Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

By Jim Armstrong

You know that feeling you get when, halfway through the day, you suddenly realize you forgot to send your kid to school wearing something silly for “crazy hat day”? Or that today was the day you’d promised to send in a gift for teacher appreciation week?

It’s pretty close to impossible to remember every appointment and important date without a reminder. That can be frustrating when you’re talking about the little things – but the consequences can be much worse when it comes to the really important stuff.

We’re coming up on one of those important times right now: the next “Open Enrollment” period to purchase health insurance for 2018. Over the past few years, the federal government has led the charge when it comes to reminding people about Open Enrollment; one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., “Obamacare”) is to make sure everyone knows they have the ability to purchase coverage for themselves and their families.

This year, though, the Trump administration has decided to cut spending on Open Enrollment promotion by 90%.  That means a lot of people won’t get the message that the time to sign up for health insurance in Rhode Island is November 1 – December 31, 2017. For millions of us, this is not a deadline we want to let slip by. (You might also be hearing about a deadline of December 15th, but that’s only for states whose health insurance exchanges are run by the federal government. Rhode Island runs ours, and the state extended our deadline to December 31st.)

There’s a lot of confusion out there, but make no mistake: Obamacare is alive and well.

And, Rhode Islanders who shop on the state’s health insurance exchange (HealthSource RI) are actually quite lucky. Our state’s exchange has a tremendously positive national reputation for offering affordable options. Some states are seeing massive, double-digit rate increases this year; Rhode Island’s rate increases are among the lowest in the country.

Of course, price is only part of the equation. While most of us want low monthly premiums, it’s critically important to consider your annual deductible, too. Choose the plan that fits you, your family, or your small business the best. There are a number of insurance options available on HealthSource RI for all of those plans.

Even though you may end up purchasing your plan via HealthSource RI’s website or phone number, you should definitely get in touch with the insurance company you’re considering. Call their toll-free number. Get familiar with what they have to offer. Their staff will be able to check if your doctors are in their network and if the prescriptions you need will be covered – and they can answer your other questions, too. Purchasing health insurance can be intimidating; you want to be with a company that makes you feel comfortable.

Your conversation might also reveal that you and your family are eligible for significant discounts (in the form of tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies) if you purchase health insurance through HealthSourceRI. For example, a Rhode Island family of four can earn up to $98,400/year AND STILL QUALIFY for a subsidy and an additional tax credit. In other words, health insurance might end up costing you a whole lot less than you think. But you have to ask!

Most important, though: don’t forget that the Open Enrollment period to sign up for health insurance (in Rhode Island) is November 1 – December 31, 2017.

Jim Armstrong works on the communications team at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, trying to tell all the remarkable stories happening inside and outside of their building. He and his wife have two young sons – both of whom are getting their flu shots again this year, no matter how much they complain.

About Neighborhood: Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island is a non-profit HMO that was founded in 1993 in partnership with Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers. Currently serving more than 200,000 members statewide, Neighborhood offers plans for individuals and families who qualify for Medicaid and/or Medicare. Neighborhood also offers commercial plans with comprehensive coverage for individuals, families, and small businesses via HealthSourceRI, the state’s health insurance exchange; Neighborhood serves 55% of the R.I. exchange market.


By Camille Williams

cropped-img_43292The other day, I realized that if things had played out differently, I would be gearing up to send Boy 2 to kindergarten.

My boys are 9 and 5, and this will be our second year homeschooling. Last year, my little one was in a beautiful little co-op preschool, and I got my bearings homeschooling Boy 1. We had our tough days, but we love this way of learning and this lifestyle for our family. So both boys will be home this year.

We may or may not be in it for the long haul–it’s a year-by-year decision. A few times this summer, I thought about the coming year and questioned my sanity, mostly from the standpoint of having very little time to myself—I’m either at work or with my kids, for the most part. But that is the life of most mothers, in varying proportions. This year, I will make sure I have an afternoon or evening every week with childcare when I’m not working so I can put down my roles and responsibilities and have a little time to just be Camille—not the mom, the homeschool teacher, the wife, or the midwife. I am ready now to build that in to my family’s schedule without guilt, knowing that it is a necessity, not a luxury.

