January 22, 2018

Preparing for the IEP Meeting; Tips to Help Parents of Children Coping with Special Needs

Preparing for the IEP Meeting: Tips to Help Parents of Children Coping with Special Needs
Episcopal Center for Children, a Treatment and Special Education Center, Offers Advice for Families

One of the most stressful experiences many parents or guardians of children coping with special needs face, is going to a meeting about their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This plan is very important because it outlines goals for the child’s education and treatment, and it guides how services will be provided. An IEP is created by a team and reviewed at a minimum annually at an IEP meeting.

“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. The parent(s)/guardian(s) is an important part of that team. You are an advocate for your child,” said White. He offers the following tips to help parents or guardians preparing for an IEP meeting:

Tip #1 – Confirm meeting attendance. At least 10 days before an IEP meeting, you should receive a letter of invitation. As soon as possible, 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 all, propose alternative dates and times, even locations.

Tip #2 – Review draft documents before the meeting. At least 5 business days before the meeting, you should receive drafts of the documents (e.g., IEP, Behavior Intervention Plan, evaluations) to be discussed during the IEP meeting. Take time to review these documents before the meeting.

Tip #3 – Carefully review draft documents and write down your questions and notes. Make sure you understand your child’s diagnosis. Ask for clarification of education or treatment jargon if needed. Goals and objectives should be clear. Make sure you understand start date(s), how long services are offered, and the procedures involved. 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. If you want more frequent updates on progress during the school year, you can request additional updates. 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.

Tip #4 – 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.

Tip #5 – Strive to build 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.

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.

January 16, 2018


valentine's day 2018


This season, Chamilia (, a Swarovski company, will feature three new charms and two fun-loving gifts sets for Valentine’s Day 2018. The entire Chamilia line is made from sterling silver or 14 karat gold and features genuine Swarovski Crystals and Swarovski Zirconia. The brand follows strict Swarovski guidelines for quality and aesthetic standards.

“The theme for 2018 is ‘Let’s not take style so seriously,’” said Chamilia Vice President, Global Merchandising and Marketing Catherine Ottaviano. “The Chamilia woman is celebrating herself and choosing jewelry that is as special as her life is. Our Valentine’s Day product offerings this year are our ‘hugs and kisses’ to her.”

The Chamilia Valentine’s Day 2018 Collection will be available starting January 14, 2018 and will be sold at the brand’s more than 2,000 retail partners worldwide and on the Chamilia website. For more information about the Chamilia brand, please go to

January 10, 2018

Disney on Ice - XL Center

Discover the full story of Disney’s Frozen like never before at Disney On Ice presents Frozen! Be a part of Anna’s adventure to find her sister, Queen Elsa, whose icy powers trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter. Join Olaf, Kristoff and Sven as they encounter wintry conditions and mystical trolls in a race to bring back summer. Hosted by Mickey and Minnie, your whole family will sing along to unforgettable music and be delighted with special appearances by the Disney Princesses, Woody, Buzz, Dory and more. Experience magic at every turn and create memories to last a lifetime at Disney On Ice presents Frozen - the show worth melting for!

November 8, 2017

4 Ways To Inspire Kids To Turn Off Electronics and Turn On Their Creativity

4 Ways To Inspire Kids To Turn Off 
Electronics And Turn On Their Creativity

Children love their electronic devices.

Television, video games, cellphones and laptops keep them occupied for hours, in some cases acting as live-in babysitters while parents finish chores or just relax.

But while all those devices have their advantages, they also can stifle creativity as children become absorbed in what’s happening inside those screens instead of exploring the real world and letting their imaginations soar. 

There are ways to turn that around, though, and get the creative juices flowing in those young minds, says Colleen Miller, a veteran teacher with 15 years of fulltime and substitute experience in both elementary and middle schools.

“You can always just tell a child to put down the electronic device, but a much better strategy is to give them something else to do,” says Miller, who also is the mother of two teenage sons. “If you can provide an alternative the child can get excited about, then you’ll have a better chance of avoiding those battles over electronics.”

One option for young children is toys that require a little artistic inspiration, she says, such as Legos, the popular plastic building bricks, or Magic Sketch, which allows children to doodle or draw on a liquid-crystal-display screen, then clear their work with a push of a button to start over.

This is especially important with children just returning to school after the summer break because many of them may not have kept their brains as sharp as they should have during that time off, Miller says. Being creative helps children develop mentally, emotionally and socially, aiding them in becoming better students.   

Miller says there are a number of ways parents can help inspire children to embrace their creative side, including:

•    Spend time in nature. Head to a park and spend a little time on a hiking trail, checking out the plants and the animals, then suggest the children write about the experience or draw something they saw along the way. They could even take along a drawing pad, a Magic Sketch or something similar and draw while they are there.

•    Use holidays as inspiration. Children love holidays, so suggest they draw a picture related to whatever holiday is coming up or create a homemade decoration. Either option can stimulate their creativity.

•    Be supportive, not critical. This is not the time to play art critic or literary reviewer, Miller says. Let this just be fun and give them freedom with their imagination. If they want to color grass orange or put polka dots on a dolphin, let them. Remind them that’s it’s OK to make a mistake. Plus, with a Lego creation, a Magic Sketch drawing or a construction-paper decoration, they can always just start over. 

