all we saw was the ultrasound! Then, after two weeks, the birth mother changed her mind. We were devastated,” Nurse Brian said.
“Every time I was home, I just sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. In the meantime, I started researching the adoption process and learned you don’t have to go through an agency. A social worker I know set us up with a caseworker in Kentucky who found us a match.
“Now, at the time, there were ten states that allowed gays to adopt and Kentucky wasn’t one of them. The birth mother was even going to travel to Massachusetts so she could have the baby here. Then, about two weeks out, our caseworker called and said she had just been to the woman’s home and found a full nursery waiting for the baby. I felt as if I lost another child,” Nurse Brian said. 

Depressed and in despair, the two Brians decided to take advantage of the Fourth of July weekend and go camping at one of their favorite spots about three hours away from their home.
“I just couldn’t stand it. All those happy families at the camp, it just depressed me further. I told Brian I just had to be alone, so I left and returned home. So I went back home, at my lowest point, opened a beer and sat by the pool,” Nurse Brian said.
On July Fourth, shortly after noon, a representative from Full Circle called and told Nurse Brian about a newborn in a hospital about an hour away. “The mother chose not to keep the child,” he said.
This social worker, who worked casually at the hospital and was also affiliated with Full Circle, talked to the mother and told her she didn’t have to go through the state to place her child, that she had other options for her baby and gave her about a dozen family profiles to review.
“Our profile was on top and the first thing she read was, ‘We can’t wait to celebrate our favorite holiday with our baby, the Fourth of July.’ She said she didn’t need to read any further. She knew this was meant to be,” he said.
A quick call was made to Brian and he made the three-hour trip home in 90 minutes. The next morning the couple was in the hospital parking lot three hours early until finally it was time to meet their son, Zachary, who is now ten-years-old.
“We were greeted at the door by the nurse, Nancy. She led us to the incubator, which had a baby blanket covering it. I was leaning over the nurse’s shoulder as she lifted the blanket and opened the incubator door and there this tiny baby boy laid. I was overwhelmed with emotions. On one hand, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. On the other, I was so afraid that something would go wrong,” Nurse Brian remembered.
Because of the state’s three-day Change of Heart Law, baby, Zachary, remained in the hospital. On the third day, Brian and Brian took their son home.
“There was no turning back. Born on the fourth, our favorite holiday? The mother’s reaction to the one and only profile she looked at? It was meant to be,” he said.
They soon knew they wanted a sibling for Zachary and decided to give the state system one more chance. This time, Brian said, they found a wonderfully sympathetic social worker who started them on their journey ― the classes and the home study ― and in February 2008, the Brians were approved to be foster parents. Their only requirement was that the foster child placed with them be younger than Zachary, who was then three.
And then the stars aligned again for the family in an amazing way. 
Brian explained, “I figured, once we were approved, we would get called right away because there were so many kids in foster care. We didn’t. Then, on May 29, Memorial Day Weekend, Brian called me at work all excited about this baby that was left at a hospital. He said we just had to call about this baby!”
The child was left in a bassinet at the hospital under the Safe Haven Law, which allows new mothers to place their babies, with no fear of repercussions, in designated areas located at hospitals, fire houses and police stations across the country. 
The little Jane Doe was a long shot as a foster child for the Brians, they were told, because her case was so high-profile and would elicit numerous calls from prospective parents. 
“But, we called anyway and our profile was sent to the appropriate caseworker. Then, we found out we were among the families chosen to be interviewed. They gave us one hour to get to the meeting. We were ushered into a room with about 20 people sitting around a table. All sorts of officials, even the state commissioner of the Department of Children and Family Services,” Nurse Brian said. 

Expecting to be peppered with questions and hoping against hope that they would make the short list to be the baby girl’s foster parents, instead, Brian and Brian were told they would be a great family and the group around the table didn’t plan to interview any of the other candidates.
“We left the meeting and drove to the hospital and, of course, it was the same hospital Zachary was born in. When we got to the maternity floor, there was the same nurse and she told us she was just sure it would be us. We knew it was foster care, but we fell in love anyway and chose not to think about the future,” he said.
Eighteen months and numerous court appearances later (relatives came out of the woodwork and, at one point, the birth mother wanted the baby back) the mother gave up her rights to the baby, now Christina, and adoption proceedings began.
“Christina, now seven years old, completed our family and is definitely our princess. Can you believe it? A Fourth of July son and a Memorial Day daughter. Every step of the way has been meant to be, even the process of the adoptions and the stress we went through. It really strengthened our family; the strife bonded us together and, looking back, it was all good for us,” Nurse Brian said.
“While our story is a testament to patience and faith and waiting for things to happen in the order they’re supposed to, without those first two losses we wouldn’t be as strong or where we are today,” he added “Most of all, we wouldn’t have two of the most precious gifts any parent could ask for ― our children.”
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. — 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