Once I talked myself down off the ledge of general overwhelm, I had myself a minor freak-out about how I would actually direct the education of two kids four grades apart. Last year, I had the luxury of quiet one-on-one time with Boy 1 while Boy 2 was in preschool three mornings a week. This year will bring a new period of adjustment. How will I create space for quiet focus for my 9 year old with my active 5-year-old running around all the time? How will I provide my kindergartener an enriching experience while doing “real work” with my 9 year old? How will I select enough but not too many outside classes and social activities for both boys without us running around all the time like a carload of chickens with our heads cut off?

I feel much better now. How did I get through these moments of panic and angst? I sought support from veteran homeschool moms who have been there and done that. I reminded myself that plenty of people are doing this very successfully with three and four kids or more.   I nailed down the last of my curriculum decisions, which helped me envision what our “sit down work” mornings will look like. I remembered how much I worried last year about doing enough, only to be amazed by the end of the year at what we were able to accomplish. I made the shift back to focusing on the gifts of the homeschooling lifestyle—mainly more time together, freedom and choice. Our school year is ours to create.

And then there’s the gift that underlies it all for me—the gift of following my heart and my gut as a mother instead of operating out of fear and “shoulds.”

I have no real regrets about Boy 1’s three years in traditional school. By and large, he had a good experience. I don’t second-guess my decision to homeschool and wonder “what if?” the way I know I would if neither of my kids had ever been to brick-and-mortar school. But naturally, with all the talk of “back-to-school” and Boy 2 being kindergarten age, I’m thinking back to when Boy 1 started kindergarten.

He was a young 5—barely made the age cut-off to start K, and we agonized over whether to send him or wait a year like many people are doing, especially with boys. We decided to grab the elusive spot at this particular school while we could, since everyone was telling us he was ready. Once we made that tough decision, we weren’t too worried about his adjustment to kindergarten. He had been in daycare three days a week from age two to four for 10-hour days. During his pre-K year, he was in preschool three days a week. Add to that the fact that he has an outgoing, adventurous personality, and we thought he would make a seamless transition.

Instead, he cried almost every morning for three or four weeks. When I asked him why he didn’t want to go, all he could come up with was “I just need time to do my Legos, mom.” His teacher was a 30-year veteran who was calm, kind, and reassuring. A couple of times, she left her classroom at the start of class to come out to the car and help me coax him in. She stayed in regular communication with me and kept saying some version of, “I know you’re worried, but trust me, within a month he’ll be absolutely fine.” And he was.

But before he made the transition to going in happily each morning, I thought we had made a terrible mistake, that he hadn’t been ready after all and we should have waited a year. If his teacher hadn’t been such a pro and so sure of what she was telling us, we might have pulled him and sent him the following year. We seriously considered that, but it seemed so radical in the face of the reassurance and encouragement we were receiving.

Homeschooling crossed my mind a few times. But back then, it was a cool idea for OTHER people, and not anything that I could pull off. I had a toddler and was trying to recover from a bout of depression, and it just did not feel like an option that was open to me.

So we kept him in school. I quieted my heart and my gut and stayed up in my head. I told myself every day that he would adjust and it would all be fine. And he did, and it was.

Fast-forward four years. If things had played out differently, my baby would be going to kindergarten this coming Monday. I would be having all the emotions that go along with that, telling myself it would all be OK.

Which it would be.

Instead, my baby is “going” to kindergarten at home.   Homeschooling is not the “better” choice, but it is the right choice for our family, for this year. How do I really know that? Because it’s not anything I need to convince myself to feel OK about. It feels right.

Camille Williams_IMG_4759_webToday, I am able to make decisions for my family from that place, and for that, I am grateful.

Camille Williams is a mom of two boys, wife, and midwife who loves living, working and playing in Providence. She blogs about home, family and parenting, midwifery and women’s health, homeschooling, and life in a bicultural family at Whatever the topic, her focus is making the most of the opportunities life hands us to learn how to live and love better, and connecting with others trying to do the same.

© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2015

What is Developmental Screening?

The first five years of your child’s life are the most important years for physical, emotional, and cognitive development. The more you know about their development, the more you can help them get the best possible start. It’s also important to be aware if there are any delays in development, because the earlier delays are identified, the sooner they can be addressed.


Developmental screenings are time-sensitive tests to see if your child’s development is on track (or reaching developmental milestones). Each screening is a short test to be sure your child is learning and doing basic things when they should. The doctor should screen (or test) your child at 9, 18, and 30 months, which usually involves answering questions on a short questionnaire. At ages 3, 4 and 5, your school district conducts screenings through a program called Child Outreach.

