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 Family Meditation with Headspace

This post is sponsored by Headspace. Start a daily meditation practice by scrolling to the bottom of the post for a discount code. 

Summer is a powerful time. Magic happens within waves amongst salt water’s healing powers.

As a parent, summer can also sometimes feel like a strange dichotomy of being present in the readily-available peace found in the ocean – while fighting frustration on the days when sibling bickering sets in. According to a recent parenting survey by Momtrends Media, 40% of parents find the summer months to be the most stressful, followed by back-to-school season and the holidays.

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I always welcome opportunities to better myself and when a partnership with the meditation app Headspace came my way it truly felt serendipitous. I tried other meditation programs in the past but eventually couldn’t stick to their many commitments. Headspace was different; within just a few minutes a day, I found myself calmer, more alive, and well aware of the fact that I’m in charge of my responses to the world around me. Headspace never made me feel judged – often reminding me that there is “no good or bad way to meditate”. This app has given me a tool to introduce meditation to my kids (they especially love the animations) with a specific section just for them. We now have a family meditation practice that is beautifully simple to stick with.

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Thanks to Momtrends Media, I had the chance to meet the Headspace team at a lovely lunch event that they hosted in NYC. When I was introduced to co-founder Andy Puddicombe, and voice-of-all-things Headspace, I found myself gushing “but I feel like you’re my friend!” while restraining my arms behind my back before they could unfurl around him in an awkwardly tight hug. If you’re familiar with the app, Andy’s soothing British-accented voice, along with a collection of animations, quotes, and secular, simple meditations – make meditation a part my day that I look forward to and crave.

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Before leading us all in a guided meditation, Andy spoke of his decade of training as a Buddhist Monk. Along with his business partner, Rich Pierson, the duo sought out to improve the health and happiness around the world with the creation of Headspace – the first meditation app on the Market in 2012. Headspace now reaches over 30 million people every year!

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A few things that Andy said really stuck with me:

I love how Andy spoke of mediation as a vehicle to increase compassion, gratitude, and empathy for the world around us. Pulling from his time in the monastery, he spoke of meditation as a means to not just better yourself, but also make a difference in your families and communities while putting something valuable back into the world.

Andy spoke of focusing on the breath to destress. Headspace makes this so simple even for children – with prompts to invite their favorite stuffed animal or toy to join them and rest on their bellies while breathing.

He also asked us to keep a gratitude journal specifically about family. I adore this idea. While we already have a gratitude practice in place in our home – focusing on what I’m grateful for within my children is a beautiful thing.

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As a mother, a person who lives with migraine, and as someone who comes from a public health background – it’s hard to adequately capture how grateful I am to be introduced to something so helpful.  Headspace is wonderful to gift to a friend or family member suffering an acute loss or trauma (there is a grief pack within the brave section) and even coping with cancer and pain management packs within the health session. There are single meditations for things like losing my temper and panicking – along with falling back to sleep, creative writing, difficult conversations, fear of flying and so much more.

I hope you’ll join me in this meditation journey because I want everyone to have headspace! Get 40% of your Headspace subscription for the year (which you’ll need to have full access to the app) with this code:

https://www.headspace.com/buy/checkout/summary?voucherCode=MARINOBAMBINOS

Register and enter the promo code here by July 4th:

Once you log into the app on your phone, it will automatically connect to the subscription you just activated.

Event photos 4-6 via Momtrends. 

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Not One Type: A Closer Look At Breast Cancer

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Thank you to Genentech for sponsoring this post.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 236,968 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States in 2014, and (not counting some types of skin cancer) breast cancer in the U.S. is the most common cause of cancer in women – across all races and ethnicities. It is also the leading cause of death from cancer, among Latina women. Like so many others I know, breast cancer has impacted my family profoundly and the trajectory of my loved ones. That’s why it’s important for me to join in sharing the Not One Type campaign, merging messages from a trifecta of champions – Genentech, Living Beyond Breast Cancer and ThirdLove.