•    Let them choose their passion. Sometimes parents are too insistent that their children learn piano, take ballet lessons or become involved in an activity that the parent is sure will be fun, Miller says. “Giving children the opportunity to try many things is great,” she says, “but make sure you let them have the final say on what it is they are passionate about.”  

“Children don’t need to give up their electronic devices completely,” Miller says. “But it’s important to put some limits so they also have time to devote to reading, climbing a tree in the backyard or drawing a picture. They need the opportunity to unleash their creative potential.”

About Colleen Miller
Colleen Miller, a veteran teacher and mother of two teenage sons, serves as a national spokeswoman for Magic Sketch, ( which uses a liquid-crystal-display screen that children can doodle, draw, sketch and trace on just like pen on paper. Small children can also use the board to learn their letters and numbers. Miller worked as a fulltime sixth-grade teacher for nine years, and has been a substitute teacher for grades 2 through 8 for the last six years. 

October 26, 2017

Change the Clocks Not Your Mood with These 5 Steps

As we prepare to switch the clocks and “fall back” this November 5, many of us may give up more than an hour of daylight. We may be giving up our good mood. Many people mark the clock change as the start of more darkness, cold weather and anxiety over holiday schedules and holiday shopping and travel. Dr. Saman Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services explains how setting the clocks back is, for many people the start the winter blues and offers tips on how not to slip into a funk.

Set a sleep regimen.

Less daylight affects our mood and the further north you go the more intense it is. Dr. Hafeez explains that around 3 million people are affected by some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s more common in women than in men and it often lingers throughout the entire winter. How to beat it? Dr. Hafeez suggests getting to bed an hour earlier and adding in some time to wind down an hour before bed. “Don’t watch the news before sleep; read a book, write in a journal or meditate. Do something that eases you into a restful state,” she says.

Change up your exercise schedule.

It’s normal for the brain to get thrown off when it gets darker earlier. Less daylight means that the motivation to get outside for that early morning jog may fade. This is normal. “It’s important that you give your brain new stimulation. Try working out after work instead of in the morning or, if possible join a work out app that brings at home exercise routines right to your phone.

Book your calendar.

The more you have to look forward to the better your mood will be. Schedule weekly dinners with family and friends. Wintertime is hibernation time so set up a family movie schedule or game nights. It’s important to have weekends booked up with fun activities to keep the mind looking forward to fun events. “Social withdrawal is common in the winter when temperatures drop. Take turns hosting dinner events and get around people,” Hafeez encourages.

Study up!

Interested in learning a new skill? Use the wintertime to take seminars, attend workshops and commit to learning something new. When you engage the part of your brain responsible for learning you’re more inspired and alert. Even listening to podcasts and participating in interesting webinars on a topic you’re interested in will increase energy, Hafeez says.

Experiment with new recipes.

When the temperatures drop and we enter hibernation mode we tend to crave more comfort foods. According to Dr. Hafeez, a great way to lift our moods and stimulate our brains is through taste. Winter is a great time to explore new foods. With so many fresh food delivery companies out there you can get pre-portioned healthy food options with step-by-step prep instruction delivered to your doorstep. “I really like this idea because it engages the senses which stimulates the brain. You’re releasing positive brain chemicals triggered by excitement, adventure, task execution and enjoyment, plus you’re eating healthy.

About the doctor:

Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. 

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and The Doctors.

October 25, 2017

Pine Mountain

Fall is finally here which means it’s time to grab your favorite sweater and enjoy cozy moments with your family and Pine Mountain – the makers of firelogs and firestarters – can help. Picture this fireside moment: kicking back in your fuzzy socks, drinking hot chocolate or tea from a warm mug, relaxing by the fire with your family on a crisp fall day, and watching your favorite shows in your pajamas. Relaxation, happiness, and nostalgia. All feelings Americans say they experience while sitting fireside according to a recent survey from Pine Mountain. This fall, grab the kids and cozy up with Pine Mountain and their specialty fire logs that smell like coffee and Christmas trees. These are amazing!

Pine Mountain® Java-Log® 4-Hour Firelogs

Inspired by nature, with a commitment to sustainability, Pine Mountain Java-Log is the only firelog made from recycled coffee grounds. The Java-Log firelog burns bright, for a brilliant, aromatic fire the whole family can enjoy. Mess free – just light the wrapper and enjoy.

American Home™ by Yankee Candle® Fresh Balsam Fir Firelogs

Enjoy the scent of Fresh Balsam Fir in your home with this fragrant firelog. With its 3-hour burn time you can enjoy the fresh scent any time of the year. Mess free – just light the wrapper and enjoy.

October 18, 2017

Winter Reading List

September 26, 2017

Things I wish I had when my babies were little!

Check out these great ideas! Things I wish I had when my babies were little!

The Beebo

(As seen on Shark Tank!) The Beebo is a hand-free baby bottle holder invented by engineer dad, Martin Hill, so you have a free hand to read to baby while feeding, eat dinner as a family while feeding baby, and more.  