These Two Dads Share The 'Meant To Be' Story Their Beautiful Family

Was it providence or coincidence that took two dads named Brian from the darkest lows to the most exhilarating highs before the stars aligned and delivered the family they longed for? In this week’s Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild “Let Love Define Family®” series, contributing writer Beth Hallstrom shares their story.
How the family was brought together doesn’t matter to Port St. Lucie, Florida, residents Brian Skirvin-Leclair and Brian Skirvin as much as all the good the future will bring. Still, there are clear signs this family was meant to be. 
Brian Skirvin-Leclair, 46, who is professor of nursing and a nurse practitioner, and 50-year old Brian Skirvin, formerly of the biotech field and now a stay-at-home Dad, have been together 19 years. They married in Massachusetts on May 21, 2005. 
“We actually met 21 years ago, but I was in nursing school and had no time to date, let alone commit to a relationship,” Nurse Brian, as he is frequently called, remembered.
But, two years later, their paths crossed again while both were out with friends for a night of pool.
“We started talking and decided to go out, but we dated sporadically and kind of lost touch. Then, after graduation, I was out with friends and, when I went up to the bar to order a drink, I looked to my right and there he was standing right next to me.
“We talked and we both admitted neither of us could get the other off his mind. We’ve been together ever since,” he said. 
When the two Brians decided to start their family, they first went to an office of the state’s foster care system and were stung by remarks made to them by the caseworker. 

“She told us she didn’t approve of two men in a relationship and, even if we were approved, we would probably get a special needs child and certainly never a girl. It was horrible and we quickly opted out of that plan,” Nurse Brian said.
Next, they decided to consult a private agency with a strong track record of support for the LGBTQ community, Full Circle Adoption in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Nurse Brian explained, “We called and met with the director the next day. It’s a very small agency, exceptionally detailed and thorough. That was in November, 2005. 
“The process seemed to take forever and, in hindsight, it really didn’t, but they looked at every aspect of our lives and every aspect of our families’ lives. It was a thorough investigation and it seemed like it took an eternity and I really wanted a child. I worked with children ― abused, sick, and malnourished ― and it just broke my heart because I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Then, in February, on what Nurse Brian called “the most exciting day of my life,” the agency called with a possible match.
“We were so happy and all we saw was the ultrasound! Then, after two weeks, the birth mother changed her mind. We were devastated,” Nurse Brian said.
“Every time I was home, I just sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. In the meantime, I started researching the adoption process and learned you don’t have to go through an agency. A social worker I know set us up with a caseworker in Kentucky who found us a match.
“Now, at the time, there were ten states that allowed gays to adopt and Kentucky wasn’t one of them. The birth mother was even going to travel to Massachusetts so she could have the baby here. Then, about two weeks out, our caseworker called and said she had just been to the woman’s home and found a full nursery waiting for the baby. I felt as if I lost another child,” Nurse Brian said. 

