October 15, 2019

The Magic Christmas Ornament Collection

The Magic Christmas Ornament Collection

Invite the magic of Christmas into your home this winter with The Magic Christmas Ornament Collection. This spellbinding Christmas storybook and collectable tree ornament set will inspire new traditions and pull readers, both young and old, into a world of holiday splendor. The Magic Christmas Ornament Collection includes an heirloom quality case bound hardback book, an ornament just like the one in the story, and a beautiful decorative package, perfect for making the gift of Christmas a lasting memory.

On Christmas Eve, Victoria’s father gathers her and her brothers, Joseph and John, around the fireplace to tell the story of a very special ornament that has hung on their tree for as long as they can remember. Their father found the ornament in a mysterious tree one snowy evening when he was seven years old, and brought it home. After hearing the story and going to bed, Victoria, Joseph, and John sneak back downstairs, and discover the ornament has magical powers! It whisks them away to the happiest place on Earth: Santa’s workshop! The children can’t believe their eyes as Santa himself appears before them. They also see mountains of toys, reindeer prepping for flight, the largest Christmas tree ever, and hundreds of elves - one of whom seems very familiar. This elf, named JJ, gives them a tour around the workshop, tosses Victoria one of Santa’s ornaments, and leads them outside, straight to a mysterious tree in the woods. Victoria somehow knows to place Santa’s ornament into the tree’s knothole, and the magic of the ornament whisks them right back home. When they return, the children know they’ll never forget the magic of Christmas that they witnessed that night.

Full-spread illustrations, featuring dazzling and colorful scenes, will inspire the festive spirit in readers of all ages. This beautiful hardcover comes in a shiny gift box with an ornament just like the one in the story—perfect for holiday gift-giving, reading aloud, and cherishing year after year. In true Christmas spirit, a portion of all proceeds will be given to the Marine Corps' "Toys for Tots" program. The book alone is available for $19.95. The price of the full collection is $44.95.

The authors’ father and grandfather, Sylvester (Ziggy) Barbato, was one of nine children from an Italian immigrant family. Ziggy often told James, his son, that their family was too poor to afford toys, but he always vowed that his children would experience the spirit of Christmas nonetheless. The Magic Christmas Ornament is an original story created by James Barbato and Victoria Barbato, allowing their family to share the magic of Christmas—and all of its excitement—with yours.

About the Authors:

James (Jim) Barbato is a former college professor and business owner. He is also the son of a U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant and lived all across the United States and Canada for the first twelve years of his life. As a child, Jim developed a strong Christmas spirit, inspired by the stories his father would tell. Jim often told original stories to his own three children, including the story of "The Magic Christmas Ornament," which they still remember and cherish as adults.

Victoria Barbato is currently an Instructional Coach for English language instruction in the Boston area. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Master’s degree in English, and is passionate about teaching and creating equity in educational opportunities for all learners. Growing up, Victoria was greatly inspired by her grandfather’s and father’s stories because they connect to the importance of family, convey fascination with the world, and always have a message of hope.

The Magic Christmas Ornament Collection

By James Barbato and Victoria Barbato

Pure Imagination Enterprises LLC

ISBN: 978-0999869222

Collection $44.95 (Super Premium Hardcover Book, Ornament from the book, and Decorative packaging)

Super Premium Hardcover only, 11” wide by 8.5” high, 32 pp. $19.95, ISBN: 978-0-9998692-0-8

Ornament only (Ornament from the book) $19.95


For more information, please visit

View the Trailer here:


September 27, 2019

Family weekend at the Kartrite Resort & Waterpark!

The Kartrite is a new resort and waterpark which opened last spring in the Catskills. We decided to check it out and share it with you! The kids and I packed up and took off for a weekend adventure.

The waterpark is New York's biggest Indoor Water park and was so much fun! The kids loved the numerous water slides and the surfing on the Endless Summer Flowrider! The indoor water park catered to all ages, from slides for adults and kids to Puddle Ducks which is a section for toddlers!

The resort also offered fun activities outside of the water park. There were shows, games for the kids, smores at the bonfire, movie nights and a great arcade and rope course on the bottom floor!

What a surprise I had when we got off the elevator to our room - 3rd floor, right before my eyes was The Chill Spa! Luckily, my nails were chipping and that was my excuse to sign in for a manicure, a little "Me Time". I wish I had know about the spa prior to heading out to the resort, I would have scheduled more time for a facial and massage! The Nail technician was amazing! The staff was so friendly and it was such a relaxing experience. I recommend sneaking away and checking out this little gem within the resort!