If your child’s doctor does not regularly screen your child, or you are not sure if they do, be sure to ask for about screenings at your next visit. There may be a need for additional screenings if your child was a preterm birth, had a low birth-weight, or for other reasons that may put them at high risk for developmental problems.

Find out more about developmental screening and milestones by visiting the Exceed Family Page.

Brought to you by Exceed, the Rhode Island Department of Education, and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Exceed is RI’s Early Childhood Commitment. Rhode Island’s Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grant initiative is called Exceed. It supports the children of Rhode Island to achieve new heights in their learning. RI’s statewide partners are committed ensuring every child in our state truly Exceeds!

There are plenty of ways to teach kids to conquer boredom but first we need to provide an opportunity for them to get bored. Many of today's kids are over scheduled and have access to digital devices from morning til night–phones are not just phones but provide hours of entertainment, electronic reading tables often have games and other cool features to keep us distracted, computers attract kids like magnets in the library–allowing little if any time to be actually be "bored." Setting limits on electronics and planning unstructured time is the first step, what happens next may depend on the kid–some will amuse themselves for varying lengths of time while others may need some guidance in coping with the open space of time.

IMG_5927I recently spoke with Claire Nicogossian, licensed clinical psychologist and writer for her article, Here's how to teach R.I. kids to conquer boredom, in today's Providence Journal. We had a great time sharing our ideas on how to manage child boredom this summer and beyond. She put together a great list of tips on the topic including the Kidoinfo list of 100 things to do with kids as a great place to start. Thanks Claire!

Learn more about Claire Nicogossian on her blog,; find clinical contact information at


Don't be alarmed! We will NOT be discussing bootcamps, marathons or one armed push-ups in the following article! We will however, talk about the mind-bogglingly difficult process of getting up and moving again after you have a baby.

Exercise! Whether that means a walk around the block, a yoga class, whatever your thing, it provides us with a wonderful dose of endorphins, a precious piece of soul-nourishing time and makes us feel so much better about ourselves. And yet, like a frustrated but happy hamster, we get stuck in this wheel of making it happen. We get energy when we workout, we need energy to workout, we don't have energy with a new baby, and round and round we go! I get it! Having a shower most days is a huge personal triumph and adding something else onto our daily lists can be overwhelming.  As with so many aspects of parenting, society imposes unrealistic pressures - presenting us with images of Moms who seem to get their pre-baby bodies back so quickly after giving birth.  If you worked out before having children, the need to return to those glory days as well as regaining some identity, can also be an additional dose of self-pressure. Getting back to your former self takes time, patience and sometimes a bit of letting go.

The benefits of exercising before, during and after pregnancy are amazing. Increased energy, fewer aches and pains and improved self esteem are among just a few. And yet, we often find this re-aquaintance with our post-baby bodies, one of the hardest parts about re-starting exercise. Why won't my body react when I want it to? Why does this exercise feel so hard now? Why do I pee the moment I move an inch off the floor? Remember, working out comes in many forms and it's all about moving your body, shifting energy and being kind to yourself.

Here are a few tips before resuming exercise:

Exercises with your baby
Finding the time to workout with a new baby can be really tricky.  Here are some easy exercises that you can do with your baby at home.

* Low Plank - elbows under your shoulders, feet together, body in one level line. Modification: drop knees to ground. Hold for 15 seconds and increase time daily.
* Cat stretches - hands under your shoulders, knees under hips. Round upper back and then flatten back. Repeat. Modification: Make fists if you have sore wrists.
IMG_7134* Baby Press - lie down on your back, knees bent, feet on floor.  Hold your baby over your chest and press them down towards your chest and up into the air.  Head and shoulders stay on the floor. Try 10-20 reps, rest and repeat 3-4 times.
IMG_7141* Squat - holding your baby in the middle of your body, legs are wide and feet facing 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, weight in your heels.  Sit down into your heels, stand up and squeeze bum as you do so.
IMG_7147* Baby on thighs - twists or lean backs.  Heels into floor, neck neutral, either lean back and then up OR twist to one side and then the other.  For a higher level, lift your heels off the floor.
IMG_7137* Child's Pose - such a great end of the day hip/low back opener.  Baby can be right on the floor between your arms. Open your knees up wide and rest body onto thighs.  Hold for 30 seconds or longer if you can.
IMG_7136* Baby bicep curls - Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Shoulders rolled back, tummy tucked in. Hold your baby sideways in your arms. Roll her towards your chest and then down towards your hips. Keep your elbows tucked in. Repeat.