Depressed and in despair, the two Brians decided to take advantage of the Fourth of July weekend and go camping at one of their favorite spots about three hours away from their home.
“I just couldn’t stand it. All those happy families at the camp, it just depressed me further. I told Brian I just had to be alone, so I left and returned home. So I went back home, at my lowest point, opened a beer and sat by the pool,” Nurse Brian said.
On July Fourth, shortly after noon, a representative from Full Circle called and told Nurse Brian about a newborn in a hospital about an hour away. “The mother chose not to keep the child,” he said.
This social worker, who worked casually at the hospital and was also affiliated with Full Circle, talked to the mother and told her she didn’t have to go through the state to place her child, that she had other options for her baby and gave her about a dozen family profiles to review.
“Our profile was on top and the first thing she read was, ‘We can’t wait to celebrate our favorite holiday with our baby, the Fourth of July.’ She said she didn’t need to read any further. She knew this was meant to be,” he said.
A quick call was made to Brian and he made the three-hour trip home in 90 minutes. The next morning the couple was in the hospital parking lot three hours early until finally it was time to meet their son, Zachary, who is now ten-years-old.
“We were greeted at the door by the nurse, Nancy. She led us to the incubator, which had a baby blanket covering it. I was leaning over the nurse’s shoulder as she lifted the blanket and opened the incubator door and there this tiny baby boy laid. I was overwhelmed with emotions. On one hand, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. On the other, I was so afraid that something would go wrong,” Nurse Brian remembered.
Because of the state’s three-day Change of Heart Law, baby, Zachary, remained in the hospital. On the third day, Brian and Brian took their son home.
“There was no turning back. Born on the fourth, our favorite holiday? The mother’s reaction to the one and only profile she looked at? It was meant to be,” he said.
They soon knew they wanted a sibling for Zachary and decided to give the state system one more chance. This time, Brian said, they found a wonderfully sympathetic social worker who started them on their journey ― the classes and the home study ― and in February 2008, the Brians were approved to be foster parents. Their only requirement was that the foster child placed with them be younger than Zachary, who was then three.
And then the stars aligned again for the family in an amazing way. 
Brian explained, “I figured, once we were approved, we would get called right away because there were so many kids in foster care. We didn’t. Then, on May 29, Memorial Day Weekend, Brian called me at work all excited about this baby that was left at a hospital. He said we just had to call about this baby!”
The child was left in a bassinet at the hospital under the Safe Haven Law, which allows new mothers to place their babies, with no fear of repercussions, in designated areas located at hospitals, fire houses and police stations across the country. 
The little Jane Doe was a long shot as a foster child for the Brians, they were told, because her case was so high-profile and would elicit numerous calls from prospective parents. 
“But, we called anyway and our profile was sent to the appropriate caseworker. Then, we found out we were among the families chosen to be interviewed. They gave us one hour to get to the meeting. We were ushered into a room with about 20 people sitting around a table. All sorts of officials, even the state commissioner of the Department of Children and Family Services,” Nurse Brian said. 

Expecting to be peppered with questions and hoping against hope that they would make the short list to be the baby girl’s foster parents, instead, Brian and Brian were told they would be a great family and the group around the table didn’t plan to interview any of the other candidates.
“We left the meeting and drove to the hospital and, of course, it was the same hospital Zachary was born in. When we got to the maternity floor, there was the same nurse and she told us she was just sure it would be us. We knew it was foster care, but we fell in love anyway and chose not to think about the future,” he said.
Eighteen months and numerous court appearances later (relatives came out of the woodwork and, at one point, the birth mother wanted the baby back) the mother gave up her rights to the baby, now Christina, and adoption proceedings began.
“Christina, now seven years old, completed our family and is definitely our princess. Can you believe it? A Fourth of July son and a Memorial Day daughter. Every step of the way has been meant to be, even the process of the adoptions and the stress we went through. It really strengthened our family; the strife bonded us together and, looking back, it was all good for us,” Nurse Brian said.
“While our story is a testament to patience and faith and waiting for things to happen in the order they’re supposed to, without those first two losses we wouldn’t be as strong or where we are today,” he added “Most of all, we wouldn’t have two of the most precious gifts any parent could ask for ― our children.”
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. — 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

Not So Sunny Day: 'Sesame Street' Axes 3 Beloved Cast Members

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Can you tell me how to get… how to get to the unemployment office? 
“Sesame Street” is getting rid of three beloved characters, along with the human actors who play them. Bob McGrath (”Bob”), Emilio Delgado (“Luis”) and Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”) have all been let go, Sesame Workshop said in a statement on Facebook, adding that the trio would “continue to represent us at public events.” 

“To us, and for millions of people worldwide, they are a treasured part of Sesame Street. Since the show began, we are constantly evolving our content and curriculum, and hence, our characters, to meet the educational needs of children. As a result of this, our cast has changed over the years, though you can still expect to see many of them in upcoming productions.”

McGrath first broke the news at Florida Supercon earlier this month.
“I have completed my 45th season this year,” he said on The MuppetCast podcast. “They let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka ― who is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us ― and Chris Knowings, who is also young.” 
 
