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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Conscious Parenting: A New Future Begins at Home

May 03, 2011 08:21AM ● By Linda Sechrist

The Thornburg family

Forward-thinking, holistic-minded Southwest Florida parents are rediscovering and living by “back to the future” values.

In her recent blog, Holistic Mom’s Executive Director and founder Nancy Massotto cites the growing interest in a grassroots trend: holistic and conscious parenting. With chapters in 35 states, Massotto’s nonprofit organization is able to keep its finger on the pulse of parenting via a network of mothers and fathers interested in lifestyle choices that promote awareness of environmental conservation and holistic living. Trusting their instincts and parenting from the heart, holistic moms and dads investigate the pros and cons of all health care and parenting options, and live a life in balance by exploring natural solutions and using organic products.

Although slow to meet the needs of parents who choose this lifestyle for their family, today’s marketplace is responding with retail products and services. To determine whether if trend is gaining momentum in Southwest Florida, Natural Awakenings interviewed parents that have chosen to raise their children in alignment with “back to the future” values.

Gardening as Quality Time

A pediatrician who practices an old-fashioned version of Western medicine, as well as conscious parenting, Dr. Brian Thornburg focuses on a holistic approach to each that emphasizes wellness and patient education to support the values of moms and dads striving to provide proper nutrition, healthy foods, exercise, spiritual development and education. Medical care delivered in his home-like office highlights the beauty of books and learning, along with his family’s backyard garden and small farm animals.

“I teach families that gardening together is important, because it allows them to share regular family time, learn where food really comes from, eat the nutrient-dense fresh foods they grow, interact with nature, make memories and acquire useful life skills,” says Thornburg, who sends families to learn gardening skills from John Puig, at Eden Florida’s Eimerman Education Center gardens. “A significant benefit for the young families I work with is avoiding the obesity epidemic associated with eating the standard American diet,” he notes.

Making Healthier Choices

Whenever Vanessa Uzupes reflects upon the birth of her children, ages 2 and 6, she sees it as an important life passage for several reasons: It ushered in the wonders of stay-at-home motherhood, along with several new values that have led to a healthier lifestyle. “Although mine wasn’t totally the standard American diet, I became conscientious about eating healthy and buying organic for my children’s sake,” says Uzupes, who makes her own fresh baby food and chooses to follow an alternative vaccination schedule.

The Uzupes feel that networking with other parents that share their values is important. “We’ve drifted away from friends who criticize us for our healthier choices,” says Uzupes, who schedules family activities around at-home mealtimes. “It’s like returning to a set of values that existed in the 1950s, and while it takes more work and planning, we feel it’s worth it to have healthy children who are very much in balance with the Earth,” she enthuses.

Doing away with cable TV leaves most evenings open for bike rides through the family’s non-gated neighborhood, counted on to help produce items for the Naples Really Really Free Market, at Fleischmann Park. “We have a great network in our community, and while the kids are enjoying free outdoor play time with other children, my husband and I get to visit with the adults, who love helping us collect items for the monthly market that gives away household objects, food and services,” advises Uzupes. “Our children love participating and sharing their outlived and outgrown treasures.”

The Marble’s son
The Marble’s son
America Marble, her husband Charles and their 2-year-old son lead a totally organic lifestyle, one that the couple followed long before their choice of natural childbirth. “Other than what we grow in our small garden, we buy everything at Food & Thought 100% Organic Farm Market,” says America, founder of the new Organic Super Baby website ( She hosts classes and meet-up groups in the Naples area on topics such as healthy and inexpensive ways to increase your child’s nutrition organically.

Exploring New Options

For Nikoll Livaccari, parenthood was also health transforming. “During my childhood and early adult years, I mostly ate foods like fried porch chops and boxed macaroni and cheese, and my husband James grew up on a southern fried diet,” she says. After losing everything to Hurricane Katrina, their move to Florida provided a fresh, healthy start and a pregnancy. Livaccari attended prenatal yoga classes at the Naples Healthcare System Wellness Center, and she delivered her daughter Kaya, now 15 months old, with the help of a midwife at the Naples Birthing Center. Kaya is being allowed to wean herself from breastfeeding, while eating lots of blended raw foods, and the Livaccaris are expecting their second child.

In addition to a jumpstart on home schooling with the Your Baby Can Read system, Livaccari takes her daughter to Outside the Box-Studio for a Baby Explore class. The ecological version of Mommy and Me includes exercises, art and music, while giving mothers of children 2 years old and younger time to network and exchange information about parenting. “Kaya loves the multicultural dancing and playing with drums,” says Livaccari, who adds that the family has recently begun planting a garden.

Moving Towards Urban Homesteading

The Isenberg’s youngest
The Isenberg’s youngest
Kristina Isenberg and her husband have also been diligently working towards their ideal, holistic lifestyle. Until recently, Isenberg was involved with promoting clotheslines and Florida’s status as a “right to dry” state, which she became aware of when cloth diapering her last child. She consults with other moms that are intimidated about switching or venturing into cloth diapers through the website, where she also sells them. A personal setback stalled progress, rearranged family priorities and put some goals on a backburner. “I was helping my mom learn how to use raw foods to heal her cancer when she died in December,” says Isenberg, who, like many others in transition from one lifestyle to another, sometimes takes two steps forward and one temporary step back.

Her enthusiasm slightly dampened from dealing with life’s circumstances, Isenberg continues to shop for organic produce at Food & Thought and local farmers’ markets. “We intend to practice urban homesteading with container gardening, to offset the cost of food,” says this mother of four, whose attention is frequently pulled in the direction of baby-led potty training for her 18-month-old daughter, and Hebrew school for her 10-year-old. On weekends, the entire family enjoys outdoor playtime with other families who have children in the same age groups.

The Isenberg children
The Isenberg children

On hold, but still on Isenberg’s list of goals, is a diesel engine Chevy Suburban, which is capable of accommodating the entire family. “We want a veggie-run car, and only diesels can be converted,” she says. “When we have our car and are urban homesteading, we’ll feel a little more in control of our destiny.”

The Thornburgs, Uzupes, Marbles, Livacarris and Isenbergs are only some of Southwest Florida’s change agents who are preparing themselves with self-education and a different set of values for the future they want to see. These are parents who realize that if the world is going to change, it starts at home, with them and their children.


Thornburg Pediatrics, 6017 Pine Ridge Rd., Ste. 148, Naples. Call 239-348-7338 or visit

America Marble, 239-692-2127, Marble will offer a free lecture, Healthy and Inexpensive Ways to Increase Your Child’s Nutrition Organically, at 6:30 p.m., May 31, at Food & Thought 100% Organic Farm Market & Cafe, 2132 Tamiami Trail N., Naples.

The Naples Really Really Free Market is held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the first Saturday of the month, at Fleischmann Park, 1600 Fleischmann Blvd., Naples.

For information on Lulu Carter’s new House of Gaia, Outside the Box-Studio programs, call 239-272-6152.