There are a few different restaurants within the resort and Harvey's Wallbanger was the one with the good burgers!

The resort is new and working out some kinks with staff and service within the resort and restaurants. At times our patience was required, which is hard with kids! All in all the kids said they had a great time! Another fun weekend away!

The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark

September 18, 2019

Car Seats Designed with Mom & Dad in Mind for Baby Safety Month

Raising little ones is no walk in the park—and frankly, neither is finding the right baby gear. Busy parents that are always on-the-go already have enough on their minds, which is why Chicco strives to eliminate the guesswork when it comes to choosing and using car seats by thinking through the little details that make parents’ lives easier first.

September is Baby Safety Month and we’re celebrating our car seats’ thoughtful features that make life more convenient — like flexible, dish-washer safe CupFolders, simple and clearly labeled installation instructions and quick-release LATCH systems with convenient carry handles that make any road trip a breeze.

NextFit Zip Max ($369.99 on The NextFit Zip Max is made for extended rear-facing use, accommodating children in the rear-facing position up to 50 pounds. It’s designed with 25% more legroom, which opens up space in the backseat to make it easy on mom and dad to get their child in and out of the car and features extended calf support in the forward-facing position, along with all the comfort, safety and easy installation features Chicco users know and love.


September 17, 2019

Why Kids Should Spend Time Outdoors

Why Kids Should Spend Time Outdoors

Kids today are growing up in a totally different environment from what their parents remember from their childhoods.

With everything moving at such a fast pace, and with phones and tablets to keep children distracted, the great outdoors is often neglected.

However, parents should put in more effort in ensuring that their children get enough time in the sun, as it has a myriad of health and mental benefits. For one thing, an article on Parents reveals that kids who spend time playing outdoors are more likely to grow up to be well-adjusted adults, less prone to psychiatric disorders. Read on to find out about the other advantages of letting your kids spend plenty of time outdoors:

It’s a fun way to exercise

During outdoor activities, whether it’s in the local park or hiking up a small mountain, there is always some form of exercise involved. Children will be using monkey bars, trying to climb trees, jumping, or running around. This is a great way to get them the exercise they need to help their young bodies grow in a healthy manner. As an added bonus, you get to squeeze in a workout yourself while participating in an intense game of catch or hide and seek. Take it a step further and spend a bit on a kid-friendly soccer set or a classic Lifetime jungle gym to encourage even more physical activity.

It’s a great bonding experience

While it can be tempting to spend the weekend on the couch on your phone, it’s much more rewarding to go outside with the entire family. Bonding outdoors can start as early as when your children are just babies or toddlers, and can have a great effect on how your kids view personal relationships. Temple University developmental psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek explains how play encourages emotional attunement and how to empathize with others.

A family picnic on a hill is not just a fun way to spend a weekend; it’s a practical way to teach children how to understand others and regulate their own emotional responses. What's more, your youngest children may stand to benefit more than you think from this outdoor bonding. Babies are especially perceptive, and often need the comfort of a familiar face when they are two to six months old. In fact, a study from the University of Sheffield found that little ones as young as 6 months old can distinguish between human faces better than some adults. If you have more than one toddler in tow, iCandy has a wide variety of double and tandem strollers that let your kids sit in front of each other which enhances their bonding experience with their sibling. Not only is this a smart way of using rest periods in the stroller, it’s also a safe way for your babies or toddlers to bond while observing everything that is around them. Carry around a handy Beebo for easier bottle-feeding and you’re all set for a stress-free family bonding experience!

It allows them to appreciate nature

The future of the planet depends on our children, and getting them to appreciation it very young is more important than you think. Having your kids feel the grass, inhale fresh air, or play in a stream are all key experiences that will help them cultivate a deeper love for nature. If you really can’t get them to look up from their tablet screen, just teach them how to use it better with apps like Disneynature Explore and Meet the Insects which they can use while playing outdoors. This is a compromise that underscores the advantage of having web-connected devices while playing in and learning about nature.

All in all, having your kids spend time in nature is beneficial for the whole family. You get a significant amount of physical activity all while enjoying a much-needed bonding experience. You don’t even have to go hiking or drive to a faraway lake to reap these benefits, as even just a day at the local garden or park will do the trick — anything to give your young ones a taste of the great outdoors.

August 12, 2019

Girls Trip!

This year I wrote myself a bucket list and the promise to start crossing things off! The list started with: 1. take a trip, 2. drive a brand new car, 3. go on an adventure, 4. Girls Trip, and the list went on ……..