(Story continues below video)

McGrath, 84, has been on the show since it debuted in 1969, according to USA Today. Delgado, 76, was added in 1971, while 72-year-old Orman joined in 1974.
The casting changes follow the show’s switch from an hourlong format to a 30-minutes. New episodes will air first on HBO and be rebroadcast nine months later on PBS. However, a statement from the show said the decision to dismiss the veteran cast members wasn’t made by HBO.
“Sesame Workshop retains sole creative control over the show,” the organization said on Facebook. “HBO does not oversee the production.”
PBS also said it had nothing to do with the casting changes.
“’Sesame Street’ is produced by Sesame Workshop, which is an independent production company, and the casting decision was made by them,” PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said, according to The Wrap. “We did not know about it beforehand. We found out about it after.” 
The news came just one year after another longtime member of the cast, Sonia Manzano, retired. She had portrayed the character of Maria since 1971. — 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

Women And Girls, From 6 To 102, On The Impact Of Hillary's Nomination

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On Thursday evening, Hillary Clinton officially accepted the Democratic nomination for president. That monumental moment is already impacting women of all ages, who are finally seeing a woman poised to shatter the highest glass ceiling there is in this country. 
The Huffington Post spoke with girls and women ― from the ages of 6 to 102 ― at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to hear what the nomination means to them.
“It’s not just a symbolic move. It’s a massive amount of representation of voices that haven’t been heard in the past,” DNC attendee Anna Mehrabyan said. 
Another attendee even said watching Clinton clinch the nomination was a “dream come true.”
“Women and children all around the world can grow up to be anything that they want to be, even president of the United States,” said Clinton supporter Rachel Gonzalez.
Watch the video above to hear what Hillary Clinton’s nomination means to the women at the DNC. 
This video was produced by Gabe Piscione, Erika Larose and JM Rieger, edited by Maria Tridas and Terence Krey, shot by Samantha Guff and Tiara Chiaramonte and hosted by Karah Preiss.  — 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

A Survival Guide For Work-From-Home Parents

People are always asking me how I manage to consistently work as much as I do with a toddler in the house. It makes me feel great that I have somehow made this near-impossible feat look easy, but I can assure you that it’s anything but.

I’d liken it to nailing jello to the wall.

I made the choice to work from home when my daughter was a few months shy of her first birthday. I didn’t have the help of a full-time nanny, and my day to day life became, well, a circus. The juggling act between meeting client deadlines, developing creative content, answering a daily onslaught of emails, taking care of my home, and most importantly, taking care of my family, has been a learning process like no other.

As with anything, this routine took a little time to ease in to. There are days that go off without a hitch, and days where I’d like to hide in my closet with my laptop and a giant vat of espresso. There are days I feel more capable than superwoman, and then days where I repeatedly ask myself if I’m crazy to have launched my own writing business with a now super-active toddler running circles around me all day, every day.

I hate to sound cliche, but the truth is, if I can do it, so can the rest of you amazing mamas (and daddies) of the world. Here are a few tips for working from home while parenting:

Get ahead of the game.
Preparation is key. No one knows the needs of your child or children better than you. Create a schedule that allows for a comfortable balance without overwhelming you. Wake up before the kids, allow yourself to organize and map out your day, and answer some pressing emails. Know exactly which parts of your day will demand the most of your attention instead of winging it and hoping things fall in line. They won’t. Learning to work on a schedule and create routines that work for all of the people in your home will be a game changer that will not only increase productivity, it will keep you in control of your day.

Ask for help.
Any mom, business owner, or mamapreneur worth her salt knows that it truly does take a village to get ahead. For me personally, I am not in a position to hire a full time sitter or nanny, nor do I want to rely on the help of someone else. I enjoy being with my daughter as much as I can between client calls and projects, however, I know my limits. Luckily, I have family close by who are willing to help a few days a week, as well as a neighbor who is happy to watch my daughter for a few hours on some of my busiest days. The trick is to take full advantage of this time. This is when I schedule any calls (because no one enjoys hearing a screaming child who just spilled her goldfish all over the floor), engage in creating new business plans, and taking a few moments of quiet time to reinvigorate my brain and thought process. Ask for help. Don’t be shy. Help is good.

Know your limits.
This is the most important piece of information I can give to anyone looking to maintain a successful career with small children at home. If the first two options do not work out for you, this one will be your secret weapon. Sure, we all want to do as much as humanly possible to keep everyone, clients, children, spouses, friends, and family happy day in and day out – but let’s be real here. If you’re consistently overextending yourself, something will suffer and it will most likely be you, and the quality of your work. This happened to me quite a bit in the beginning, until I became more familiar with and accepting of my limits. Learning to say no, whether to yourself or others is an invaluable tool for success.