More and more dads are hands-on these days and the Beebo allows dad to help feed baby in the natural position of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding moms have a free hand and now moms and dads who bottlefeed can too!

Roshambo Baby Sunglasses

Roshambo Baby shades fits 0-2 years and up depending on baby's head size.The ultra durable, virtually unbreakable, flexible and light material is specially designed with baby in mind and they are also prescription friendly! They offer 100% uva/uvb lens protection and are certified BPA and phthalate free and small parts tested. You will love the matching “mommy & me” pairs!

Crescent Womb

Crescent Womb Infant Safety Bed creates the safest environment for your baby, outside of a parent’s arms. This breathable hammock style bed mimics the natural properties of a mother’s embrace offering the optimal conditions to soothe and promote healthy development of babies. There are no dangerous hinges or electronics, just an ergonomic design that naturally replicates your embrace. The breathability of the inner mesh prevents your baby from overheating and keeps their body at a healthy, regulated temperature. 

The company is also giving back by donating beds to babies in Africa who sleep in extremely unsafe, and unsanitary conditions.


August 31, 2017

The Only Original Alfredo Sauce

Good food typically has a great story behind it and Fettuccine Alfredo has a saga. The sauce was created by Alfredo di Lelio in 1908 Rome and is still served by his family at Ristorante il Vero Alfredo in Rome.  While the sauce spurred a million copycat recipes, the real and authentic Only Original Alfredo Sauce is finally available for purchase over a century after its creation. Russell Bellanca, son of famed restaurateur Guido Bellanca and former owner of New York’s Alfredo 100, has partnered with the originator’s family to bring the first, official Original Alfredo sauce to store shelves. The refrigerated, all-natural sauce makes it possible for anyone across the country to create an authentic bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo from New York to Italy and everywhere in between. The sauce is available for purchase at Ristorante il Vero Alfredo in Rome and online at with nationwide shipping.
TASTING NOTES While the world thought the secret to Alfredo di Lelio’s Fettuccine was cream, the sauce doesn’t include a drop of it. Instead, this world-famous sauce depends on a proprietary ratio of Parmigiano Reggiano and salted butter that emulsifies into a beautiful sauce when tossed with hot fettuccine pasta. This rich and decadent sauce offers slightly sweet butter notes that shine against the powerful and briny flavors of  parmigano cheese. Depending on your palette, home cooks can thicken or thin the sauce with the addition or subtraction of pasta water. 
HOW TO SERVE  Unlike other store-bought sauces, The Only Original Alfredo Sauce must be refrigerated as it contains just four real, natural ingredients: Parmigiano Reggiano, salted butter, olive oil and cultured skim milk. Let the sauce come to room temperature for 30 minutes before use. One container is recommended for 1 lb. of pasta. Preparation is simple — boil a pot of fresh fettuccine pasta until al dente (following pasta package instructions). Remove the pasta and toss with Alfredo Sauce. In order to reach your desired consistency, add a few tablespoons of the pasta water to thin the sauce. Serve immediately. 

August 22, 2017

Delicious and Healthy recipes for your kids lunches!

I wanted to share with you these delicious and HEALTHY recipes for your kids lunches.

These recipes were created by Joanna Parker, mom and founder of Yumble. Yumble is a brand new  meal delivery service for children that delivers affordable and healthy meals that your kids will love eating!

Turkey and Gouda Pinwheels


2 slices of Turkey Slices (I love the Applegate line - choose your favorite flavor!)

1 slice of Gouda Cheese

A schmear of Mayonnaise

A schmear of cream cheese

1 Whole Wheat Tortilla (I love the Whole Foods Organic Wrap - all clean and few ingredients!)


1.    Place the wheat tortilla on a flat surface.

2.    Down the center, thinly spread the cream cheese.

3.    Then place the turkey and cheese slices on top.

4.    Spread the mayonnaise on top of the cheese.

5.    Place your hands at each end of the wrap and fold down the sides of the tortilla. Slowly roll the tortilla while using your fingers to keep the fillings in place.

6.    Once fully and tightly wrapped place seal side down and slice into 6 pieces with a sharp knife.

7.    Serve with fresh veggies and fruit.

Homemade Teriyaki Tofu Skewers


14 ozs of extra firm tofu, cubed (I like the Nasoya Organic Extra Firm)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp of cornstarch diluted in water



1.    Wrap tofu slices with paper towels to absorb excess water and to let out moisture. It really makes a difference!

2.    In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for teriyaki sauce (soy sauce, water, honey, maple syrup, and garlic).  Then whisk in diluted cornstarch.

3.    Marinade the tofu in teriyaki sauce for about 20-30 minutes.

4.    Drain the tofu, reserving the marinade in a separate bowl.

5.    Skew three cubes on mini heat-safe skewers.

6.    Heat oil (I like Olive or Avocado oil) in a pan for frying on medium heat.

7.    When oil is hot enough, fry tofu cubes until crispy and golden on all sides. You’ll need to stand by the pan and toss them frequently so they don’t stick.

8.    Enjoy these utensil free yummy cubes on their own or with rice, Asian style noodles, or veggies!

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