Girls Trip!! My friend and I needed a trip away. Just a weekend, 2 days of no responsibilities, laundry, cleaning, chauffeuring the kids, making dinners, ect. just to rejuvenate. I called my girl friend and told her about my bucket list and our upcoming adventure! There wasn't much convincing necessary, she left her husband in charge and agreed to go on a well-deserved adventure with me!

We needed a car that could handle our over packing, lack of sense of direction and a long drive! The new SUV, Chevrolet 2019 Blazer was the perfect choice! We over packed as usual for our weekend away. The cargo space with the adjustable cargo management system allowed our items of various sizes to store nicely in the trunk. Our water cooler and road trip snack bag fit perfectly in the spacious back seat!

Our destination was New Hampshire! Omni Hotel Mount Washington was perfect for us. We drove 4 hours each way and loved the 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Navagation Sysem and Rear Vision Camera. This made driving so enjoyable!


The hotel stay was beautiful! It was amazing sitting on the deck just catching up with each other! Everything a girl’s weekend should be. Such an amazing time.

Our adventure part of the trip was jumping back in the Chevrolet Blazer and headed to the Mt. Washington Auto Road! We were so happy to be in this SUV what a wild ride up the mountain! The Blazer with the advanced AWD system delivered the traction and dynamic handling needed both going up and down the steep mountain.

The Traction Select system let us make real-time adjustments to the vehicle’s throttle response and stability control to maximize the performance in the surface conditions on the way down the steep inclines.

Our two nights away from our families on a "Girls Trip" was amazing. We loved the SUV, the Hotel and our adventures. We felt rejuvenated and ready to get back to our busy family lives, a trip we will never forget and look forward to jumping in a Chevy Blazer next year and plan another!

June 11, 2019


Now that school is out (or letting out soon), families are shifting into summer mode and local docs with American Family Care warn about SIX SUMMER HEALTH HAZARDS that could slow down fun in the sun. 

The warmer June temperatures mean more people are making plans to chill outside and AFC docs are spreading the word about summer scenarios that can sneak up on you and make you sick!  

“This time of year, we are constantly talking with families about the health hazards they can face while going to either the pool, beach or lake throughout the summer,” says Dr. Benjamin Barlow, chief medical officer of American Family Care, a national healthcare network with medical clinics in your community.   “From the importance of showering before jumping in a pool to staying hydrated in the sun to searching for ticks following a family picnic, we are advising patients about certain signs and symptoms that could mean a summer pitstop to an urgent care or emergency room.”  



1.      Shower before making a splash – A new survey  by the Water Quality & Health Council  finds more than half of Americans use a swimming pool as a “communal bath” – and the more dirt, sweat and products like shampoo or deodorant, that mix with chlorine, the less the chlorine works to kill germs.  40% of the respondents to the survey also admitted to urinating in the pool as an adult.  This is why it’s so crucial to shower before you jump into a pool.

·          Germs and chemicals found in pools can cause recreational water Illnesses, like rashes, diarrhea, ear and respiratory infections.

·          Before you swim in a public pool, check ratings for chemical maintenance.  


2.      Stay tick smart.   Protect yourself from potentially fatal insect borne illnesses like Lyme Disease this summer with these safety steps:

Cover up in wooded or grassy areas, and wear long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves.  Try to stick to trails and avoid walking through high grass.  If Rover comes, keep him on a leash. 
Always spray your skin with insect repellent with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET.   Parents should apply to children, avoiding their hands, eyes and mouth.   Apply products with permethrin to clothing. Permethrin is an insecticide that can be sprayed on clothing to kill insects that touch them.
After walks in wooded or grassy areas, vigilantly look for ticks. 
They can remain on skin hours after attaching themselves to your body.  Shower and use a washcloth. Also toss your clothes in the dryer so the heat kills ticks.

Lyme Disease often surfaces with a bullseye rash that appears in up to 80% of the people who become infected, often between three and 30 days. Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.  

3.      Play it cool in the heat.   Educate yourself about the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion happens before heat stroke. When your body overheats, you experience heavy sweating, dizziness, a rapid pulse, nausea, headache and/or cool, moist skin.  Go into a shady or air-conditioned space.  Remove tight, heavy clothing, lay down, slightly elevate legs and feet and drink cool water.
Heat stroke can kill you if you do not get in front of a medical expert.   When your body hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, your brain, kidneys and muscles can be damaged and lead to serious complications.