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I recently joined New Yorkers in exploring the Not One Type Studio – a SoHo pop-up experience, encouraging women and their loved ones to take a closer look at breast cancer. Upon stepping into the ThirdLove Studio, women curious about bra shopping were visually halted by ThirdLove’s bra installation – challenging prevalent breast cancer misconceptions – with uniformed rows of suspended bras that were only one size, and only one color. Just like ThirdLove creates uniquely tailored bras to a women’s specific size, shape and color preference – Not One Type is sharing information about the ways in which breast cancer is a very complex and not-one-size-fits-all disease.

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The Not One Type website explains how breast cancer is classified into different types – determined by the unique characteristics of each tumor, including subtype, lymph node status and stage, among other criteria. Understanding the uniqueness of each diagnosis helps to empower women and their loved ones to engage in helpful conversations and make more informed treatment decisions with their providers.

I know first-hand that family and friends often step in as patient advocates – and according to Not One Type, women facing the early stages of breast cancer rely on three or more people to help them process treatment options. An incredibly valuable tool on the Not One Type website is a checklist of questions to help women facing this diagnosis and their supporters be as well-informed as possible in conversations with doctors.

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In addition to all of the visual messaging, a lovely tribute wall, “boobie pins” in all shapes and sizes, and ThirdLove discount cards – the campaign’s spokeswomen Giuliana Rancic was on hand leading the discussion with women currently living with breast cancer as well as drawing from her personal experience.  According to Giuliana “understanding your unique diagnosis is critical to receiving the right treatment for you. And it’s not just important for those diagnosed to know about the different types, but for those who love them.”

Armed with new-to-me facts and insight, I’m grateful that I can now help better support a loved one. Have a look around notonetype.org, I’m sure you’ll learn something too.

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Why I’m Excited About Google’s New Pixelbook

This post is sponsored by Best Buy. 

Have you heard the buzz about the Google Pixelbook? The new high-performance Chromebook and Pixelbook Pen (the smart, responsive stylus, sold separately) are designed to elevate the way you work and play. This is the very first laptop with the Google Assistant built in, allowing users to get things done quickly and efficiently!

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Here are a few things we love:

Ultra Sleek Compact Design + Chrome OS Power

With a huge step away from a bulky, cumbersome, laptop design – the ultra-thin Pixelbook (at 10.3mm thin!) is incredibly versatile while seamlessly fitting into an on-the-go lifestyle. And with Chrome OS power, you’ll always have the latest security and software features that automatically update in the background.

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Google Assitant Capabilities

Pixelbook is the first laptop with the Google Assistant built in. Acess is via the Google Assistant key on the keyboard, or simply saying the “Ok Google” prompt. You can even utilize Google Assitant with Pixelbook Pen by just pressing and holding the button, and then taping the pen on Pixelbook’s screen to get help from your Assistant.

Sleek and Versatile Design 

Along with being Google’s thinnest laptop ever, the 360° touchscreen and versatile 4-in-1 design allow for endless possibilities. You can sketch or edit photos and work with GSuite apps that Drive automatically backs up, and enjoy on-or-offline access to movies and TV shows with apps like Google Play Movies, YouTube Red and more. Also, this device starts up in under ten seconds, performs quickly, and has a fast-charging, all-day battery with up to ten hours of power from a single charge.

Today is the last day to save $100! Take advantage of this offer here!

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A Healthy Green Smoothie for Saint Patrick’s Day

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Check out our yummy healthy green smoothie recipe to celebrate St. Patrick’s day with the kids! Thanks to our partner Maple Hill – America’s original 100% grass-fed dairy producers for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Over the years, my kids have shown me that it’s the little things commemorating the special dates and holidays that mean the most to them. Their excitement over a simple banner on the mantle, handmade decorations or a themed recipe will always make me incredibly happy. That said, I was in great need of upping my game for Saint Patrick’s Day this year – ever since my son came home from school last March wanting to know why he’d been deprived of setting “leprechaun traps” in our home. While I may not ever be the leprechaun-trap-making kind of mom, I can make a mean kiddo-approved green smoothie. And if I can get kale, spinach, Maple Hill Organic Grass-Fed Yogurt and more into my kiddos before they’re out the door for school in the morning – than that’s a win for us all!

