"Mothers of the Year" elected in La Cañada

Many people harbor a secret belief that their mothers really do deserve the title “Mother of the Year,” but in a recent La Cañada ceremony held by the California Association of American Mothers, two extraordinary moms were officially bestowed with the designation.

The California chapter of the group American Mothers, Inc. convened at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club Saturday to distribute its honors for 2011. Karen Mann Nelson of Santa Barbara, mother of 10, was named California “Mother of the Year.” Christina Thomas HoChing, an Upland mother of seven, was named the 2011 “Young Mother of the Year,” an award given to mothers whose children are all under age 17.

“We want to help other mothers and encourage young mothers,’ said Dorothy DeVore, chapter president and La Cañada resident who organized the event. “There’s no way to even know the power a mother has for a child. A good mother has an impact on everyone who comes under her influence.”

“I think of my mother every single day,” DeVore said. “I always go back and ask myself what she would have done in a situation, and it always works.”

American Mothers, Inc. is a New York-based nonprofit that has recognized and celebrated the art and labor of motherhood since 1950. The organization’s roots, however, stretch back to the Civil War, when mother Anna Reeves Jarvis sought to heal the damage done to families caught in the conflict by organizing a day of love and friendship across battle lines. Her efforts would lead to the first nationally recognized Mother’s Day, for which American Mothers is the official sponsor.

This year’s recipients are women who embody the spirit of love and positivity. Nelson, who raised five sons and five daughters, has also been a foster mother, published a book of poetry and served as a leader of multiple children and youth organizations. She believes that while children essentially want to be good, a mother must work to maintain the values she holds dear. Nelson recommends making dinnertime a daily ritual that unites the family and encourages new mothers to trust their own instinct.

“There will be too many voices when you begin,” Nelson said. “You must, after considering all you have learned, make your own decisions about what is best for your child. Study your child. Study your heart. The answers are there.”

HoChing is the mother of six sons and one daughter. She has been married for 17 years and has shared her cultural experience of living in American Samoa with her family. HoChing wears many different hats, supporting her children in school, scouts, sports, coaching, dance and music. She realizes that moms today have a special challenge to keep up with a fast-paced and ever-changing world, but believes going with the flow is the best way to stay positive and focused.

“Enjoy the journey,” she advises moms. “Take each day one day at a time and welcome each morning with a smile. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but when you learn to enjoy each day and what comes your way, your children will see that and will smile right back at you.”

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