Have a sense of humor.
And be realistic. Do not expect perfection of yourself or anyone else involved in your work-from-home life. Allow a little room for error, a lot of patience, and time to learn. When in doubt – laugh (even if it’s at yourself).

The truth is, anything that results in success takes a lot of hard work, trial and error, and patience. You’ll get there, trust me.

To learn more, drop me a line and share your story! I’d love to hear from you! — 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

For The First Time, I See My Mother (And Myself) In A Presidential Candidate

My mom and I live very far apart: 9,929 miles, to be exact. It’s a 24-hour trip, door-to-door, from my place in New York City to my parents’ house in Sydney, Australia.
I don’t live that far from where she grew up, though; she was born with the 1950s, on Long Island, where my 102-year-old grandmother still lives. Mom moved to Australia more than 30 years ago, a happy fate that often befalls those who fall in love with Australians. My sister and I were raised there; we grew up freckled and muscly from swimming outside all year round. And then, we both left home for college. I came to the east coast of the US, and I stayed. I’ve been here for 11 years now, living, working, voting, becoming a barely adequate cook.
There are predictable days when I wish my mom were here with me. Birthdays, breakups, particularly bad weepy days in my menstrual cycle. Those are days when I wish she could be there for me – to soothe me, to buck me up, to stick her head into my nearly empty fridge and somehow throw together a delicious meal for us both.
Then there are the moments when I wish we could be together so that I could be there for her. When she has setbacks at work, when she misses her faraway daughters, when she’s tired and run down and overwhelmed. There have been more of these as I age, as our relationship shifts from mother and child to mother and adult daughter, as I am no longer separated from her by adolescence and the teenage insistence that I know more than she does. We are not friends ― this is not “Gilmore Girls” ― but we are both women now, far more similar than we’ve ever been.

There have been few periods in the last 11 years when I have wished more ardently and more often to be with my mother – physically with her, not just talking to her on the phone or exchanging daily emails – than during the ascension of Hillary Clinton to the top of the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket. Over and over again, I find myself thinking, God, I wish my mom were here.
My mother is almost of Clinton’s vintage, with her slight relative youth making a few crucial differences in her life path. She graduated from high school in 1968, beginning her adulthood at a legendarily tumultuous moment in American and world history. It was also the moment when America’s most prestigious universities were beginning to open their ivy-wound gates to women; my mom transferred as a sophomore and became of the first few hundred women to earn an undergraduate degree from Yale. From there, she went to graduate school, in the newly created and not-yet women-heavy field of public health, and then to the State Department, where she was one of very few women. A petite and pretty New York Jew, just 25 years old, she was sent around the world for USAID, including a three-year stint in Panama, with my father, by then her husband, in tow. She worked, mostly with men, to improve the health of people in developing countries, most of them women. After 10 years, she and my father moved to Sydney, where they’ve lived ever since.
There are many people who cannot relate to Hillary Clinton, who cannot see themselves or anyone they care about in her. She’s a wealthy, straight, white woman, a mother, an ambitious career woman ― and there are some people to whom she simply does not speak, with whom her experiences and views of the world do not resonate. I’m not one of those people. Simply put, Hillary Clinton reminds me of my mom. 
When I look at Hillary Clinton, I see a woman who is almost always the smartest person in any room she enters, and who, for a long time, knew that when she walked through the door she’d be assumed to be less intelligent, less informed and less qualified than most of the men who sat at the table with her.
I see a woman who has perfected the art of tolerating questions that insult her intelligence and that seem to bristle at the fact that it occurred to her to be in the room in the first place.
I see a woman who, after decades of being subject to sexist beauty standards, is now also subject to ageist ones ― who, in addition to doing her difficult and substantive job, has also had to fight tooth and nail to ensure that her face fits the requirements we impose on an aging woman who dares to show hers in public.
You know that smile Clinton smiles in a debate, when her opponent is insulting her to face, and she has to respond firmly but sweetly, forcefully but genially, in a way that both counters the argument and also draws the audience toward her? I know that smile. I have seen my mother form that smile. I have practiced that smile ― in college classrooms, at work, on OKCupid dates ― never realizing until this year who taught me how to do it.