Photo Credits: Suzanne Cadge, Catherine Lea

4-30-2014 1-29-00 PMReprinted with Permission, COHI, 2014

Imagine if your mother had been alone or without the necessary supplies to bring you safely into this world. Honor your mom this holiday with a donation that will help another mother and baby survive their delivery. Circle of Health International (COHI) is partnering with Maternova to create a unique crowd-funding supply drive on Crowdrise. You get to choose a donation amount that will provide life-saving tools from Matrenova that will be sent to COHI to use for the next disaster response effort. COHI will mail your mom a Mother’s Day card on your behalf letting her know that you've made this life giving supply purchase in her name. Flowers will wilt but a mother's love never fades…

View this Mother’s Day gift giving opportunity that will truly save a life here:

Funded by Providence mom and entrepreneur Meg Wirth, Maternova, is a pioneering e-commerce marketplace for technologies and innovations addressing maternal and newborn health. They focus on providing effective, low-cost tools to health workers and non-profits in low-resource settings.

The stark danger of childbirth
- One woman dies every 90 the context of trying to give life
- In a country like Niger, this means 1 in 7 women will die 'a maternal death'
- Worldwide, each year approximately 326,000 women die 'a maternal death'
- And each year 1 million children are left motherless due to maternal death
- Each generation we lose 10 million women to maternal death
An estimated additional 350,000 midwives are needed worldwide to ensure universal coverage

What are the causes of death?
- postpartum hemorrhage (massive bleeding)
- obstructed labor (no access to a needed c-section)
- eclampsia (seizures that end in coma and death)
- infection or sepsis (unsafe abortion)

**source: Maternova

COHI helps mommas and babies in the toughest areas of the world and you can too! Don’t let a child grow up without its mother.

Choose from any of the Gift Card amounts below available on our Crowdrise campaign page:

Fun-filled event will connect families and raise awareness of childhood vision health.

The 3nd annual Great Glasses Play Day will be held on Sunday, May 4th, 2014 at Capron Park in Attleboro, MA from 1pm to 3pm. Celebrate children who wear glasses and early childhood vision health by joining parent-organized meet-ups taking place online and in parks around the country and internationally.


Last year, hundreds attended events held at sixteen sites in the US and one in South Africa.  Children were surrounded by lots of other glasses-wearing kids, their families and friends, playing games and enjoying all the amazing things their glasses allow them to do. Featured activities last year included book readings, piatas, parades, arts and crafts and good old-fashioned play, and this year promises more of the same! Go to to find out where celebrations are happening near you. “What was so special about each site was that parents were able to connect with each other and have their little ones see others wearing glasses,” says Great Glasses Play Day co-founder, Kristin Ellsworth. “This year, our goal is to have meet-up events in at least 30 cities.”

By attending the Great Glasses Play Day, families and communities show their support for children who wear eyeglasses, patches or have other vision issues.  Everyone can celebrate by wearing their prescription glasses on Friday, May 2nd and throughout the weekend. Supporters include the RI Eye Institute and food provided by Borrelli’s Bakery.

The Great Glasses Play Day will assist in raising awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment of childhood vision issues. While nearly 1 in 20 preschoolers should wear glasses, only 1 in 100 actually wears them. Not addressing children’s vision issues can lead to lower academic achievement and can sometimes lead to a lifetime of blindness, but together we can help spread the word and make a difference.

The Great Glasses Play Day was co-founded by Ann Zawistoski of the online support community, Little Four Eyes, and Kristin Ellsworth of the social enterprise, Peeps Eyewear. T-shirts and graphics are by Jessica Butler of Eye Power Kids Wear.

IMG_3154"Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right" is the theme for National Nutrition Month® 2014. Here are a few tips for helping your kids eat right and enjoy the food their eating.

Photo credit: Dylan, age 12. His adaptation of the Buon Appetit recipe for a Smoked Salmon Smørrebrød sandwich.

By Claire Moscrop, Nutrition Consultant

water-glassWhen the weather is colder we tend to drink less water. We just don’t think about hydration as much as in the summer and it's not so appealing to have a large glass of cold water when the temperature is dipping into the 30’s. Many of the body composition assessments I have done in the last few weeks have shown low hydration levels so here’s some information to help:

Did You Know?