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Smoothies are a breeze, especially when you’re looking for something easy and healthy. And our Saint Patrick’s Day smoothie recipe is catered to please the kiddos:

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A Healthy Green Smoothie for Saint Patrick’s Day

A Healthy Green Smoothie for Saint Patrick’s Day

Ingredients

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup Maple Hill organic plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 banana (peeled)
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • a few pieces of ice

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender.
  2. Blend until all chucks are gone to a smooth and creamy consistency.
  3. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
http://www.marinobambinos.com/2018/03/a-healthy-green-smoothie-for-saint-patricks-day/

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One of the best things about adding greens to smoothies is that they don’t add a lot of flavor. The combination of banana, frozen mango and pineapple help to add just enough sweetness to make my kids gulp away. Although we also make this smoothie with Maple Hill’s Organic Milk – the Maple Hill’s Organic Whole Milk Yogurt gives this specific recipe a deliciously creamy texture and taste. Not only are Maple Hill’s products grass-fed, but they’re certified USDA and PCO organic, and GMO-free.  You’ll taste the difference as soon as you try Maple Hill.

Along with all the vitamins and nutrients from the organic greens and fruits – I’m happy that my kids are getting solid protein and more from Maple Hill Yogurt. Maple Hill’s products are 100% grass-fed – and milk from grass-fed cows (versus those that consume a grain-based diet) is higher in essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat – with a whole host of great health benefits known to reduce inflammation in the body and more. Their grass-fed milk has double the omega-3 fat content as conventional milk. It’s always the right choice for my family.

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If your kiddos happen to be resistant to drinking their greens in any way, make sure to give this smoothie a fun name.

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I’m pretty sure that Leprechaun anything will do!

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A New Alternative For an Opioid-Free Painkiller

This post is sponsored by Pacira via SheKnows Media.

I recently had the honor of joining SheKnows media at the BlogHer 18 Health Conference in New York City’s beautiful Tribeca.  I’ve made a conscious effort to tuck away and pull from the powerful words spoken by the organizers of The Women’s March, Chelsea Clinton, the journalists from The New York Times who exposed Harvey Weinstein and more inspirational women. I heard from women who are fighting and overcoming various health battles, breaking down stigmas and creating greater awareness of often misunderstood health conditions. We also had the chance to connect with companies creating cutting-edge responses to some of the most complex and pressing problems of our time.

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According to the CDC, on average, 115 Americans die every single day from opioid overdose – and in 2016, an estimated 3 million surgery patients became long-term opioid users.  Did you know that women are prescribed twice as many opioid prescriptions as men? Surgery has become an inadvertent gateway to opioid addiction with nearly 1 in 15 patients becoming drug dependent following a surgery. Bottles of unused opioid prescriptions are sitting idle in medicine cabinets. A recent report found that 13 percent of middle-aged women use opioids three to six months post-operation, placing them at significant risk for dependence and misuse.  In addition, middle-aged women are most at risk of death from opioid overdose, with women ages 40-59 getting opioid prescriptions more than any other group.

As a former public health researcher with a background in addiction research and harm-reduction, having an intimate look into Pacira’s surgeon-lead panel at BlogHer 18 Health was promising – because there are safe and effective non-opioid options available.  Pacira hopes to encourage patients and patient advocates to be empowered and proactive with providers when facing surgery.

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EXPAREL®, a drug developed by Pacira is a long-acting (non-opioid) numbing medication injected during surgery to control pain while limiting the need for opioids following surgery. One of the Pacira panel speakers, Dr. Gregory Greco, a board-certified plastic surgeon, explained how administering EXPAREL during surgery eliminates the need for starting opioid pain relief in the recovery room – because pain management via EXPAREL can last for days. This often eliminates or completely reduces prescriptions of opioids for post-surgical pain management.

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All of the speakers, including a plastic surgeon, oral surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, along with the team running Pacira’s information booth at BlogHer18 Health, spoke of the need to be proactive and informed patients or patient-advocates in surgery consults. With the volume of opioids being prescribed post-surgery, it’s crucial to ask important questions about non-opioid options and post-surgical pain management.

According to the CDC, the number of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. And so many of us have seen the resulting devastating effects of this epidemic.  We can only hope that others will follow in Pacira’s footsteps with a commitment to reduce prescriptions, exposure, dependence, and deaths due to opioids.

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