4.      Don’t become a MOSQUITO MAGNET! 

You can become a target for mosquitoes by drinking a cold beer on a balmy afternoon.   Research published by the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association suggests alcohol may slightly raise your body temperature a making you more appealing to mosquitoes.
Your body produces lactic acid anytime you sweat and mosquitos find it irresistible.  Athletes can reduce lactic acid by washing with soap and thoroughly drying their skin after exercise. 
Any and all bug bites can cause a severe allergic reaction. In most of these reactions, you will experience severe swelling of the lips, tongue and/or throat.  If left untreated, you can have trouble breathing.

Dodge dehydration.   You can dehydrate if you spend long days outside at the pool, beach or park without a drink.

Your become dehydrated when your body is losing or using more fluid than you’re taking in.  This happens in hot, humid weather when you sweat a lot.
Symptoms of dehydration include obvious thirst, dry mouth, irritability,  fatigue and/or a weak pulse.  
Drinking water or sports drinks with electrolytes.     
Eat regular meals to replace salt lost while sweating.  

6.      Stick to sunscreen standards.   No matter your age or your skin tone, AFC docs recommend always applying at least a 30 SPF sunscreen when going outdoors.      

If you get a severe sunburn, take either ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain, fever or headache.
Drink plenty of water.
Use moisturizing cream or aloe gel for extra relief.
DO NOT RETURN TO SUN until burn has healed.
Sunburn covers more than 15% of body
Severe pain lasts more than 48 hours
You have a fever of more than 101 degrees

April 2, 2019

Have an earth-friendly Easter this year

By Carolina King

Wait! Before buying harsh, chemical egg dyes, and plastic eggs and grass, remember that Easter and Earth Day are just a few days apart. There are easy ways your family can celebrate this glorious season and still be good to Mother Earth. It can be as simple as raiding your crafting nook and spice drawer, and reading the ingredient labels on your Easter treats.

For example, if bunnies or egg-shaped chocolate candy are Easter basket must-haves, choose varieties made with responsibly sourced ingredients such as Fair Trade cocoa beans and all-natural, non-GMO Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil. These will satisfy your sweet tooth and your need to care for the planet.

Here are 5 more tips to having an earth-friendly Easter:

Make or buy a reusable Easter basket

When my first daughter was a baby, I got a giant basket from our thrift store and decorated it. We have been using this basket for every Easter we’ve celebrated since she was born.

I also got two smaller Easter baskets for the Easter egg hunts and we reuse those every year. There is no need to buy a new basket every year and then discard it. Everything we discard ends up in the landfill and hurting our Earth in the long run.

If your children like to have new baskets every year, you can just decorate your old basket so it looks like new every year. Use tulle fabric, ribbons and any other decorations they might like to make their Easter basket look like new this year.

Choose earth-friendly basket fillers

Use shredded paper in this year’s Easter basket unless you have oodles of cellophane left over from previous years.  

If you don’t have a paper shredder (or have one that shreds too finely for your liking), make your own by cutting ¼-inch strips from colorful junk mail. Another option is to use cotton yarn. It’s soft and cradles eggs gently. Plus, it can be knitted or crocheted into something new when the season is over, or simply reused next season.

Shop for certified sustainable candy products

Those tasty seasonal candies always aren’t the best for our planet. Choose jelly beans made without synthetic dyes, artificial colors and high-fructose corn syrup, which is commonly made with genetically modified corn.

When it comes to chocolate confections, I personally prefer to get organic chocolates and candy. But if that’s not in your budget, American candy companies such as Hershey’s, Ghirardelli and Nestle have committed to using responsibly sourced ingredients such as cocoa and palm oil. Much of the palm oil used in the United States is sustainably grown and produced in Malaysia, one of the world’s most eco-friendly countries. So, stick to those brands!

Color eggs naturally

You don’t need to buy an overpriced kit to color eggs, although I have to confess I have done it in the past.

There are many all-natural dyes that you can make with ingredients you will find in your kitchen. Simply simmer the food or spice with three cups of water, two tablespoons of white vinegar and one teaspoon of salt for 30 minutes or until desired color is reached.

Strain the mixture, and then add your hard-boiled eggs to the dye. Leave your eggs in the solution for at least 20 minutes or even overnight (in the fridge) for a deeper color. If you want a more vibrant, shiny color, rub your eggs with a small amount of Malaysian palm oil once they are completely dry.

