Meet Carlos, The 5-year-old Boy Behind Bars For Nearly 700 Days

I’ve partnered with Amnesty International to create a video series about the children and their parents fleeing horrific violence, conflict, and persecution in their home countries only to be thrown into detention here in the United States. They have come here asking for asylum, a form of protection recognized under U.S. and international law. Please join in urging our government to stop locking up families merely seeking safety.  Please join in demanding an end to family detention. 

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Carlos, 5, greets me with a warm and curious smile. Peeking up at me, from behind his mother Lorena’s legs, he clutches a book given to him a day prior by Kristin from Amnesty International’s team. As I ease my way into earning this sweet little boy’s trust, he shows me how he’s already memorized his new book, naming all the animals in both English and Spanish.

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I soon learn that Carlos can’t wait to go to Kindergarten, dreams of riding a bike, enjoys coloring, and loves to spend time playing outside. I sing a song that my mother used to sing to me as a child. Carlos joins me; he knows the lyrics. This song from my mother’s childhood is one of the many commonalities we uncover – yet the stark difference in our trajectories from South and Central America is never lost on me.

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Although Carlos reminds me of my own children at age five, his story is far from typical. At an age where most kids enjoy unstructured play as they come into their own, Carlos spent his time behind bars. Alongside his mother Lorena, this loving little boy spent nearly 700 (yes, seven hundred) of his early childhood days detained inside what is known as the oldest “baby jail” in America, the Berks County Residential Center in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Carlos learned to talk behind bars.

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As Lorena unravels personal accounts of their story it shakes me to my core. The trauma inflicted by our government, and along every step of their escape from violence is beyond unfathomable.

Despite all that Lorena has endured, she is incredibly resilient and affectionate. She is the sort of person who carries (and spreads) such palpable joy. Spending time with Lorena is indeed a gift, and her openness in revisiting her layers of trauma (which often triggers debilitating migraines) is entirely rooted in helping others still behind bars.

Lorena and Carlos fled gang violence, extortion and kidnapping threats at gunpoint in their home country – a place where Amnesty International has documented horrific violence. This mother left everything she knew, with her 2-year-old son in her arms to make the arduous and dangerous journey to the United States in hopes of a simple human right: safety. Lorena and her son could have lost their lives, like so many others, had she stayed paralyzed in fear and not fled.

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As a mother, I cannot even begin to imagine being in this impossible predicament. But I sure as hell know that I too would flee with my family wrapped in my arms if conflict threatened the lives of my children. I would leave everything I knew, and trade every dollar, for the hope of a path to safety, and security.

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Lorena and Carlos were apprehended crossing the border to Texas. Lorena was holding her young toddler in her arms as they were pulled out of the water. The details which weave their testimony together are gut-wrenching, cruel and unjust – along with the experience of their time in Berks, behind bars.

The Berks is not a hotel stay or a home. It is a jail with guards and cameras. Berks is a place where families, babies, children, and teens are woken up for bed-checks at all hours of the night. It is a place where kids can’t consume home-cooked meals. It is a place where children and parents are forced to eat unfamiliar processed, cold foods. Berks is the place where a guard was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager detained there.

Mothers and fathers are facing an impossible choice – flee violence and persecution in their home countries – or stay and risk their children’s lives. If you aren’t outraged, sickened and profoundly saddened by the brutal reports of the U.S. government forcibly separating children from their parents, then you are not paying attention. Sadly, this is hardly over. Thousands of children and babies forcibly separated from their parents at the border must be reunified. President Trump’s recent Executive Order is not a plan to stop violating the rights of people feeling unimaginable violence. This Executive Order imprisons families indefinitely, inflicting further harm on children and their parents.

Detaining families seeking asylum together is not a solution.

We must be morally obligated to demand this stop.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION:

Carlos and Lorena are now free, thanks to Amnesty and its dedicated supporters – but so many others are in dire need of help.

Amnesty International is tirelessly working to stop the inhumane practice of jailing families seeking asylum. Please join in taking action today:

CALL YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS: Call upon your representatives to end the inhumane practice of jailing families seeking asylum. The number for the congressional switchboard is 1-844-879-0282.

SIGN THE PETITION: I always thought that signing petitions felt like the most inactive form of activism – but my time spent with the Amnesty team taught me that signatures on their petitions absolutely make a difference. If you do one thing today, please sign the petitions here and here.

USE YOUR VOICE: Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and social media communities about how the Executive Order only inflicts further harm. Talk about the families behind bars on U.S. soil at places like Berks, and spread the word that we’re fighting for the end of family detention, and for the recent ruling baring family separation and ordering reunification to be implemented.