When I listen to Hillary Clinton, I hear the careful and considerate algorithm that runs through my mother’s head before she answers a question. I hear the mental flowchart she conjures as she thinks about how to be correct while also avoiding hurting a single feeling or raising even one hackle. I hear the cautious tread of someone who knows that her mistakes will be punished far more than her successes are rewarded ― and who also feels pressure to conceal that caution, to appear natural and comfortable. You know, “authentic.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that watching Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign has reshaped my relationship with my mother. As I’ve thought and written – and raged – about the ways that sexism and ageism play out in our politics and media narratives, I’ve begun to see my mother’s life through a new and more compassionate lens.
Last year, when Clinton’s campaign had just launched, the matter of her age was repeatedly raised: was she just too old to be President? Leaving aside the comparable ages of her rival in the primary and of her eventual rival in the general, this question caused a spike of rage in my chest every time I heard it raised. Of course she’s old, I’d think. She had to spend an extra 15 years convincing everyone that she was qualified enough. And now that she has, now that she’s arguably the most qualified non-incumbent person to ever contest the presidency in more than 200 years of presidential contests, she’s being discounted because she’s now OLD? This is bullshit.
It’s the same bullshit, not coincidentally, that I’ve watched my mother go through in the last few years. Over the phone, I’ll tell her about the colleagues or clients who discount my ideas, who assume I’m less worthy of their time, because I’m young and I’m a woman. She offers me a glimpse at my future, where colleagues or clients will assume I’m less worthy of their time because I’m old and I’m a woman. Her decades of work and experience ought to be rewarded the way they are for men, whose age is perceived as wisdom, whose graying temples are marks of distinction. Instead, I’m hearing her frustration on the other end of the phone line as she tells me, yet again, that she didn’t get the position, that it went instead to a man her age or a woman 15 years her junior. At one point, during the last presidential election, we were both dyeing our hair darker ― her to conceal her gray roots, and me to make myself look a few years older.

When I look at and listen to Hillary Clinton, when I think about the road that has brought her to this moment and the hurdles that were thrown up in front of her along the way, I’m also thinking about my mother, and about her life. Perhaps this is how men feel all the time when they consider presidential candidates – this man reminds me of my father, of my grandfather, of my brother, of me. This is the first time I’ve been able to look at a would-be President and see someone who looks like my mom, sounds like my mom, gives awkward and ungainly high-fives like my mom. Like I inevitably will one day. It’s the first time I’ve been able to listen to a would-be President and know that she can empathize with my mother, and my best friends, and my grandmother, and me. It is an unexpectedly emotional experience.
The night Clinton secured the pledged delegates required to make her the mathematically presumptive nominee, I sat on my apartment floor with my laptop on my coffee table, fighting and failing to hold back tears, trying to save face in front of my boyfriend and his sister. Here in Philly, I watched the roll call vote from my hotel room and, when I saw the counter tick over 2883, I started to weep. I’d stop, and then I’d think about my mom, and her mom, who’s 102 ― she was born in 1914, six years before the 19th Amendment first gave large numbers of American women the right to vote, and she cast her first vote for FDR in 1936 – and I would lose it all over again.
In a few hours, I know I’ll be crying again. From here in the convention hall, with a direct sight line to the podium, I’ll watch Chelsea Clinton introduce her mother. And then I’ll watch Clinton officially accept the nomination. And I will wish, with all my heart, that my mom were here. — 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

Dear Family Whisperer: Our Baby Screams When My Husband Touches Her

Dear Family Whisperer, I have a question that relates to relationships, family, bonding and babies am hoping you can shed some light or offer advice on our predicament. I gave birth to a healthy baby girl at home in April 24, 2016. Since about 3 – 4 weeks of age, she screams to the point of hoarseness when my husband (her father) touches her or tries to do anything with her. We are now at 3 months and it is to the point that she cries at the sight of him. This is both difficult and stressful, as I can tell that my husband feels hurt, rejected, irritated and annoyed. In addition, we have two other children (2 & 8), whom I would love to spend time with but due to my baby girl’s reaction to Dad, she is primarily dependent on me. Please help, this is tearing me to pieces on the inside.
Desperate Mother

Dear Desperate Mother,
To be honest, I first thought I’d send you a short private response by email, saying, “Please seek professional help.” I stand by that advice. Certainly, not having any details — and being journalist, not a doctor — my answer would naturally be measured and limited. But I can help you see your predicament through a family lens:

As I’ve written often in this column and elsewhere, to truly understand a problem, we have to remember that a family is a constellation of individuals, each bringing something different to the table. But none of us exist in a vacuum. In a family, our “stuff” bumps up against others!