Here are a few foods you can use to dye your eggs naturally:

3 tablespoons turmeric or cumin: yellow

1 cup finely-chopped spinach: green

½-cup red beets: pink

1-cup thinly sliced red cabbage: blue

Peels from two yellow onions: orange


Fill your child’s Easter basket with useful things and toys

If the Easter bunny leaves a present for your children every year, make sure these presents are things that will be used more than once. There are a lot of Easter toys that just end up in the garbage after Easter, adding even more stuff to our landfills.

Instead of getting your child several little toys, get them one bigger toy they will love and play with more often such as books, healthy snacks or get them things they need, like clothes, shoes or summer gear!

By making these simple changes you are helping our environment and teaching your children valuable lessons on how to be more earth-friendly while still enjoying a nice Easter celebration.

About the author: Blogger and TV contributor Carolina King is founder of Mama Instincts and The Mama Instincts Podcast, the ultimate resource for the natural and conscious mom.

March 6, 2019

“Autism & Me: Meet Milan”

When their son, Milan, was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at seven years of age, his parents felt a wide range of emotions. Years of uncertainty and concern suddenly collided with feelings of optimism and hope, leaving the Connecticut couple in a state of limbo.

On one hand, they were ready to turn the page on a chapter of their lives that often left them wondering why their extremely smart, funny, empathetic child would suddenly transform into a rigid, aggressive, anxiety-stricken stranger in seemingly routine circumstances. A time when moments of concern and confusion would creep into their minds as they increasingly noticed developmental differences between Milan and his twin sister, Livi. Why did Milan have such sensitivity to loud noises and a heightened sense of smell? Why didn’t he like to be shown physical affection? Why was it so difficult for him to sit still for longer than a few minutes? And why didn’t Livi seem to be affected by any of these things?

On the other hand, they finally had an official diagnosis from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, a trusted resource. But they were suddenly being thrust into a world about which they knew very little. One thing was certain: They would meet the news head-on and exhaust every resource to ensure their son would have everything he needed to live a happy, fulfilling life.

“My husband and I researched autism spectrum disorder and ADHD, spoke to Milan’s therapist and developmental pediatrician to develop a plan to deal with his diagnosis as a family. We reached out to other parents and the school social worker as well. Of course, Autism Speaks and SEPTO (Special Education Parent Teacher Organization) were also very helpful,” said Milan’s mom.

“We agreed that it would be best to share the diagnosis with Milan and his twin sister, who doesn’t have autism, to help them understand what the diagnosis meant. We read and discussed children’s books with them on ASD and researched autism heroes. We also shared the diagnosis with our friends and family and explained Milan’s sensitivities and needs.”

Today, with the help of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a dedicated team of teachers and paraprofessionals, and trusted medical professionals, Milan continues to make tremendous strides both socially and academically. He was also placed on medication to help with his anxiety, which has allowed him to become more relaxed around his peers and use his coping strategies to overcome any difficulties he may face throughout the day. Milan has come so far since his initial diagnosis two years ago that today he’s the proud co-author and illustrator of a children’s book titled, “Autism & Me.”

The paperback, co-authored by Allison Butler, Milan’s former paraprofessional and close family friend, is based on Milan’s life. It tells the story of a fictional character, Mike, and creatively demonstrates how his mind works differently than those of most of his friends and family members because he has autism. Milan not only did all the illustrations in the book, but he provided valuable insight into his daily triumphs and struggles in hopes of providing a better understanding about what it means to be on the autism spectrum.

“I had Milan draw all the pictures in the book because a lot of kids in school looked up to his drawings. They would ask how he drew something a certain way or if he could teach them how to draw. To get him even more into the book, I thought it would be nice if the book were about him,” Allison said with a huge smile. “There aren’t many children’s books out there that are from the perspective of a student with autism. This book really came from Milan’s perspective, how he thinks and what he thinks about his struggles and his strengths. I’m just so proud he was able to share his story with the world.”

In the final page of the book, Milan proudly describes the positive outlook he has adopted about his autism since being diagnosed two years ago.

“When I think of autism I think of a big lightbulb on the top of my head. I do not want people to feel bad for me. I like having autism and I would never change anything about myself,” he said through the voice of Mike. “I would not be the person I am today if I did not have autism. I am very creative and smart because of this. However, autism is just a little part of me; it is not who I am.”

Need personalized support? Autism Speaks Autism Response Team (ART) is an information line for the autism community, staffed by a specially trained team who provide personalized information and resources to people with autism and their families. also offers a variety of resources, tool kits and information on autism services and supports in communities around the country.

