Compatibility Mode

By: Cassie Van Der Hyde



In the journey of parenting, I’m still in the early stages. Read: Trial and error. In order to preserve my sanity, I don’t read many advice columns or books. Too much stress! I’d rather read personal experiences than spend my time questioning whether I’m following “The Formula” correctly.

My oldest is almost nine. She’s always been independent, but she’s just now beginning to really develop her interests. Honestly, it’s been a real challenge to me to let her have those interests without me overthinking it. I’m a quiet, rule-following, somewhat cautious person who likes to worry a little extra about things. Amelia is free-spirited, unafraid to take risks, and has a true love for life in general. I am learning (slowly) to give her lots of opportunities to make new friends and do things that might make me feel a little afraid–within reason.

My middle kid, Elias, is a little more like I am–careful, reasons things out well before attempting, and likes his feet planted firmly on the soil at all times. What a challenge for me to also give him space and the ability to safely say no to things he truly doesn’t feel comfortable doing!

Personalities are tricky. It’s so tempting to make my free spirit stay safely, closely tethered where I can keep an eye on her. Likewise, I could also force my quiet guy to be in every group activity so that my ego wouldn’t be damaged when he’s not following all the others. Neither of these approaches lead to happy kids or happy parenting. In fact, I usually find myself super frustrated at the arbitrary rules I’ve placed on them that even I don’t feel like enforcing!

I’m one of six kids, and while we share the same sense of humor, we are utterly different from one another in most other ways. All of us deal differently with stress, show love differently, and rebelled from the rules in our own unique ways –sorry, Mom and Dad! I know it was a challenge for my parents raising all of us under the same set of values and character expectations but with six different personality approaches, but they did it! Sometimes that meant sacrificing their comfort levels–like when I was in high school and I took several long-distance mission trips to a number of challenging places, or when my brother decided he wanted to take flight lessons as a teenager. I’m thankful that they were able to say, “yes,” (maybe even through gritted teeth sometimes) to things we were passionate about so that we could grow into our own interests. In the end, they ended up with a nurse, an electrical engineer, a CPA, and a special-ed teacher, and two more kids still in the process of tending to their interests in school.

Like I said, I don’t like following parenting formulas designed to leave us feeling exhausted and inadequate – Should I homeschool? Charter? Public? Private? Sign them up for team sports? How about an instrument? Are they ever going to learn leadership skills without being in the Scouts? Augh!! There is no one size fits all! I’m still learning to love and care for all of my kids as they grow and not to stifle their joys in the things they love to do and learn. I’m trying to be careful to discern the difference between things that are character problems and things that I just don’t feel comfortable with! The former, of course I have to address… the latter? Maybe I’m the one who needs to learn to champion those personality differences and love them each in their own special way.

Baby’s 1st Birthday…Yes It Is for You!

By: Jenna Mahoney-Pierce


With only a few days before my little girl turns 1 I have become rather reflective of the past year. First time Mommy-hood; the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, lost binkies, smiles, giggles, messes, tears (happy and sad), and thousands of milestones. Baby has been pretty busy…and so have I…and all you other Mommies and Daddies. You have sacrificed what was once “normal” to a life of unidentifiable stains, messy hair, and the feeling of accomplishment when you remembered that you really did brush your teeth before leaving the house.

And over this past year, I have heard thousands upon thousands of judgmental comments…but lately the most popular in my life is “Really? Why are you doing all that? Its her first birthday, she’s not gonna remember it; its just for you!” signs

I smile and shrug the best I can. Enough is enough! On behalf of all the Mommies and Daddies that have heard this, hearing it currently, or will hear it eventually, I would like to say…”Darn Straight it’s for Me!”

I have kept this tiny human alive and in one piece for 365 days! Go Me! I personally have also showered most of those days, haven’t let the laundry pile up to the ceiling, cooked meals, tried to keep my house clean while not killing my husband–if that doesn’t deserve a party, I don’t know what does.

So no matter what you want to do for your baby’s 1st birthday, DO IT! Rent that hall, get a smash cake, backyard BBQ, professional photos, balloonist, fully catered, potluck, DIY, party planner…or just a quiet day with just your immediate family with a cake (or no cake at all), do what YOU want.

This is the only birthday you get to do the way you want before your little one gets to have any opinion…take advantage.  I know I did.  We are having an Alice in Wonderland inspired Tea Party. We are having it at our house with an open house policy for people to come and go as they please between 1-4 (so then that way I don’t have to serve a big meal).  Light refreshments, activity for the kids and done.