For example, in varying degrees, some humans are more sensitive to the touch than others. But mothers and fathers also touch their children differently.

So while you might want to consult your pediatrician about the possibility that your baby suffers from a some type of tactile sensitivity or defensiveness you should also look at how each member of the family touches him. (You didn’t mention your baby’s reaction to her siblings or whether she cries easily in their presence.)

No doubt as the mother of a two and eight year old, you have already noticed differences in your other children. One might seem calmer in the face of disappointment. One might be naturally neater. One might be more open to trying new foods. While your husband might feel “hurt, rejected, irritated and annoyed,” it might help to remind him that your daughter’s reaction is about her, not him. It is a visceral, not a personal, reaction. She isn’t rejecting her Dad. She’s feeling her own feelings.

Every relationship requires acceptance. We can’t change who our children are. And though it’s hard, all parents have moments when we must separate our egos from our children’s nature and behavior.

I’m embarrassed to admit that before my son’s dyslexia was diagnosed (thirty years ago), I’d get upset, and, sometimes, angry at him when he brought books home and had to read aloud with me. How could he know a sight word on one page and then “forget” it a moment later? When I accepted that his brain worked differently, I was better able (most of the time!) to adjust my behavior and my expectations.

It will also help your family to get help.Tactile sensitivity can be treated. But try to tackle this as a family issue.

Even though “the problem” seems to be your daughter’s, the solution involves all of you. As members of the same unit, you “touch” each other — literally and figuratively. What kind of touch doesn’t upset the baby? Since you had the advantage of bonding with her before anyone else in the family, help your husband (and children) understand what she seems to like.

Be detectives together. If the baby is calmer or less fearful with one sibling than the other, sit down as a family and try to figure out why. Review how your husband treats the baby, as well as what he might have been going through when she was born. Men have different levels of ocytocin — “the cuddle hormone” — which affect how they engage with their babies. Fathers tend to be be more active with their babies.

Another benefit of involving everyone in the solution is that it will give your other children a sense of purpose and family solidarity. In all families, there are unavoidable times, due to sickness or unforeseen circumstances, when family resources — time, attention, money — flow disproportionately toward one particular adult or child. Being “in it” together can help children tolerate a difficult time.
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Finally, I would say — and this shouldn’t be hard since you have watched two other children grow — try to take a deep breath and keep this in perspective. A line I’ve used often in my books about children and families is: Just when you think you’ve got it, everything changes. Fortunately, that can be for the better, too.

Hi, it’s Melinda. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Do you have a question about your family or a relationship? No topics are off limits, and it’s all anonymous. Ask via Twitter @MelindaBlau #DearFamilyWhisperer, or click on this link For everything I’ve every written, check out my website. — 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

Family Hears Their Late Daughter's Heart Beat Inside Organ Recipient

A Florida teen’s memory lives on through a strong heartbeat. 
The family of 14-year-old Katelyn Zimmerman, who was killed by a drunk driver in March, recently met the person who received her heart, ABC 11 reported. 
In the video below, Katelyn’s family listens to her heart beating inside Albert Jeffries IV. Albert, a 14-year-old from North Carolina with dilated cardiomyopathy, was flooded with emotion.

“Thank you for the gift of being able to see more in life,” Albert, whose condition means his heart struggles to pump blood, tearfully read in a letter to Katelyn’s family during their meeting. “Thank you for being my miracle.”
Butterflies and balloons were released for the occasion, and the families exchanged gifts. Tina Turner, Albert’s mother, also shared a poem expressing her gratitude. 
For the late teen’s family, the event, especially the portion in which they heard Katelyn’s heart beat, proved comforting. 
“It put us at peace knowing that Katelyn’s heart is still beating even though it’s not in her,” her father Shawn Zimmerman said, according to Fox8. 
Reflecting on what Albert, also known as Alj, has been through because of his heart condition, Turner told ABC News that the Zimmermans’ contribution to her son meant the world. 
“Alj was near death,” Turner said of her son, who had waited 99 days for a heart. “He was on two heart drips by the end. The month Katelyn died was the year Alj was reborn.”
Now, Turner says that her family is looking to pay the kindness forward by raising awareness for organ donation, Fox8 reported. 
“We want everyone to see this unity and this selfless thing they did for our family. That’s love.”
  — 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