We are honored and thrilled to have the chance to interview Mary Anne, creator of Mama Smiles Blog, a blog that celebrates everyday parenting through creativity, learning and play! Mary Anne is pediatric cancer survivor who used her Masters in education and PhD in medicine to look at how music programs could help rebuild post-war communities. She is now raising her four children and sharing her day to day knowledge and wisdom on her blog, as well as running her own charity, World Culture For Kids. Here is more about Mary Anne’s journey to an adventurous motherhood:
1. What motivated you to start your blog, Mama Smiles?
I was home all day with two small children, and wanted a way to connect with the outside world. Blogging was a way to keep my mind busy, while also sharing my reasons for choosing to stay home with my children, as well as activities that our family enjoys.
2. Can you share a bit about your own experience with pediatric cancer and how it has influenced your approach to motherhood?
I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 21 months old. I was enrolled in a clinical trial that proved highly successful – a similar treatment is used to treat this same cancer today. I was very fortunate, but sometimes felt sad about losing much of my early childhood to this illness. Having children of my own felt miraculous, since it was unknown at the time whether or not the drugs I had been given would cause a loss of fertility, and it has also given me a chance to experience the joy of the childhood that I lost. Watching my life hang in balance at an early age taught me to never take life for granted. It always amazes me, also, that I can be a cancer survivor yet have perfectly healthy children.
3. Tell us a bit about what you learned from your work helping to rebuild communities in post-war regions and how it enhances the ways you teach your own children about life.
I remember visiting someone in an apartment building and walking up to the sixth floor – and seeing bullet holes in the walls on the sixth floor. This was a building where families lived, and it breaks my heart that someone would run up six flights of stairs to terrorize innocent civilians. I met local and international artists and musicians who were using creativity to bring together groups of people who had been pulled apart, and was able to see some success in getting the different ethnic groups to interact. War creates tremendous trauma, and trauma takes time to heal. I saw a lot of resilience, and hope against tremendous odds. I learned that creativity can be a tremendous aid in fighting fear by providing a healing voice, that change takes time, and that the best things in life require hope and a lot of hard work. With my children, I like to focus on kindness, empathy, and the importance of listening. We also spend a lot of time on creative activities, which I believe helps develop introspection and self-expression.
4. Tell us about Small Hands Creating Hope and how we can help!
I created the Small Hands Creating Hope project as a way of celebrating 30 years of cancer survivorship! My cancer story ends happily, but I have lost friends and family members to this disease, and there is still a lot of work to be done. Several blog friends and I joined together to create an ebook of simple, hope-inspiring projects that can be created by adults or children. We send this ebook to anyone who donates at least $15 through this link.
5. What do you think is the single most important action a mother of adventurous children can take each day to take care of herself in order to be at her best for her kids?
Find something that you enjoy, and make time for that – even five minutes will make a huge difference! Also find activities that you can do with your children that you enjoy. It may be reading books, crafting, science experiments, cooking… what the activity is doesn’t really matter – it’s spending the time together! I also highly recommend getting out in nature with kids as frequently as possible. Being outdoors has a calming effect on everyone, and is a wonderful way to build family connections and make time for talking.
Find more about Mary Anne and mamasmiles.com.
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