I am a huge DIYer so I went a bit crazy.  Tissue paper flowers with bread and butterflies, the white rabbit and a larger than life pocket watch, playing card garland and hanging card orbs are just some of the few things I found on Pinterest that I just HAD to do for decorations.    rabbitand watchtissueflower

Hubs and I sent our invites that I made myself using my Cricut paper cutting machine. cards

I have thrown myself 100% into this event, not just because I am a DIYer.  It is also because my baby is turning 1.

It is emotional for any parent to look back at all of the photos and videos that were taken over the year–yes, I admit I have over 1,000 pics saved on my computer. As happy as I am to celebrate my child, I am also grieving over the fact that I no longer have a baby. Sure, I have a whole new set of events to look forward to in toddlerhood, but this chapter in my daughter’s life is coming to a close. Having this party the way I want is therapeutic; I can prolong this celebratory feeling through planning, decorating, baking and in my mind have the time I need before everyone else can celebrate with her.

So I say again with tears in my eyes “Darn Straight it’s for Me!”cricutcutout

I accomplished just as much as my baby did, and I am going to celebrate it the way I want. There may be comments, but I can say with 100% certainty that I do not care what anyone else thinks. This is how I am going to make it though my daughter turning 1. For anyone else still reading, celebrate how you want and don’t let anyone else tell you differently!

Autism Awareness is More Than One Day

By: Amy Dienta


April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day! Light it up Blue is the slogan. I’m glad that every year this day gets celebrated more. I’m glad autism is getting talked about and more people are becoming aware.dyslexia-3014152_1920

Current research suggests autism affects 1 in every 45 children in the United States. This number keeps getting higher and no one knows why or how children develop autism. Why is there such a wide range of what autism traits your child develops?

What do I hope we as a society learn from this annual day of autism awareness? I’m hoping that children learn how to treat their classmates with autism as a friend. I hoping that you see a blue light or blue shirt and think about that child you saw at the mall who you saw “acting up” and realize that maybe the mall light stimulates him too much and causes his behavior. Or the child at the friend’s children’s birthday party that was off.

I hope that you realize that autism is a hard diagnosis for a parent to receive about their child. Your entire life is changed, at that moment; this precious child of yours has autism.

When you see that blue light please think of how much complex therapy it takes to raise a child with autism. There’s ABA, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and lots of other therapies to fit in weekly.  I haven’t slept in on a Saturday in years because we have a weekly OT appointment at 9am, a 45 minute drive from our house. 

My hope is that light it up blue is not a one day once a year thing. I hope it becomes the beginning of a larger circle of understanding and learning. So let’s light it up blue!!

All I Heard Was PDD

By: Cyndy Muchine

All I heard was PDD-NOS. Now, I know how to hyphenate it.

Who knew these letters would cripple my brain for a minute! I never once thought to track my children’s milestones. NEVER! Until this fine day when I took my son (second child) to his two-year appointment. His pediatrician quizzed me on his do’s and don’ts based on his age. I giggled through my replies thinking, okay lady, let’s get this done so I can go home before traffic. Well, she implied that his vocabulary was minimal and that I needed to sign him up for speech. Yeah, sure. Are you paying? were some of the thoughts that raced through my mind. She gave me a brochure that had beautiful blocks. I went home and did not think too much about it.

After one visit by an early childhood professional, I noticed something about my son’s eye contact. He was in his own world. Immediately, I went there! I went to the word “Autism.” I drove to the famous Barnes and Noble bookstore and read the symptoms page only! I came home replayed the symptoms over and over while watching my son’s every move. I diagnosed him. During his second therapy appointment, I nudged the therapist who continually declined to share her sentiments. This was due to legal implications. I completely understood her point. She quietly recommended I visit a clinical psychologist. I did. After two to three hours of testing, I could see the truth through the psychologist’s eyes. She delivered the news. She called it PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder)–now known as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

I went home in denial. He was about two years and five months at the time. After a couple days, I decided to take the bull by its horns. I accepted the diagnosis. I began reading, filling out forms and surveys, and doing tests upon tests. I became friends with every neurologist, therapist, and receptionist at The Children’s Hospital.