1-888-AUTISM2 (1-888-288-4762) 

En Español: 1-888-772-9050

March 4, 2019

4 Student Athlete Character Builders & Busters

By Merilee Kern, MBA

At a time when sports, coaching and even athlete parenting have become a never-ending chase for profit, popularity and prominence, it can be difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible, to cultivate character and integrity in student athletes—whether they be NCAA-level, high school or even middle school age players.

Just one quick Google search can reveal the extent to which honor and any notable “code of ethics” in student sports is suffering amid a pervasive glut of incidents from coast to coast involving cheating, abuse, and other forms of misconduct. One particularly high-profile example underscoring how insidious the problem is the FBI investigation revealing that head and assistant coaches were using NCAA monetary profits for bribery gain. This resulted in a mass arrest of head coaches, assistant coaches, and staff members. While this traumatic event changed NCAA college basketball practices interminably for the better, in the process the NCAA board suffered extreme embarrassment and strife from the fraudulent exposure while coaches and other staffers suffered irreparable career damage—not to mention the “collateral damage” to players, their families and the university’s, themselves.

Given what seems to be an endless array of scandals, there is a beacon of light in the form of Coach Gary Waters, a former Kent State, Rutgers, and Cleveland State Head Coach. As one of the nation’s preeminent Character Coaches, Waters urges that parents, coaches, team leaders and anyone engaging with student athletes should establish—and wholeheartedly assure adherence to—a defined set of principles that have the express intention of bolstering a student athlete’s character, values, and philosophies both on and off the court. “Character is defined by moral excellence and firmness,” says Coach Waters. “When a person’s principles, ethics, integrity and even spirituality are aligned, staying in the guidelines for the law and regulation comes effortlessly, like a second nature.”

Today more than ever, student athlete coaches and programs are instilling the importance of honor, valor and integrity, and parents at home are eager to follow suit. With this in mind, Coach Waters offers these fundamental basics on what a sports-driven student should do—and not to do—as they endeavor to build character:

***Character Builders – DO This:


Work Hard At What Matters...Fearlessly:

Coach Waters believes, and one can nary disagree, that the effort one puts forth directly correlates with the outcome of what one pursues, and that a great number of those “sweat equity” efforts should be proactively focused on endeavors that further life goals—be those related to athletics, career, relationships, family dynamics, spirituality or other areas of self-improvement and personal growth. Modern-day life is filled with a glut of complexities that can make it difficult to “see the forest through the trees” and aptly discern exactly what matters most in achieving various goals, and prioritizing in kind. It can actually be overwhelming—especially when the goals ahead seem insurmountable or entirely unreachable.

Time is finite and there’s only so much of it to be had each day, so Coach Waters underscores the importance of allocating dedicated and concerted time on the most meaningful and impactful areas needing attention—those that will yield short term results, but will also be mindful of longer-term objectives. As importantly, Waters also advocates “attacking” one’s goals fearlessly so as to counteract self-doubt, uncertainty, hesitation and other detrimental inner dialogue that can present obstacles and swiftly thwart one’s best hopes and intentions. It’s been said that FEAR stands for “Forget Everything And Run” and, according to Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” fear is “that uncomfortable, disconcerting feeling that causes us to take a back seat in our own life and prevents us from proactively moving forward to reach our goals and aspirations. Instead of facing a personal, business or workplace situation head on and taking control of the proverbial handlebars of life, fear causes us to turn the other way, freeze in our tracks, or poke our head in the sand.”

According to Lewis-Fernandez, fear of failure can be particularly debilitating. “All too often we stop short of attempting something new for fear we might embarrass our self or, worse, fail all together,” she says. “Any given undertaking has the possibility of resulting in failure, which is never a desirable or welcome outcome.  But, when facing something new, a fear of failure can be amplified as anxiety or nerves, and our ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in.  These intense feelings can cause us to put our aspirations on the shelf where they can languish in perpetuity.”  She also cites fear of vulnerability as another area of concern.  “While it can be uncomfortable and downright scary to open yourself up and expose your true inner self and your ideas and aspirations to others of importance in your life, doing so can be cathartic - and a true turning point in effecting positive change,” Lewis-Fernandez notes. “Letting down your guard takes courage and strength, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable can help you better relate with people on a more personal level.”


Value And Demonstrate Loyalty:

Loyalty means different things to different people. For Coach Waters, loyalty is about the commitment one makes to a cause, a particular group or specific persons. It involves a feeling of devotion or obligation to someone or something in both good times and bad. Other definitions describe loyalty as involving faithfulness to something or someone to which one is bound by pledge or duty. In all instances, however, loyalty is about integrity—keeping one’s word or upholding expectations of another as demonstrated through one’s actions, optimally in a sustained and habitual manner. Coach Waters believes that ingraining a sense of loyalty in student athletes certainly begins at home, but extends far to other role models—whether they are intentional or incidental. This includes coaches, administrators, teachers and even other players.