What Should I Drink?

When Should I Drink Water?


Claire is a graduate of the highly regarded Institute of Integrative Nutrition in NYC, as well as a certified Sports Nutrition Consultant through the AFPA. As a mother to 3 young girls and wife to a busy banking executive, Claire understands first hand how difficult it can be to provide healthy, home-cooked meals with today’s busy lifestyles. Claire’s programs will help you to achieve this. Check out her website at for more details.

Local parent, Tara Demyan is a fan of the Meditation for Kids and Family class at Atisha Kadampa Meditation Center. To learn more about what it means to meditate together as a family, read Tara's recent interview with Angela Stewart, Education Program Coordinator of the Atisha Kadampa Meditation Center.

Children Meditating Together What is a “family” meditation class?

Angela: All parents want their children to be happy, and every child wants a happy family. “Meditation for Kids and Families” is an opportunity for families to come together, have fun, and learn special ways of thinking and being that help to create a meaningful life and a happy family.

The family class offers a simple introduction to Buddha’s teachings, emphasizing loving- kindness, respect for others, and keeping a happy heart and positive attitude.

The family meditation class helps kids learn together how to develop harmony, confidence and methods to calm their minds and be happy. Each class includes a short discussion about everyday experiences relevant to children, guided meditation, and fun activities that foster kindness, cooperation, patience and giving.

playing games
How can meditation benefit my child?

Angela: Children want to live in a peaceful world. Such a world starts with a happy family and harmonious relationships with others. The meditation for kids and families class offers children an opportunity to do engage in fun, meaningful activities with their families while connecting with others who are interested in learning how to create a peaceful world.

Meditation is a method to make our mind peaceful, calm, strong and stable. Children who are able to remain calm when faced with difficulty are more resilient to the problems of daily life. They are able to develop and maintain better relationships with others and experience fewer problems and difficulties.

Children in our modern world face many challenges. We live in a world where children are exposed to violence and other tragedies. Many children are dealing with interpersonal conflict, stress, and worry. Over 2000 years ago, Buddha gave instructions to solve human problems. Although very ancient, this advice is still relevant for our modern world and can benefit those of all ages.

How old does my child need to be to participate in the class?

Angela: The class is recommended for children 5 — 12 years of age; however, these are only guidelines. Generally, the class is best for children who can remain seated in a small group for 15-20 minutes, follow instructions, and participate in group activities.

 I’m not sure my child can sit still, let alone meditate. Can children really meditate?

Angela: Many people think children can’t meditate because they have difficulty sitting still. This simply is not true! Although sitting still is helpful during meditation practice, it is not required; we can meditate during all of our daily activities simply by holding a positive state of mind, such as love or compassion. Since all children can learn positive ways of thinking, even about challenging situations, they can definitely learn to meditate, even if they have difficulty sitting still. Like any skill, meditation takes practice. In these classes, children will learn short, guided meditations. As children practice and gain experience, they are able to sit quietly for longer periods of time.

 What is the structure of the class?

Angela: Classes include teaching and discussion about issues relevant to children and emphasize Buddhist principles for how to become more patient, loving, and kind towards others. Classes also include a brief prayer (e.g., for all beings to be happy and free from problems), short guided meditations appropriate for children, and fun activities. Instruction is provided primarily through experiential learning, such as with the use of games, stories, crafts, puppetry, and acting.

What do parents do during the class?

Angela: Parents are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the family meditation class. By learning to meditate themselves, parents are better able to help their children practice what they have learned at home, in school and during their daily activities.

Does my child need special clothing or equipment?

Angela: All of these classes are open to anyone; it is not necessary to pre-register; and you are welcome to join at any time. Children don’t need to bring or wear anything special to the classes, and both chairs and cushions are available for sitting.

What is Atisha Kadampa Buddhist Center?

Angela: Atisha Kadampa Buddhist Center is an oasis of peace and inspiration in the heart of the East Side that offers a relaxed, welcoming setting in which to explore ways to develop wisdom and cultivate peaceful states of mind. Classes are designed to provide practical advice for responding to life’s challenges. Since Buddhist teachings and practices can be understood and applied by everyone, regardless of experience or religious background, anyone can find practical benefit at our classes, workshops, and events.


Atisha Kadampa Buddist Center is part of Serlingpa Meditation Center
339 Ives Street Providence, RI 02906

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