My breakthrough came one fine day, upon visiting the developmental pediatrician and supplying him with all documentations.  He told me to delete the label PDD-NOS and teach my son how to cope with society. BOOM

I cried in his office because he had cut off the chains, the label, words I couldn’t even write. 

I knew exactly what to do. I decided to educate myself on this mystery.

I had another child to worry about but thankfully, she was older and neurotypical. I know that sounds like a “phew” she can survive, but I was worried about her. How was I going to be on the go 24/7 and handle her at the same time? She was a child and needed her mom too.  I was a single mother at the time, and I literally wondered why Autism had been sent my way! Why? I don’t know how I did it, but I know the grace of God got me through every waking moment.

Potty training was staring me in the face. I decided to handle one thing at a time. This took a whole year and some but with diligence and consistency, we did it! We celebrated and had a poop party! OMG, only parents of ASD kids get this nasty-like party.

Gradually, with lots of speech therapy and occupational therapy, I began to notice changes in how he connected sentences. Things began to make sense for him and more so, for us, so I thought. One day, he decided to open the door and disappear! He could not answer to his name at that point. Of course, this nightmare seemed like a lifetime but a good Samaritan was able to locate him and bring him back to me. Talk about a narrow escape with the law? What else did I really need at that point, right? I began teaching him how to answer to his name, but this was not working properly. Leave it to the professionals and sure enough, a wonderful therapist joined us and taught him how to respond to his name.image1

As time elapsed, I noticed that my daughter was beginning to drift away and resent her brother because of all the “attention” he was receiving. I searched high and low for someone to watch him so I could have alone time with my daughter. He was a feisty little thing and this made babysitting rather difficult. Not even family wanted this piece of the pie. That was hard to swallow. Finally, someone recommended a thing called respite services! I was lucky to find a very understanding individual who had a background in Autism and aggression. I began spending a couple hours a day with my daughter and our relationship got stronger as I explained reasons why I was “unavailable.” She understood but she didn’t, such a mixed bag of emotions.

My kiddo will be sixteen in April and I cannot rewind the years and things we have been through. I would never want to have an aggressive child, ever! It is hard to watch your child wrestle with his emotions because he has no idea how to process them and distribute them evenly. Autism is complex. When information cannot be broken down easily, how do you expect one to communicate and socialize? Explain that! This is the battle my son goes through on a daily basis but I am very happy to report that he is now verbal, very loud, and has a very sharp brain. He is currently using all the therapy techniques he learned on us! We have clear instructions on what to touch and what not to touch. When to shush and when to speak. We laugh so hard instead of crying all night. Things have become rainbows and skittles, no longer a lingering cloud of hopelessness. Occupational therapy has paid off and he is now a pro at using Play-Doh as a calming too. I hate Autism, but I love my son with my every being!

As we come into the month of April, let us create Awareness and Acceptance and Inclusion. Let them into your world too as you learn theirs because we all need a chance at life!



Meet the Moms: Juli

Greetings and Salutations!15025126_10154086221333231_1192079938159478106_o

My name is Juli Couture; and admittedly, I was born and raised a North Shore girl in the sleepy city of Melrose. However, my husband Chris, my twin 5-year-old daughters–Hailey and Chloe, and our two Boston Terriers–Lilo and Vader have settled into Dracut and have been very happily living here for two years. It was a bit of a culture shock at first with all this beautiful open space and wonderful farmland, but we are thoroughly enjoying getting out and seeing everything the Merrimack Valley has to offer!

I have worked in a number of different positions in the medical field over the past 13 years with the longest being a clinical assistant in a pediatric hospital. I have seen, cleaned, treated, and smelled…a lot, so my ‘gross factor’ threshold is high. Also, personally I have dealt with Grave’s Disease which resulted in a total thyroidectomy, infertility, IVF, preemie twin births and the subsequent ICU stay, PPD, and most recently gallbladder removal. I find I am quickly running out of organs to have removed these days! My point being, there is no question you can’t throw at me or any topic too taboo or too gross. If you want to reach out, my proverbial door is always open, just for you!

Aside from that insanity, I enjoy writing. Writing and entertaining people is my life! Ok, if I’m being honest, writing, entertaining people, and coffee is my life. Oh, and obviously my kids. Oh, and my family. Ok, let me just start over. I enjoy reaching out to people. If I can make someone laugh, smile, or feel that they’re not alone in this crazy world then I have done my job and done it well. Currently, I am an American Heart Association CPR/BLS instructor and freelance writer/photographer that contributes articles to a number of different publications.