To understand the extent to which one is demonstrating loyalty in their everyday lives, Coach Waters recommends an easy exercise to determine one’s “loyalty score” relating to various endeavors. He suggests doing a self-analysis rating one’s self in relation to a given venture (like loyalty to one’s team or sport at large). On a scale of one to five, ratings can be related to key tenants of loyalty like honesty, trustworthiness, support, generosity, commitment, reliability sincerity, consistency and partiality. Assessing one’s commitment to a specific endeavor with these attributes in mind can be a powerful tool in determining if a better effort needs to be made...and in which areas. Even caregivers, coaches and others can use this tool to rate the student athlete, and then use it as a springboard for discussion that can manifest in a powerful dialogue—a tactical growth moment for all involved.


***Character Busters – DON’T do This:


Demonstrate Undependability

Coach Waters concedes that, amid stressful schedules and demands on a player’s time and resources, remaining dependable and steadfast can be difficult. Worse, he feels there is lessening value being placed on these attributes despite the fact that they can play a critical role in one’s success trajectory. He also feels that all too these traits are being cultivated as it relates to the game itself, but not carried over into other facets of the player’s life and value system overall.  “Success in the classroom and growth in the player’s personal development often isn’t valued, and parents and coaches often aren’t supported in their efforts to help players grow as people...only as players,” he laments. Worse, role models and mentors like coaches themselves often set examples of disloyalty, by foregoing a commitment to their institution in favor of money and acclaim elsewhere.

For a student athlete, they have many ways that they can demonstrate their dependability each day, week and month—both within and outside of their sport. And, Waters suggests proffering rewards for them doing so. Relating to athletics, this can include making a staunch commitment making it to every practice (and on time and fully prepared); being “present” at practice by being fully engaged in the lesson or drill at hand; and being known as someone known for “going the extra mile” to help out other players when needed—whether that’s understanding a play or providing emotional support when things aren’t going well. Outside of sports, dependability can be shown in areas like turning in complete homework on time, every time; being where you say you’ll be at the stated time; handling responsibilities at home like chores in a self-directed manner without need for prompting or reminding; and being willing to “lend a helping hand” or a “supportive ear” when someone is in distress. Doing any of this involves an outward point-of-view and nurturing an altruistic spirit. 


Undermine Authority

According to Waters, “Having a reverence for authority, as demonstrated by overtly respectful treatment and regard, is a mission-critical aspect of character building. Respectful behaviors and attitudes should certainly start in the home with parents, but needs to carry over to all others in a student athlete’s life: relatives, coaches, administrators, teammates, referees, friends and even strangers like the elderly. When a fundamental respect for authority doesn’t exist, it becomes a slippery slope that can lead to contentious relationships in every direction, missed opportunities or, in worst case scenarios upon festering longer-term, full expulsion from the team.” This scenario is made far worse when a disrespectful player actually undermines authority at large, such that their actions are making others lose respect for the authority figure(s) as well, he notes.

This is an insidious situation Waters knows can have a grave effect on a sports program in short order, “corroding the foundational value system needed to have a productive and winning mentality.”

In kind, it’s imperative that student athletes are diverted from this behavior, being redirected to engage in more productive ways. But, what does “undermining authority” look like when not in the form of public back talk, snickering and general rudeness? Rest assured that undermining authority does not always involve obvious discourtesy, but rather can be quite clandestine.  According to Waters, there are some less obvious signs a student athlete may be undermining authority—or anyone for that matter—and need to be course-corrected as part of their character building effort. One red flag he points out is when someone consistently prompts others to defend their opinion, assertion or point-of-view. Those who undermine authority also often dole out “backhanded compliments” that actually serve to reference or highlight a negative aspect of a situation in a counterpoint contrast to the positive. A third thing to watch out for according to Waters is subversive advice packaged as being helpful, like an alternate plan purported to be advantageous for the authority figure (or group at large) when, in fact, more selfish motives and benefits are at hand. Knowing what to look for is key for helping student athletes avoid this kind of surreptitious or even inadvertent self-destructive behavior.


For coaches, parents and other ‘key influencers,’ it’s imperative to not only push physical development of a student athlete but also instill a reverence for character development founded on a stated and shared value and belief system—a critical facet of their personal growth and development and one entirely under their span of control. Student advisors must also lead by example and walk the walk, making being principle and ideology-driven a cyclical endeavor without hypocrisy. Only then can the student, team, family, game, school, program and industry at large be elevated, allowing everyone to reach their full potential.