I will be sharing further. Thank you so much for reading.

Carlos and Lorena are not their real names. *

Thank you, Amnesty International USA for sponsoring this post.

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On Fostering Confidence In Our Girls + Dove Giveaway

This post is sponsored by Mirum Shopper. Opinions, as always, are my own.

Through a small window, I watch her carefully chaine turn across the ballet studio floor.  Hands on shoulders, she is learning to spot, while sometimes losing stability.  In a powder blue leotard, with magic marker remnants on her hands, she is beauty in motion – exuding unfading grace, joy, and determination.  Despite getting dizzy  – she steps out of her spins to greet the studio mirror with a big smile lighting up her face.  I study the way in which she grins at her reflection and can’t help but marvel at her eight-year-old sense of self and increasing awareness of the world around her.

 

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I’m reminded of all the times that I stood, as a girl, in front of a metaphorical mirror, feeling proud on my own accord – or unsure of myself and my abilities.  And in a pre-Internet era, I know all too well what it was like to feel diminished – in the murmur of a whisper – or the passing of a note.

Our daughter will someday be a part of the next generation of social media users – where a single voice can be amplified among an endless sea.

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And now more than ever, it is our biggest hope that this future online culture will follow Dove‘s lead in embracing words as weapons – to speak beauty, support, and reciprocity; while influencing positivity, calling out injustices, and championing change.

That’s why, as a mother of a young girl, I love the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s mission in helping girls gain confidence and develop positive relationships with themselves and others.

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Dove has sparked really important discussions online – and when I walk with my daughter to our local Rite Aid, I’m happy to pick up products (that I’ve depended on for years) from a brand that aligns with our beliefs. Along with Dove’s steadfast commitment to helping women and girls – I’m such a fan of their affordable products with delicious scents.

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My current favorites, on regular rotation, include Dove Deep Moisturizing Body Wash, which never dries out my skin, especially in the colder months; Dove Invigorating Dry Shampoo for quick hair fixes after rushing from spin class to ballet class pick-up; and Dove Advanced Care Original Clean Deodorant with a cool and fresh scent that always keeps me dry.

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We’re thrilled to partner with Dove to giveaway my favorite products to five lucky winners.

Entry is simple over on our Instagram account.

A photo posted by Monica (@marinobambinos) on

Just comment on this image with your own story about a time that you or a friend had a negative experience on social media – and please let us know how you got through it. Use #SpeakBeautiful to be entered to win one of five Dove tote bags filled with full-sized Dove products.  Giveaway rules can be found here: https://goo.gl/pcrAjW.

Also, please join us in the #SpeakBeautiful conversation on social media, and in the comments below.

Here’s to our strong girls.

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Because Mom Needs a Day Off Too

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I still struggle with feeling OK when taking time for myself. Even in the midst of uninterrupted work (yes work, not play!) I have to push through irrational guilt and unjustified feelings of selfishness when I’m away from my children.  I’m well aware that it doesn’t make any sense.  And I know that all moms need a day off.  This one included.

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So when a “mom’s day off” was recently requested of me in conjunction with Crocs‘ #MomsDayOff campaign, I hightailed it to the subway with my hair still wet and breakfast unfinished to meet a friend for spontaneous quality time together.  Eager to check out the Fischli Weiss exhibit at the Guggenheim before it closes next week; we arrived at opening to an uncrowded viewing.  There’s nothing like being with an incredible female friend when you’re on the verge of coming undone at the seams.  And inside the very museum that we frequent as a family, I realized how vastly different my perspective is when taking in art without my little ones.  The shape of the day was invigorating, refreshing, and incredibly fun. Hugs, art, and laughter are so very good for the soul!

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When I returned to my sweet little family, I knew that taking time for myself gave me a new lens to filter beauty from an otherwise cluttered and chaotic space.  Those scattered toys and abandoned art projects represented nothing more than a vibrant and happy life with kids.

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Along with my recipes for self-care like fitting in those workouts, I know that days spent with steadfast friends are essential to my well-being. And here in the city, a metro-card, a few favorite accessories, and comfy shoes make for incredible last-minute adventures!

I used to think that Crocs were just for kids.  My love affair with them began the summer that my then three-year-old son insisted on wearing his sister’s outgrown pink unicorn Crocs. With glow-in-the-dark unicorn horns – who can blame him? It’s now such a deliciously adorable memory!

Crocs for women may not have rainbows and light-up features when you step (thank goodness!), but they do have super comfortable,  fun, and streamlined styles.  A far cry from my children’s clogs; I’ll be rocking mine all summer long, officially making us a Crocs-family.