Meeting new people, old people, maybe even bumping into people I forgot I had met before is so much fun! I especially enjoy talking to people I meet when traveling; though with the twins sometimes ‘travel’ means taking a trip to the Market Basket on the other side of town. Regardless of where I am, I am always happy to meet a new friendly face, so please feel free to drop me a line, share a story, or stop and say hello if you see me out and about. I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful group of moms!

Meet the Moms: Jenna


Somethings you should know about me…

I have lived in 3 states. Born in NJ, went to college in MA, moved to FL after college, and happily found my way back up here in MA.

I am a full-time wife and mother. Met my husband on the internet and have been together for 6 years–married for 3 and a half. I am a sort of new mommy; my little girl is almost 1. I also have pet babies; 2 small dogs, a cat, and a turtle.

I work part-time in an infant room at a local daycare. Originally, I got a job as a middle school mathematics teacher in FL after college. After 3 years I realized, middle school students and babies are very similar…and I would rather deal with crying, snotty, stinky infants than hormonal, whiny, stinky preteens.

I am a crafter, from yarn to paint, and even dollhouse building. I like to DIY pretty much anything and everything. I have a small craft business and sign up for local craft fairs and such. I don’t make just enough to keep up with my crafting addictions.  

I am a new blogger and looking forward to sharing my experiences, ideas, and maybe even a craft project!

Meet the Moms: Jillian


My name is Jillian and I’m a proud first time mom of an infant. I have my PhD in Psychology and I have been working with kids, teens, and adults for years. Due to my educational background, I wasn’t too worried about becoming a mom other than the actual experience of giving birth. Ironically, delivering my baby was much easier than I’d expected compared to looking after the little person who came along! What I’ve come to realize is that there aren’t any perfect answers when it comes to parenthood. 

I’ve been journaling my mommy experience since trying to become pregnant so this is a great outlet for passing along those nuggets of wisdom.

It is my desire to normalize some of the concerns caregivers have because knowing other parents experienced what I was experiencing was my greatest comfort during sleepless nights.  

Stay tuned for more posts about my personal struggles and triumphs in this journey of mommyhood. This role has been the hardest but most rewarding endeavor I’ve undertaken!

Meet the Moms: Sarah

IMG_6692Hi everybody! My name is Sarah, but I typically answer to “Saaaaaa,” “Mom,” or “MAMAAAAA.” Like most moms, I am a lot of things: mother, wife, maid, chauffeur, appointment maker, checkbook balancer, dishwasher emptier, food shopper, laundry putter-away-er, butt wiper, and meal microwaver to name a few. (Yes, you read that correctly. I’m an expert “microwaver.” Cook, not so much.)

I’ve lived in Dracut all my life and have 2 sons, Joey who’s 5 and Jimmy who’s almost 4. Joey was born with a congenital heart defect, called Tetralogy of Fallot, and at 3 months old became internet famous, known as the “Ridiculously Good-Looking Surgery Baby.” (Seriously, google it!) His heart has been fixed, and he’s presently very healthy. Now he’s just known to us as “Ridiculously Talkative.” You would think that Jimmy would never be able to get a word in, but nope. Jimmy is always able to make himself heard, as he is the one who is “Ridiculously Loud.” And energetic. And strong. And animalistic at times. Both kids are really great though, at least sometimes. I mean, it’s usually never at the same time, but hey, I’ll take it.

IMG_1114My husband Joe is great too! Great at breaking things, great at losing things, and great at forgetting things! His adventurous and accident-prone nature always provides us with an abundant supply of hilarious family stories to tell. In all seriousness though, as a firefighter, paramedic, and police officer, Joe is extremely hardworking and always knows what to do in every situation. This is very helpful, and it compliments my cluelessness and indecisive personality quite well. He is also the best cook that I have ever met, and that compliments my eating habits wonderfully.

When my head isn’t spinning from all of the above, I enjoy sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. I’m also fond of cocktails, food (I know I already mentioned that, but really, that’s how much I like it), and good adult conversation. In the warmer weather I love swimming, boating, and hiking with animals, as long as the animals are the 3 human creatures discussed above. Occasionally you might even see me running, which is actually more of an awkward jog accompanied by heavy panting and coughing. Someday, maybe when my kids are adults, there’s a chance that I’ll even have time to read a book again. In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing to let out the insanity that is my life. Thanks for reading!