As John Wooden famously said about coaches, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Branding, business and entrepreneurship success pundit, Merilee Kern, MBA, is an influential media voice and lauded communications strategist. As the Executive Editor and Producer of "The Luxe List International News Syndicate,” she’s a revered trends expert and industry voice of authority who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers, shakers and tastemakers. Merilee may be reached online at, on Twitter at, on Facebook at and on Instagram at



January 23, 2019

Ten Questions to Ask to Make Your Child’s IEP Meeting a Success

Ten Questions to Ask to Make Your Child's IEP Meeting a Success
Episcopal Center for Children Offers Advice to Help Parents of Children Coping with Special Needs

Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings are very important for children coping with special needs. These meetings outline goals for the child's education and treatment, and it guides how services will be provided. "These meetings are very important because the IEP guides how the child will be educated and outlines goals for the child, interventions, and any accommodations and services that will be provided," said Dodd White, president and CEO of the Episcopal Center for Children (ECC), a nonprofit organization providing therapeutic and special education services to children ages 5-14 in the greater Washington, DC area. "It's important to review IEP meeting documents in advance before the meeting," said White. "An IEP meeting brings together the entire IEP team assisting your child – educators, treatment providers, parents, the Local Education Agency (LEA) representative and others. Parents and guardians are an important part of that team. You are there to be an advocate for your child," said White. It's important for parents and guardians to ask the right questions before, during and after an IEP meeting. Here are some questions to help:

Question #1: When is the IEP meeting and how will I participate? At least 10 days before the IEP meeting, you should receive a letter of invitation. As soon as you can, RSVP for the meeting in writing. Inform the school if you will attend the meeting in person or by phone. If you are not available to attend the meeting at the proposed time, suggest alternative dates and times, as well as locations.

Question #2: What documents will be discussed at the IEP meeting? At least 5 business days before the IEP meeting, you should receive draft documents. These may include the IEP, a behavior intervention plan (BIP), or evaluations of your child. Review these documents carefully before the meeting.

Question #3: Does this plan address my child's education and treatment needs? Are the goals and objectives clear? Before the meeting, carefully review draft documents and write down your questions and notes. Review the diagnosis and examine the plan carefully to see how it addresses your child's needs. Ask for clarification of education or treatment jargon if needed. Goals and objectives should be clear in the plan.

Question #4: When will services be offered? Make sure you understand start date(s), how long services are offered, and the procedures involved. Determine how frequently services are offered.

Question #5: Is my child progressing toward a goal in the plan? And will the plan help my child progress? If your child is not progressing toward a goal as you had hoped, ask how this will be addressed, or if a goal should be revised.

Question #6: When will I be updated on my child's progress? The plan should indicate when you will be updated. If you want more frequent updates on progress during the school year, you can request additional updates be added to the plan for you.

Question #7: What else can be done to assist my child? If you think something else might help your child, come prepared to discuss it. Write down any proposed changes to the IEP and any information you would like to add.

Question #8: Should anyone else attend the meeting? Invite additional people to the IEP meeting if you want them there and think they can contribute. An IEP meeting takes a "team" approach to helping your child. Take the initiative to invite individuals who have relevant knowledge or expertise regarding your child (such as, family members, coaches, community support workers, social workers, attorneys, advocates, etc.). Let the school team know additional people will attend the meeting.

Question #9: How can I have a healthy working relationship with the school, treatment providers, and the entire IEP team? Developing healthy and professional relationships with the school and treatment providers can help your child. Be open to discussing issues promptly, directly, honestly and courteously. Ask questions and listen carefully to answers. This will allow you to respond appropriately and avoid misunderstandings.

Question #10: How can I support my child at home? Ask what you can do at home to support and reinforce what your child is learning at school. Realize that home also needs to be a place of respite – a place to recover from the hard work that may have occurred at school.
About the Episcopal Center for Children

The Episcopal Center for Children (Center) is a nonprofit, nondenominational school and treatment program for children contending with emotional challenges from the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Accredited by the Joint Commission, the Center serves children who are 5-14 years old in grades K-8. The goal of the Center's treatment, therapeutic milieu, and individualized special education program is to empower each child to function productively within his or her family and community. Building on strengths within children, the Center partners with families in treatment and focuses on enabling its students to access and become their best possible selves. More information is available at and on Twitter and Facebook @ECCofDC.

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