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I do hope that you’ll join me in the important work of taking time off for yourself, and we’re thrilled that Crocs is determined to send other moms off for a break while outfitting even more in comfy footwear!

Check out the amazing #momsdayoffcontest on social media! Click the below Instagam image for more details to be in the running to win amazing goodies including a $50 Crocs gift card + $100 (10 winners!) to spend on your mom’s day off! That’s not all, 50 more winners will win $50 gift cards from Crocs. Sixty winners total equals a lot of happy moms! Just make sure that you’re following @Crocs on social media when you post an entry image. I’ve enjoyed seeing all of the #momsdayofcontest photos on Instagram letting us know all those mom’s day off hopes and dreams!

 

A photo posted by Monica (@marinobambinos) on

This post is sponsored by Crocs. Opinions, as always, are my own.

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On This Thanksgiving Day

hugging+children+with+wings This blurry iPhone photo taken three years ago today reminds me of how incredibly grateful I am for our little lot in life.  This is what Thanksgiving feels like.

Wishing you all a blessed day spent with those you love. 

Love, us.

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Organized Chaos + Lily Jade Giveaway

It’s never easy to be the first one out the door in the morning, or away from my children for just a quick trip.  There are always extra hugs and kisses to dole out, backpacks to double check, and the sort of reassurance that only mommy can provide.

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Chaos has taught me that organization is my friend.  I turn to the same tools and products over and over again, to help keep me on track when it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day available.

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Over the past few years, Lily Jade has frequently popped up here as my go-to-bag – despite my little ones being long out of diapers. I’m at a point in life where I know what works for me, and so I stick to it.  Lilly Jade designer diaper bags are famous for looking nothing like a diaper bag, with top-notch functionality, style, and durability. My Lilly Jade Caroline and Sarah Grace bags have truly withstood the test of time, and my current favorite is the Rosie in camel.

I have a thing for gold and their updated hardware is stunning.

Designer Diaper Bag Lily Jade Rosie

I usually try to plan work functions and meeting during the two days when my kids have after-school classes.  And when I think about it, it’s pretty amazing how NYC’s efficient train system can get me all over the city in a school-days time.  When I’m traveling with a lot of stuff that needs to be well-organized I use the baby bag insert.

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It fits into my bag like a glove.

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Even though I’ve reclaimed by bags, I remember what it’s like to need a wipe or a paci in lightening speed.

From diapering years and beyond – we love Lily Jade.

Win It! Just in time for the Holidays – our generous partner Lily Jade is giving away a gorgeous Rosie bag ($355 value!) to one lucky MB reader.  To enter visit the rafflecopter below. Best of luck friends!

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Thank you Lily Jade for sponsoring this post.  Opinions as always are my own. 

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Helpful Books For Tween Girls and Mothers | The Care & Keeping Of Us With American Girl

Just the other day, my third-grader came home asking to talk about something privately.  It was the first lock-down drill of the school-year, and I quickly prepared myself (as well as a concerned mother possibly can) to be completely present in whatever my daughter needed to discuss behind her closed door.  The topic was much lighter than expected, but in that moment I was well aware of the fact that the ways in which I listen and respond to my children now, matter so very much. I always want my kids to be able to come to me.

I’ve been quickly trying to prepare myself with tools and tips to talk to my children about topics and life lessons that are on the horizon.  As helpful things come my way, I’m beginning to share them here  – but I’m well aware that I have so much more to prepare.

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That’s why I’m grateful to have been invited to an intimate brunch with Momtrends, at the American Girl store to chat with pediatrician and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Cara Natterson about her new three-book set, The Care & Keeping of Us: A Sharing Collection for Girls and Their Moms.

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I’ve since had time to look through the collection (one book for moms, and one for tweens) which provides helpful tools to talk collectively about pressing topics for growing girls.  The book-set covers everything from puberty, body basics, social media, friendship, age-appropriate hygiene and so much more.  Solid tips and conversation starters are included, and even scripts for moms (thank you!) on how to talk to adolescent and tween girls about navigating various issues while growing up.  I love how the books emphasize closeness and trust while providing tools to communicate, including a sharing journal with prompts to keep the mother-daughter conversation open.

I’m so impressed with Dr. Natterson’s knowledge, down to earth nature, and new book collection.  We haven’t come across anything this helpful that covers such important topics for girls ages eight and up. I appreciate that the discussion will begin with the help of American Girl, a brand that my daughter and her friends know and trust.

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We recommend ordering the book set early to pull out when the time comes!

Special thanks to Momtrends and American Girl for having us. Product provided but opinions as always are my own.

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